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With the season over for the Orlando Magic, it’s time to hand out team awards. We asked our panel to hand in their picks for the 2012-13 season.
1. Who’s the 2012-13 most valuable player?
Evan Dunlap, Orlando Pinstriped Post: Nikola Vucevic. He played nearly 300 more minutes than anyone else on Orlando’s roster, and he’s arguably its most talented player. Those two facts give him MVP almost by default. He has a long way to go as a player, particularly defensively, but his rebounding at both ends of the floor shores up one of the four factors, at least.
Sean Highkin, USA TODAY Sports: Nikola Vucevic. He’s emerged as a legit starting-caliber center and rebounding machine. Outside of J.J. Redick, who was traded at the deadline, Vucevic’s consistency was unrivaled on the Magic’s roster.
Nate Drexler, Magic Basketball: Nikola Vucevic. He was by far and away the best player on this roster (team-leading 17.8 PER). We don’t have a Wins Above Replacement stat running in the NBA yet (WARP comes closest), but just take a look at Vucevic’s Win Shares and you’ll see that there is really no argument here.
Spencer Lund, Magic Basketball: J.J. Redick. His value is directly quantifiable, due to his expiring contract, which got the Magic the excellent Harris, an overlooked Lamb, who shot over 47 percent from 3-point range in 24 games, and a solid back-up in Beno. Harris alone gets Redick the MVP.
Noam Schiller, Magic Basketball: Nikola Vucevic. Arron Afflalo has a case for the team’s best player, but Vucevic gave the most value. His emergence as an elite rebounder alone makes him a long term starter, with room to grow. To a rebuilding squad, that’s value.
2. Who’s the 2012-13 rookie of the year?
Dunlap: Maurice Harkless. Orlando has five rookies, but Harkless is the only one to really stand out. Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O’Quinn have shown some promise in their limited minutes, but Harkless has made a significantly larger impact than either of those two youngsters.
Highkin: Maurice Harkless. Andrew Nicholson would have a case here if he played more consistent minutes, but Harkless is going to be a solid two-way wing player for years to come. He really emerged in the second half of the season.
Drexler: Andrew Nicholson. Everyone saw and felt his presence in the moments when Nicholson fluidly showcased footwork, agility, and poise in the post. He’s undersized to be sure, and lacks some tools on defense, but with a 15.1 PER and the second-highest True Shooting Percentage on the team (.557), Nicholson is the Rookie of the Year.
Lund: Maurice Harkless. Five rookies were on the season-ending roster, but it comes down to Harkless and Andrew Nicholson. The latter averaged 10 minutes a game less than Harkless, but sported a better PER and better True Shooting percentage. But Harkless is a vastly superior defender, even if Nicholson has shown a deft touch.
Schiller: Maurice Harkless. He snatched this from Andrew Nicholson somewhere around February after a slow start to the season. Both have exceeded expectations, but Harkless earned a bigger role as the season progressed, and has age and athleticism on his side going forward.
3. Who’s the 2012-13 most improved player?
Dunlap: Maurice Harkless. At just 19, he never hit that rookie wall, and the growth he made, particularly offensively, was eye-opening. He’s more comfortable with the ball in his hands, particularly when it swings to him in the corner, where he can shoot a 3-pointer or drive the baseline. He made plays late in the season that he couldn’t have made in November.
Highkin: Tobias Harris. This is sort of cheating since he wasn’t with Orlando until February, but he made good on the potential he showed in Milwaukee once he got consistent minutes. He had a number of career nights in a Magic uniform and firmly entrenched himself in the starting lineup.
Drexler: Tobias Harris. He hit the ground running in Orlando and in 27 games absolutely shattered his production in Milwaukee. Maybe it was the change in scenery, maybe it was an elevated role, but with the second-highest PER on the team (17.0), and 17 points and 8 rebounds per game down the stretch, Harris improved the most.
Lund: Nikola Vucevic. He led the team in PER and Win Shares, but there wasn’t much of a change per 36 minutes from last year in Philly. But overcoming the law of diminishing returns, including finishing second league-wide in rebounds per game, can’t be ignored.
Schiller: E’Twaun Moore. He may not be much more than a fourth guard when all is said and done, but before the season he looked like a waiver wire fixture for years to come. At the very least, he seems to have a place in this league.
4. Who’s the 2012-13 defensive player of the year?
Dunlap: Glen Davis. Orlando’s defense went into a tailspin when Davis sprained his shoulder against the Wizards in late December and it never recovered, even when Davis returned briefly before suffering another injury. Davis holds his ground in the post well, and he’s generally able to do so without fouling, making him a strong one-on-one defensive player.
Highkin: Arron Afflalo. He took a step back as a shooter, but his defensive performance remained as solid as it’s ever been. He always seemed to be game to try and put up a stiff resistance against whoever he was guarding.
Drexler: Maurice Harkless. Surely his offense left something to be desired, but Harkless stepped up big time defensively and helped give the Magic a chance against several elite teams this season. I don’t think any player stood out more than he did.
Lund: Glen Davis. This team finished 25th in the league in defensive efficiency, so it makes sense to nominate a guy who only played 34 games this season. Orlando allowed 6.1 fewer points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, per NBA.com. And the Magic were actually winning on occasion. Maybe it’s the Garnett affect?
Schiller: Glen Davis. He missed a huge chunk of the season, but the Magic’s defense went in the tank when Davis went down. On a team lacking experience and execution on the defensive end, Davis was as close a thing to a stopper on the roster.
5. Who’s the 2012-13 sixth man of the year?
Dunlap: There are only three reasonable responses to this question, given that the Magic traded J.J. Redick, and they are Nicholson, E’Twaun Moore, and Beno Udrih. None of those three players stands out as a real sixth man, however. Nicholson played only spot minutes, Moore played poorly as a backup, and Udrih did his best work as a fill-in starter.
Highkin: J.J. Redick. Before he was traded to Milwaukee, he was the Magic’s most consistent, reliable scorer and easily the team’s top sixth man. He’s improved greatly over the last three years as both a ballhandler and defender as well.
Drexler: Andrew Nicholson. With 29 different starting lineups, it’s difficult to point to a true sixth man, but Nicholson always seemed to pack the most punch off the bench when he got playing time. I’m throwing him the award.
Lund: Andrew Nicholson. He started 28 games, but he had a decent year after staying all four seasons at Saint Bonaventure. The rook is old as far as rookies go, but he’s got one of the smoothest hook shots with either hand in the league. It’ll be interesting to see how much further he can progress if he keeps working.
Schiller: J.J. Redick. He was arguably the team’s best player off the bench. Even while spending the last two months of the season on another team after getting traded, nobody else came close to his bench production in those first four.