Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 4

Dec 04

Tobias Harris’ true position remains in question

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Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Following a down year that was riddled with injuries, Tobias Harris is putting up the best numbers of his career so far this season. And yet, even with that being the case, Harris’ skills aren’t being utilized in the best way possible.

With Victor Oladipo sidelined to start the regular season as he recovered from a facial fracture, the Magic’s starting lineup lacked firepower on the offensive end. As a result, Harris carried the bulk of the scoring load in Oladipo’s absence. He was forced to do much more than he’s used to, such as run pick-and-rolls, spot-up on the perimeter, and push the ball on the fast break, none of which is his forte.

Much of that has to do with coach Jacque Vaughn playing Harris almost exclusively at small forward, which isn’t his natural position. Since entering the league in 2011, Harris has spent 57 percent of his total minutes playing power forward, per Basketball-Reference. So far this season, 67 percent of his minutes have been at small forward.

Harris has always been a tweener, and that allows him to play both forward positions depending on the lineups at hand. What has prevented him from playing more minutes at the small forward position throughout his career, though, is his jump shot. While he has evolved as a shooter over the years, he’s not someone who is going to stretch the floor on a consistent basis. If anything, it’s an added luxury to his game.

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Dec 04

Grades: Los Angeles Clippers 114, Orlando Magic 86

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Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

 

Los Angeles Clippers 114 Final
Recap | Box Score
86 Orlando Magic

Tobias Harris
7-11 FG | 2-3 3P | 2 STL | 8 REB | 16 PTS | -28

Harris led the Magic in scoring and rebounding, and also was a team-worst minus-28 for the game. Single-game plus/minus stats are noisy and usually should be taken with a grain of salt, but it is interesting that Harris — despite being the best player on the floor for Orlando — had the worst impact of any Magic player. It makes you wonder.

Victor Oladipo
2-8 FG | 6-8 FT | 2 STL | 1 REB | 11 PTS | -28

Despite the presence of DeAndre Jordan, who has become one of the best rim protectors in the NBA, Oladipo deserves credit for attacking the rim and drawing fouls. Unfortunately for Oladipo, that’s about all he could do against the Clippers. Meanwhile, Chris Paul (19 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds) showed Oladipo how it’s done at point guard.

Ben Gordon
4-8 FG | 3-3 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 11 PTS | -7

You know it was a blowout loss for Orlando when Ben Gordon finished the night tied with Oladipo for the second-most points on the team. Coach Jacque Vaughn continues to bring Gordon and Willie Green together off the bench (at shooting guard and small forward?) for the Magic, but that pairing has been underwhelming to say the least.

Dewayne Dedmon
4-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 9 PTS | -11

Things turned for the worst for Orlando when Kyle O’Quinn was ejected midway through the second quarter after committing a hard foul on Blake Griffin that was called a Flagrant 2 from the officials. Without Nikola Vucevic out for a second straight game due to back spasms, that forced Dedmon to play the emergency center role. He did okay, all things considered.

Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers swept the season series versus the Magic and did it with ease. In their first meeting, Griffin struggled mightily with his jumper — he shot 1-for-8 from midrange. It was a different story on Wednesday, as Griffin shot 6-for-10 from midrange and made Orlando pay for leaving him wide-open on the perimeter. He finished with 21 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals.

Dec 04

Video: O’Quinn receives flagrant 2, gets ejected

Dec 03

Preview: Orlando Magic at Los Angeles Clippers

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Los Angeles Clippers
  • Date: December 3, 2014
  • Time: 10:30 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Staples Center

Records

  • Magic: 7-13
  • Clippers: 12-5

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Victor Oladipo
  • Evan Fournier
  • Tobias Harris
  • Channing Frye
  • Kyle O’Quinn

Clippers:

  • Chris Paul
  • J.J. Redick
  • Matt Barnes
  • Blake Griffin
  • DeAndre Jordan

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 93.6 (14th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 100.7 (26th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 106.2 (15th of 30)

Clippers:

  • Pace: 93.7 (12th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 112.2 (3rd of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 105.8 (13th of 30)

Read about the Clippers

ClipperBlog

Dec 03

Grades: Golden State Warriors 98, Orlando Magic 97

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Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

 

Golden State Warriors 98 Final
Recap | Box Score
97 Orlando Magic

Victor Oladipo
10-14 FG | 3-4 3P | 4 REB | 4 AST | 27 PTS | -1

This was easily Oladipo’s best game of the season so far. He got off to a quick start in the first quarter and never looked back. He splashed in 3-pointers and midrange jump shots. He attacked the rim — he had a vicious dunk in the third quarter. Yet in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter, he barely touched the ball.

Kyle O’Quinn
9-16 FG | 3-3 FT | 2 STL | 11 REB | 21 PTS | -7

With Nikola Vucevic out due to back spasms, which he suffered during pre-game warmups, O’Quinn stepped in at center and the Magic didn’t miss a beat. He had 21 points (two shy of his career-high) and 11 rebounds in 27 minutes of playing time. Its performances like these that show O’Quinn is more than capable of being a starter in the NBA.

Tobias Harris
6-14 FG | 5-5 FT | 7 REB | 5 AST | 17 PTS | -1

Harris was the hero and the goat. It was his running bank shot that gave Orlando a 97-95 lead with 38.4 seconds left. And it was his inability to close out on Stephen Curry in transition, eliminate his airspace, and prevent him from shooting his game-winning 3-pointer that cost the Magic a hard-fought win on the road that they had earned.

Evan Fournier
4-13 FG | 2-6 3P | 3 REB | 2 AST | 10 PTS | +5

Fournier made a minimal impact. He made a layup, midrange jumper, and two 3-point shots, and that was it. Something to keep an eye on moving forward is Fournier playing alongside Elfrid Payton (who was stellar against the Warriors, despite his modest stat line) and Oladipo in a small ball lineup. Coach Jacque Vaughn used it against Golden State and it was effective.

Golden State Warriors

Steph Curry. With the Dubs on the brink of having their 9-game winning streak snapped by the Magic, Curry came through in the clutch with a game-winner. After Payton missed a layup that could have iced the game with Orlando up 97-95, Curry got the ball in transition and pulled up for a 3-pointer that you knew was going to go in as soon as he released it.

Dec 03

Video: Stephen Curry hits game-winning 3-pointer

Dec 03

Video: Victor Oladipo with a vicious dunk

Dec 02

Preview: Orlando Magic at Golden State Warriors

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Golden State Warriors
  • Date: December 2, 2014
  • Time: 10:30 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Oracle Arena

Records

  • Magic: 7-12
  • Warriors: 14-2

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Victor Oladipo
  • Evan Fournier
  • Tobias Harris
  • Channing Frye
  • Kyle O’Quinn

Warriors:

  • Stephen Curry
  • Klay Thompson
  • Harrison Barnes
  • Draymond Green
  • Andrew Bogut

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 93.7 (13th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 100.4 (26th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 106.2 (16th of 30)

Warriors:

  • Pace: 98.6 (1st of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 108.6 (10th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 97.9 (1st of 30)

Read about the Warriors

Warriors World

Dec 02

Tobias Harris: Numbers guy or good player?

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Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

There is a difference between a “numbers guy” and a player who can be an important piece on a good team. It’s a distinction not obvious to most. For example, I would say most people who don’t religiously follow the NBA believe that Michael Carter-Williams and Josh Smith are really good players — based on their per game averages and maybe because of NBA 2K14. Certainly, their stats may look decent on paper, but it’s ultimately window dressing.

I would argue someone like Draymond Green is more of a player who could be a key cog for a winning team than the two guys listed above (and he’s proving it too, as he’s one of the biggest reasons the Warriors are off to their best start in franchise history at 14-2). Casual fans would say, “Who?” Exactly.

This brings me to Tobias Harris, the Magic’s fourth-year player and starting small forward. Harris is averaging 18.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game while shooting 39.5 percent (15-for-38 — small sample size alert) from 3-point range through the first 17 games of the season. He’s sporting a 17.9 PER and a .553 True Shooting percentage. All those numbers are career-highs.

To put that stat line in perspective, Carmelo Anthony was the only player in the entire league last year to score at least 18 points, grab at least eight rebounds, and knock down at least 39.0 percent of his 3-pointers. While the season is still young (not sure when we stop saying this), it goes to show how good Harris has been to start the season.

However, is Harris an important piece for the Magic as they continue to move forward post-Dwight Howard and look to build a contender? Or is he just a guy to fill the gap while the franchise is rebuilding, put up big numbers, and potentially become a trade chip — like we have seen with Rudy Gay and Brandon Jennings.

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Dec 01

Grades: Orlando Magic 93, Phoenix Suns 90

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AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

 

Orlando Magic 93 Final
Recap | Box Score
90 Phoenix Suns

Nikola Vucevic
7-15 FG | 4-6 FT | 1 BLK | 8 REB | 18 PTS | -1

It was Vucevic’s right hook with 42.2 seconds left, which gave the Magic an 85-80 lead, that was a lightning rod for controversy. Replays showed that as Vucevic gathered the ball, he shuffled his feet before putting up the shot. It was an obvious travel call that was missed by the officials and prompted a technical foul to be called on coach Jeff Hornacek.

Tobias Harris
8-18 FG | 4-4 FT | 2 STL | 8 REB | 21 PTS | +1

Harris sank a difficult jump shot down the stretch that exemplified the type of shot-maker he can be for Orlando when the team needs a bucket. It happened late in the fourth quarter with the Magic clinging to an 81-76 lead. Harris was isolated against P.J. Tucker and made a fadeaway baseline jumper with Eric Bledsoe flying from the weak-side to contest the shot.

Evan Fournier
5-8 FG | 2-5 3P | 5 REB | 2 AST | 15 PTS | 0

It was just another day in the office for Fournier. He scored 15 points on eight shots and did it in customary fashion — 3-pointers, free throws, and layups. Those are the three most efficient shots in basketball, which means that not only is Fournier a samurai lookalike when he steps onto the floor but he’s an analytics dream as well.

Victor Oladipo
6-11 FG | 0-1 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 12 PTS | -6

What was most interesting about Oladipo’s performance was that he played a good chunk of the game alongside Elfrid Payton, who had 7 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and was a team-high plus-10. When Orlando drafted Payton, many envisioned him in the starting backcourt with Oladipo. That hasn’t been the case yet, but that could change.

Phoenix Suns

It was an uninspiring performance for the Suns, who had the dubious claim of allowing the Magic to notch their first road win over a West team since March 4, 2013 against the New Orleans Hornets. Even though Phoenix was without its leading scorer (Isaiah Thomas), this was a winnable game against a beatable team. This loss will hurt.

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