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It has been a wild year in 2013. Which teams and players can stake claim to the title of Biggest Surprise? Which are just glad to see the calendar flip to 2014? Our panel of experts discusses the best of 2013 for the Orlando Magic.
1. Which player was the biggest surprise in 2013?
Jacob Frankel: Nikola Vucevic. While Tobias Harris’ per minute numbers in Milwaukee indicated he could stuff the stat sheet, that wasn’t the case with Vucci Mane. Vucevic was a minor part of the Dwight Howard deal, but might be the most valuable piece going forward. He has an 18.4 PER this season and is only 23 years old.
Spencer Lund: Nikola Vucevic. The big fella from Montenegro was supposed to be a throwaway piece as part of the four-team Dwight Howard swap, but Doug Collins was a fool to let him leave Philly. He burst onto the scene with those 20-rebound games against Miami, but I love how he’s continued his steady production this season, even with more defenses keyed on him.
Andrew Lynch: Nikola Vucevic. While Arron Afflalo has turned things around this year, we knew he had that in him. Vucevic, on the other hand, was a board-gobbling, paint-dominating monster that I never saw coming. Given time to play in Orlando, he’s flourished, expanding the qualities he showed in Philadelphia to become a big part of the Magic’s future.
2. Which player was the biggest disappointment in 2013?
Frankel: The Magic have lost a lot of games in 2013, but I’m having trouble pointing to one player that’s been specifically disappointing. Maurice Harkless hasn’t quite lived up to expectations, but he’s a young player still figuring the NBA out. Arron Afflalo had a miserable 2012-13 season, but has made up for that with a scorching stretch throughout the fall and winter.
Lund: Hedo Turkoglu. I wish he had stayed in shape like a lot of players do now with better trainers, but Hedo was gonna have his pizza, and try and squeak by on PEDs. He was the first player that really made me scratch my head. He just didn’t seem to care, which is probably an unfair assessment, but one I can’t help making.
Lynch: Jameer Nelson. It seems unfair to pick on the young guys when they still have so much development ahead of them. Every time I watch Nelson play, it just makes me miss the old Jameer from four or five years ago. I know he’s never coming back, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. Come back to us, Jameer!
3. What storyline stood out to you the most in 2013?
Frankel: Orlando winning the Dwight Howard deal. The Lakers lost Howard, the Nuggets lost Iguodala, and Bynum didn’t play at all in Philadelphia. The Magic were terrible enough to snag Victor Oladipo, Afflalo is playing out of his mind in the new season, and of course there’s the aforementioned Vucevic. This trade is a prime example of how one should wait a few years before judging a deal.
Lund: Rob Hennigan preparing for the future. The Magic are bad again this season, but are they bad enough? That remains to be seen. Picking up the fourth-year options on Vucevic and Tobias are huge (especially if the Magic can sign them long-term next season) and Orlando could have two lottery picks this summer with the lesser of the Denver pick if they miss the playoffs.
Lynch: Orlando’s eye on the future. They acquired some nice assets in the Dwight Howard trade, and they’re positioned for another top pick this year. On the theoretical level, the Magic are in a good place going forward. Whether or not they can put it all together and take the next step as a young team will likely be the story of 2014.