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Frankel’s 2014-15 per 36 projections
Andrew Nicholson’s sophomore campaign with the Orlando Magic got off to a roaring start. In the team’s season opener against the Indiana Pacers, the 24-year-old forward scored 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting in 19 minutes off the bench. Then, following that performance, Nicholson did much of the same against the Minnesota Timberwolves, pouring in 13 points in 19 minutes. Five days later, he put up his first double-double of the season, to the tune of 17 points and 11 rebounds.
Just like that, Nicholson appeared to be on the brink of a breakout season. However, after that short string of success, it all came crashing down for him.
Over the proceeding 78 games, Nicholson averaged 5.3 points in 15.0 minutes per contest. He recorded only one more double-double by the season’s end, and he went 42 straight games without scoring in double-figures (including 12 games in which he failed to score a single point).
In comparison to his rookie year, nearly all of Nicholson’s advanced stats fell of a cliff. His Player Efficiency Rating went from 15.1 to 9.9, his True Shooting percentage from .527 percent to .489, his Offensive Rating from 103 to 95, and his Win Shares from 1.7 to 0.6. He saw both his minutes and shot opportunities drop on a game-to-game basis, too. All in all, Nicholson averaged 13.3 points per 36 minutes (down from 16.9 per 36 as a rookie) and converted on only 42.9 percent of his shots — nearly 10 percentage points lower from the season before.
Now, heading into his third year with the Magic, Nicholson has a lot to prove. His contract for the 2015-16 season — worth $2.3 million — is a team option, so the team could part ways with him next offseason if he fails to improve. And with the Magic having to make some decisions in the next 12 months that may shape their team for years to come, it remains to be seen if Nicholson truly fits in with their vision.
Nikola Vucevic is up for an extension this season, as is Tobias Harris, who shares time both at the three and Nicholson’s primary position at the four. The team also signed Channing Frye to a long-term contract during the offseason, and rookie Aaron Gordon, although still raw, is expected to be an integral part of the team moving forward. There’s also small forward Maurice Harkless and power forward/center Kyle O’Quinn in the mix. All of which is leading to a packed frontcourt for the Magic.
For Nicholson to secure a spot in the team’s rebuild moving forward, he’ll have to be a more consistent player on both ends of the court — especially on defense, where he has struggled.
The good news for Nicholson is that there is room for his skill-set to fit in with the team. After attempting zero 3s as a rookie, Nicholson connected on 31.5 percent of them last season (28-for-89). He’s also a good rebounder, averaging 7.6 per 36 minutes over his young career. Both of those are assets the Magic value tremendously, and based on the moves they made this offseason, Nicholson can bring something to the table that few players on the roster can.
If he’s able to piece those skills together to become a more refined and consistent role player, there leaves room to believe that Nicholson could be a complementary piece for the team moving forward. He has, after all, shown the ability during his rookie year to be a difference maker. If he doesn’t recapture that form, however, this may be his final season donning the Magic’s pinstripes.