Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 3

Oct 08

Wednesday’s Magic Word

  • Coach Jacque Vaughn on Elfrid Payton’s performance in the Magic’s preseason opener against the Miami Heat on Tuesday: “I thought he had great composure on the floor, and I love watching him play,” Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. “He has just a great feel for who to get the ball to, when to get into the paint. He did a great job tonight of just orchestrating and being a leader on the floor.”
  • Zach Oliver of Orlando Pinstriped Post with a recap of the Magic’s win over the Heat.
  • Video of Andrew Nicholson’s game-tying jumper, which forced overtime against Miami.
  • Joe Kaiser of ESPN Insider with news on Channing Frye’s recovery time: “Orlando’s big free agent signing over the summer, Channing Frye, suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee at a recent team scrimmage, and now there’s word on how much time he’s expected to miss. According to a story from over the weekend by Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel, Frye is will likely miss somewhere between one and two months.”
  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “If there was one central theme to emerge from the road victory in Miami it was that Orlando has the kind of deep and athletic team that can come at foes from a variety of different angles. Lacking one true superstar player, the Magic instead hope to build their plan of attack around a team concept that has several players capable of playing multiple positions and an up-tempo brand of basketball. The strength this season, Vucevic vowed, will be the Magic’s numbers of players willing to do whatever it takes to help the squad make significant strides.”

Oct 08

Player Profile: Willie Green

arron-afflalo-willie-green-nba-orlando-magic-los-angeles-clippers1-850x560

Photo by Andrew Fielding-USA TODAY Sports

Frankel’s 2014-15 per 36 projections

PPG RPG APG TS% PER ASPM
12.2 3.7 2.7 .468 7.2 -3.5

The 33-year-old shooting guard was picked up by the Magic after getting waived by the Clippers, and will be paid the veteran’s minimum ($1.4 million) this season. Green is entering his 12th season in the NBA, and it’s hard for a 6-foot-4 shooting guard with tired legs to really compete on a night-to-night basis.

Still, he had the ear of Chris Paul in Los Angeles, and it’s not like he doesn’t bring some much-needed experience to the table for a young Orlando squad. He’ll immediately connect with Oladipo because both share an on-ball tenacity on defense. Green held opposing guards to field goal percentages of just 25.0 percent on spot-ups and 32.9 percent overall, per Synergy Sports.

With rookie Elfrid Payton and Luke Ridnour battling it out in training camp for the point guard slot Jameer Nelson left behind, Green will be working alongside Evan Fournier, a young European transplant who showed flashes with Denver last season, and the corpse-bloodied body of Ben Gordon.

Green showed off a surprisingly adept shooting touch in limited attempts during his last season in Atlanta and in his first season as a backup guard with the Clippers. Except, his 3-point shooting percentage dipped almost 10 percentage points last season with the Clippers — from 42.8 percent in 2012-13 to 33.8 percent in 2013-14. The lower latter percentage is more in line with his career 34.6 percentage from deep.

Shooting just isn’t his strong suit, which is difficult in today’s spread-the-floor NBA. Witness the Magic overpaying for stretch four Channing Frye. That being said, it’s important to note that Green has been in the NBA for more than a decade playing 679 regular-season games and 36 playoff games for three teams (Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Los Angeles).

That’s because he grades as a good defender. When Green sat with the Clippers last season, they gave up 103.0 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com. When he was on the court, which was for only 869 minutes (3082 minutes he was off), the Clippers only gave up only 98.7 points per 100 possessions, which would have been a top-3 ranked defense in the NBA, rather than LA’s seventh-ranked overall defense (allowing 102.1 points per possession) last season.

Listen, playing less than a 1,000 minutes during the regular season is an incredibly small sample size, but it’s clear he was a defensive stalwart on the court. At the same time, the team scored nearly six points less per 100 possessions when Green was in the backcourt, so he was taking more off the table that he was bringing to it.

Even though ‘Dipo suffered an MCL strain, Green will still be at the bottom of the depth chart for the young Magic at the shooting guard slot. He’ll be a valuable tutor for Fournier and Oladipo while pushing Gordon in practice.

He will not be a valuable member on the court for the Magic this season, but his locker room presence shouldn’t be overlooked just because he’s a guard on the downside of a rather impressive career when you consider his shooting follies. For a young Magic team that’s still trying to find an identity and avoid another sinkhole into the draft lottery, sometimes that’s all you want — some veteran leadership. Green provides that, so the numbers become less tangible when you talk about his overall effectiveness for this year’s team.

Oct 08

Grades: Orlando Magic 108, Miami Heat 101 (OT)

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Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

 

Orlando Magic 108 Final
Recap | Box Score
101 Miami Heat

Nikola Vucevic
7-12 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 16 PTS | -1

Some things change. Some things stay the same. Despite facing a new-look Heat with no LeBron James, Vucevic had his way against a frontcourt (Chris Bosh and Chris Andersen) that he’s become familiar with and has dominated in recent years. Vucevic scored primarily on baby hooks and offensive rebound putbacks, and even sprinkled in a midrange jump shot for good measure.

Tobias Harris
6-9 FG | 2-2 3P | 7 REB | 3 AST | 15 PTS | -3

Every Magic player that was healthy and made the trip to Miami (excluding the team’s training camp invites) got playing time. Out of all of them, Harris stood out the most. His jumper was borderline automatic and, with reports that he changed his diet during the offseason in an effort to raise his energy level on both ends of the floor, he looked quicker.

Devyn Marble
4-5 FG | 3-4 3P | 1 REB | 2 AST | 13 PTS | +2

With all the hype surrounding Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton’s first preseason game, it was an unheralded rookie that stole the spotlight. Marble was the last rookie (and player) to come off the bench for the Magic, yet he was the one that made the biggest impact. He scored 13 points in 13 minutes and displayed the kind of sharpshooting Orlando desperately needs.

Evan Fournier
4-10 FG | 2-5 3P | 3 REB | 2 AST | 13 PTS | -4

With Victor Oladipo nursing a sprained MCL, which he injured in practice on Friday, Fournier started at shooting guard and did some good things. He made two corner 3s and was aggressive in attacking the rim, drawing fouls in the process and getting to the free throw line. He also got some minutes at point guard, which is something Magic fans should expect to see this season.

Miami Heat

One thing is for sure. With LBJ in Cleveland, the Heat will be a dramatically different team. The expectation is for the team to center around Bosh, something he hasn’t done since his Toronto days, and for Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, and Josh McRoberts to lead the supporting cast. Look for coach Erik Spoelstra to relish the challenge in building Miami’s new identity.

Oct 07

Preview: Orlando Magic at Miami Heat

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Miami Heat
  • Date: October 7, 2014
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: Sun Sports
  • Arena: AmericanAirlines Arena

Records

  • Magic: 23-59
  • Heat: 54-28

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Luke Ridnour
  • Evan Fournier
  • Aaron Gordon
  • Tobias Harris
  • Nikola Vucevic

Heat:

  • Norris Cole
  • Dwyane Wade
  • Luol Deng
  • Shawne Williams
  • Chris Bosh

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 93.6 (15th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.7 (29th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.4 (17th of 30)

Heat:

  • Pace: 91.2 (27th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 110.9 (5th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 105.8 (11th of 30)

Read about the Heat

Heat Index

Oct 07

Player Profile: Ben Gordon

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Photo by Joshua C. Cruey/Orlando Sentinel

Frankel’s 2014-15 per 36 projections

PPG RPG APG TS% PER ASPM
12.1 3.7 2.7 .421 6.2 -4.8

It wasn’t long ago that Ben Gordon was one of the NBA’s elite sixth men. But now, at age 31, he’s looking for one more chance to keep his professional basketball career going. And that’s an opportunity the Orlando Magic have given him.

Since signing a five-year deal with the Detroit Pistons worth $55 million back in 2009, Gordon’s career has been on a downwards spiral. In three seasons in the Motor City, Gordon averaged what were then career-lows across the board. He failed to shoot over 40 percent from beyond the arc for the first time in his career in 2009-10, and never lived up to the scoring reputation that earned him such a lucrative deal.

In the third year of his contract, Gordon was traded to the Charlotte Bobcats as, essentially, a shoo-in. Instead of being viewed as a key addition to the Bobcats’ bench (for a team that won just 21 games that year), matters only got worse for Gordon there, culminating in a dismal outing in his contract year, where he dealt with a number of injuries and averaged only 5.2 points on 27.6 percent shooting from 3-point range in 19 games. With the playoffs just around the corner, the team waived Gordon at the buyout deadline, thereby casting a heavy cloud over his future in the NBA.

Now, though, 11 years after being drafted into the NBA, Gordon has one final chance to keep his career going.

With the additions the Magic made this offseason, they were in desperate need of players who could space the floor, which is where Gordon fits into the picture. In his first five seasons in the league, Gordon made, on average, 1.9 3-pointers per game at a 41.5 percent clip with the Chicago Bulls. Although he failed to showcase his shooting ability last season with the Bobcats, the Magic are hoping it’s simply an anomaly. They’re also hoping that putting him alongside the two cornerstones of the team’s backcourt, Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo, who thrive off of breaking a defense down and getting into the paint, should give Gordon the looks he grew accustomed to at the early stages of his career. (That’s where the rejuvenation part comes into play.)

All in all, the pressure is on Gordon. His career has fallen off the deep end recently, and he’s been given one more shot at finding his feet in Orlando.

For the Magic, it’s a low-risk, high-reward signing, seeing as the second year on his contract is a team option. If he fails to deliver, they’ll show him the door before the extra $4.5 million kicks in. But if he regains his old form in any sort of way, he could be a nice spark plug off the bench for the Magic. More importantly, he could make life easier for Oladipo, Payton, and Aaron Gordon, all of whom are slowly developing an outside jumpshot. With Gordon’s floor spacing by their side, life could be much easier for all of them.

Oct 06

Monday’s Magic Word

  • With Victor Oladipo suffering a sprained MCL, the door has opened for Elfrid Payton to get plenty of playing time in the Magic’s preseason opener against the Miami Heat on Tuesday.
  • Aaron Gordon has spent most of his time at small forward during training camp.
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Guard Willie Green, whom the Magic claimed off waivers over the summer, will not play against the Heat because he recently hyper-extended his left knee.”
  • How long is Oladipo’s recovering time? Dan Feldman of ProBasketballTalk provides an educated guess: “As discovered when researching Frye’s injury, four to six weeks is a rough guess for how much time Oladipo will miss.”
  • Gordon said he has “butterflies” when asked if he was excited for his first preseason game.
  • All three of the Magic’s rookies (Payton, Gordon, and Devyn Marble) are eager to play in their first NBA game.

Oct 06

Player Profile: Evan Fournier

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Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Frankel’s 2014-15 per 36 projections

PPG RPG APG TS% PER ASPM
16.1 4.8 2.9 .561 12.4 -2.5

After being drafted at the tail end of the first round in the 2012 NBA Draft, Evan Fournier showed some signs of life as a rookie with the Denver Nuggets. However, in his second year, when he was expected to emerge as a key contributor off the bench, he took a step back.

It was a learning lesson for everyone involved with the Nuggets. Following a number of injuries, players were forced into a bigger role than they expected to at the start of the 2013-14 NBA season and it led to varying results. Fournier was just one of those players.

With an uptick of minutes, Fournier was scoring at the same rate as his rookie year but his shooting numbers from the field took a turn for the worse, from 49.3 percent in 2012-13 down to 41.9 percent in 2013-14. He also saw his Player Efficiency Rating (13.8 as a rookie and 10.3 as a sophomore) and True Shooting percentage (.597 percent to .533 percent) on the season fall dramatically.

In his first 10 games, Fournier was given the opportunity he was yearning for, playing 15.6 minutes per game. Yet he was churning out only 6.4 points on 41.1 percent shooting from the floor. Soon after, he saw his minutes disappear, and it wasn’t until the start of January — almost two months after being relegated to the end of the bench — that he started to look like the confident guard the Nuggets saw the year before.

Although he was still up-and-down in the final 50 games of the season, Fournier stepped up to the plate when he logged starter’s minutes. In the 12 games in which he played between 30-39 minutes, he averaged 18.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game, sporting a .571 True Shooting percentage on a 22.4 usage rate. Fournier was a good spot-up shooter for the Nuggets, too, which accounted for 22.9 percent of his total offense to the tune of 1.13 points per possession, per Synergy Sports.

Now, after being traded for the Magic’s leading scorer (Arron Afflalo) during the offseason, Fournier will be looking to build on those spurts of brilliance in a new setting. But where he fits into the immediate picture is hazy. Fournier will, more than likely, come off the bench to start the season, and he will be up to fill a variety of roles. Although he’s a shooting guard by nature, he spent 37 percent of his minutes last season playing the three, per Basketball-Reference. And as a rookie, Fournier logged 32 percent of his minutes playing the point.

It’s unlikely that Fournier has learnt all his lessons from last season and there will still likely be a big learning curve before his taps into his potential, but that’s a risk the Magic are willing to take. In a reduced role, Fournier will be looked on to space the floor, something he proved he could do efficiently with the Nuggets. However, he will also be given an opportunity to shoulder a bigger load, and unlike last season, the Magic are hoping he can find his feet and prove to be more consistent.

Oct 06

Victor Oladipo sprains MCL in practice

Via John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com:

Injuries continue to pile up for the Orlando Magic in training camp with second-year guard Victor Oladipo suffering a sprained MCL in his right knee and Willie Green hyperextending his left knee.

Oladipo, who finished second in the NBA’s Rookie of the Year voting last season, suffered his injury when he landed awkwardly following a play at the rim in Friday night’s scrimmage. Oladipo was able to finish the scrimmage, but said that he woke up to pain and swelling on Saturday morning. A MRI on Saturday revealed the sprain. His return will be dependent on how his knee responds to treatment.

Oct 03

Player Profile: Victor Oladipo

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Frankel’s 2014-15 per 36 projections

PPG RPG APG TS% PER ASPM
17.4 5.1 4.9 .535 15.2 +0.0

Coming out of the worst draft class in recent memory, Victor Oladipo’s rookie campaign was relatively impressive. Expectations weren’t very high for a once-shooting guard being slotted into the point guard position for his first season in the league (and first time in his career), and Oladipo didn’t let the team down by any means. While his 42/33/78 shooting split was understandably tough to swallow, the flashes of ridiculous athleticism and strength gave Magic fans solid insight into the potential he possesses.

Nonetheless, the shooting was definitely an issue. It’s not uncommon for a rookie to put up poor shooting numbers, but a few aspects of Oladipo’s shot chart do stand out for the wrong reasons. Most notably, he shot just 54 percent at the rim, an area which accounted for almost half of his shots in 2013-14. With his size and speed, this is a percentage certainly expected to increase, and one which will be interesting to track this season. He also loved the midrange jump shot from the right elbow, particularly out of the pick-and-roll. Defenders would routinely go under the screen and dare him to shoot, and he would frequently oblige, despite making a sub-par 31 percent of his shots from the area.

The experience gained on the offensive end was terrific for Oladipo, but it was defensively where — as expected — he showed the most promise. Rookies tend to struggle mightily on defense, and to look passable is usually a good sign. For Oladipo, this was certainly the case. His rare blend of size and speed allows him useful versatility in defending both guard positions, and he displayed a knack for knowing the right times to jump into passing lanes. He also showed good tendencies with his effort in guarding shooters off the ball.

With the Magic having added two point guards this offseason by drafting Elfrid Payton and signing Luke Ridnour, Oladipo seems set to spend far more time back at shooting guard, his more natural position, in the 2014-15 season. The experience he was able to gain last season in running the floor at the point will likely prove valuable in coming seasons, but for now, it will be especially interesting to see if there is a noticeable rise in numbers and percentages with the increased time playing off the ball, and having the defense less focused on him.

The two-way potential is there, and a core involving himself, Payton, and Aaron Gordon is set to wreak havoc on defense for years. It’s the offense which needs work, particularly on a team which has been struggling to score points in recent years. Oladipo has always been said to have a terrific work ethic. Improvements are expected to come, and once they begin to, the rest of his game should take care of itself.

Oct 03

Channing Frye sprains MCL in practice

Via John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com:

Having never suffered a major knee injury in his basketball career, Channing Frye initially feared for the worst when his leg collided with Ben Gordon’s on Thursday and his knee was bent back awkwardly.

When a MRI showed no structural damage and the Orlando Magic training staff was able to aggressively treat the knee to limit the swelling, Frye was able to breathe a big sigh of relief on Friday.

Frye, Orlando’s prized free-agent acquisition in the offseason, suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee in Thursday’s practice. He was up and walking on the leg on Friday and wearing on a light sleeve over the knee.

Frye felt so good that he was planning to get in a weight-lifting session while his Magic teammates practiced. His return will be based largely on the knee’s response to treatment, but Frye said he is encouraged by there is no major damage to his knee.

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