Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 42

Oct 23

How can the Magic improve on offense?

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AP Photo/Eric Gay

When I covered high school sports and had to interview a coach of a young team that just got blown out of the water, there was one phrase that I heard more than any other.

“The guys are learning. They are getting better.”

As obnoxious and coach-speaky as it may seem, there’s a lot we can glean from those stock comments. And actually, Magic fans, coaches, and players ought to adopt some similar thinking this season. Because if you’re any one of these people and you’re gauging success by what you see in the win-loss column, it’s going to be a long season.

Success, in some cases, simply means improvement, and there are a few specific ways that the young talent in Orlando can start improving on the offensive side of the ball in the 2013-14 season.

Use the pick-and-roll to your strengths, not your weaknesses
Jacque Vaughn hasn’t stood the test of time yet, but he’s clearly not the wrong guy for this assignment in Orlando, at least right now. Vaughn appears to possess a keen understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of his roster.

An example of this understanding is found in his use of the pick-and-roll. The eye test suggests that the Magic ran the pick-and-roll last season a bit less than they did during the Dwight Howard era. That’s true to some extent, but a closer look using Synergy gives a far clearer picture.

Last season, 20.9 percent of the Magic’s possessions were in the pick-and-roll, per Synergy Sports. In 2011-12, that figure was 23.1 percent. But that difference largely stems from the fact that they didn’t run it for the ballhandler. Instead, they ran it for the roll man. In 2012-13, Orlando ran the pick-and-roll for the roll man 7.1 percent of the time, per Synergy Sports. That percentage was the same in the 2011-12 season, but less in 2009-10 and 2010-11 (4.5 percent in both of those seasons).

A few things contributed to the steady use of the pick-and-roll to set up the roll man, not the least of which is the fact that players like Andrew Nicholson and Tobias Harris (to name a few) were simply efficient when they were involved in that play type.

To be more specific, Harris shot 45.7 percent from the field last season when he operated as the roll man, per Synergy Sports. That number is higher than his field goal percentages in any other play type, barring transition and offensive rebounding, which are basically percentage boosters for anyone. Nicholson, who is already an efficient shooter from just about everywhere, got 18.9 percent of his offense as the roll man and shot 50 percent from the field.

On the flipside, the Magic have basically one guy (Jameer Nelson) who is an effective scorer as the ballhandler in the pick-and-roll. In 2012-13, Maurice Harkless shot 32.5 percent when he handled the ball, per Synergy Sports. E’Twaun Moore shot 38.5 percent from the field (5-for-15 from deep). And Arron Afflalo was just a touch worse (36.6 percent from the field and 1-for-11 from deep).

A big key for Orlando will be if they can find a secondary ballhandler in the pick-and-roll. My money is on Oladipo, who appears comfortable pulling up from midrange or driving all the way to the basket.

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Oct 22

Tuesday’s Mini-Magic Word

  • According to NBA GMs, Victor Oladipo is the runaway favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award.
  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk with a prediction: “When this season ends Glen Davis is going to be playing for someone other than Orlando. There are no sure things in the NBA, I could be wrong, but if I were Davis I would keep a “go bag” packed and ready near the front door.”
  • Tyler Lashbrook of Orlando Pinstriped suggests the Orlando Magic should start Andrew Nicholson, not Tobias Harris, at power forward. His two reasons: 1.) it allows head coach Jacque Vaughn to pair Oladipo with Harris with the second unit, and 2.) allows them both the chance to finish games together in crunch time.
  • General managers expect greatness from Oladipo, both now and in the future.
  • Glen Davis, who is currently recovering from a surgically repaired left foot, is trying to get his playing weight under 300 pounds to lessen the stress on his knee, ankle, and feet.

Oct 22

Is it smart to end morning shootarounds?

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Photos by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s been more than 40 years since Bill Sharman invented the morning shootaround. Ever since proposing that his 1971 Lakers show up on game days to shoot baskets in a lazy practice the morning of games, it’s become a staple of game day routines around the league. Part of that was the Lakers 69-13 record that year and a still-unbroken 33-game winning streak. Part was the very basic fact that it helped loosen guys up the day of the game and get them focused on basketball.

Even the morning-averse Wilt Chamberlain, who — contrary to popular belief — would always show up, but sometimes just read the paper, understood they helped the team. It’s hard to argue with the results of Sharman’s idea, and the former Boston great had been doing it as early as the 1950s with the Celtics.

Now comes word Magic coach Jacque Vaughn has done away with morning shootarounds in favor of afternoon shootarounds when the team is at home and afternoon walkthroughs in hotel ballrooms when the team is traveling. Vaughn explained the idea to the Orlando Sentinel’s Josh Robbins:

“Have I made a conscious effort to not have some shootarounds? Yes,” Vaughn said. “And will that continue throughout the course of the year? Probably yes. I took a scope of all the things that we did last year — what I liked, what I didn’t like, what I thought was efficient. And that’s what I’m about. I’m about being efficient.

“I don’t have to stroke my own ego and check boxes off [a practice plan]. I just don’t. I don’t have to do what other coaches do. I’m fine with doing what I think is best for my team.”

While some experienced teams ignore morning shootarounds on the second day of a back-to-back, the Magic are about as far from experienced as you can get. With the exception of a few Dwight Howard holdovers, the Magic roster is new and inexperienced. So it’s worth questioning Vaugn’s decision. Here are completely subjective arguments for and against the end of morning shootarounds.

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Oct 21

Monday’s Magic Word

  • Matt Dollinger of Sports Illustrated: “A Magic sell-off is likely at some point, with veterans Jameer Nelson (two years, $16.6 million left on his deal, with $2 million guaranteed in final season), Arron Afflalo (three years, $22.5M) and Glen Davis (two years, $13M) taking up too much cap room and playing time to stick around. In the meantime, the Magic will hope for development from No. 2 pick Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris and Maurice Harkless as the post-Dwight Howard rebuilding continues.”
  • The Orlando Magic have eliminated morning shootarounds.
  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk chimes in on the Magic changing their game day routine: “The idea is to give the players the game plan info closer to the game so they retain it better, and to keep them fresh. Vaughn isn’t the only coach doing it right now, other teams experimented with it, although Vaughn seems to be doing it more regularly.”
  • It remains to be seen if head coach Jacque Vaughn’s decision to move away from morning shootarounds will end up paying dividends for the Magic.
  • Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “In keeping with the premium Orlando places on secrecy, Vaughn wouldn’t commit to naming a starting lineup for opening night against the Indiana Pacers on October 29th. Though fans and media widely suspect that only the power forward position is up for grabs–with Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, Maurice Harkless, and Nik Vučević entrenched in their respective positions–Vaughn said that not every position is sewn up.”
  • After setting an NBA record for the fewest free-throw attempts per game last season, Orlando is making a concerted effort to try to get to the charity stripe more this season.
  • Glen Davis is making progress with his foot rehab, though no timetable is set for his return to the Magic’s starting lineup.
  • A look at the changes in Orlando’s uniforms over the years.
  • Watch Victor Oladipo dance.

Oct 18

Player Profile: Kyle O’Quinn

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Frankel’s 2013-14 projections

PPG RPG APG TS% PER
1.4 1.3 0.3 53.7 15.9

Kyle O’Quinn will never surprise. Blessed with acceptable height, a strong frame and arms that go for days, he’s athletic enough to capably defend a lion’s share of power forwards and centers, and offers surprising versatility on offense, too. While he doesn’t stand out on either end and has little (or nothing) in the way of upside, O’Quinn seems destined be a solid backup big for years to come.

While playing 57 games and averaging 11.2 minutes in those outings his rookie season, O’Quinn posted several impressive numbers. He ranked 25th in the league in both total and defensive rebound percentage, and was one of just five players to average at least 11 rebounds and 2.8 assists per 36 minutes.

And O’Quinn can score, too: he shot a solid 46.0 percent from 16-23 feet, albeit on just 1.0 attempt per game. While the midrange jumper will never be a team’s schematic focal point, that O’Quinn is a threat to score away from the basket certainly furthers his overall worth.

But it’s not all roses. O’Quinn is a mediocre finisher, abnormally turnover prone for an ancillary option and committed a whopping 6.0 fouls per 36 minutes. There’s more than that keeping him from consistent playing time, obviously, but those deficiencies must be fixed if O’Quinn is to claim a larger role going forward — with the Magic or another team.

Presumably behind Nikola Vucevic, Glen Davis, Andrew Nicholson and Jason Maxiell in Orlando’s pecking order of true big men, O’Quinn will lose minutes when the Magic play small with Tobias Harris or Maurice Harkless at power forward, too.

Though perhaps deserving of more extended (though still limited) court time, O’Quinn’s unique versatility still makes him a perfect fit among Orlando’s cavalcade of interior options. Should a frontcourt stalwart miss time due to injury, he’s good enough to help pick up the slack. O’Quinn is no better than that and likely never will be, but he seems perfectly suited for his current role.

Oct 18

Victor Oladipo and potential at its infancy

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Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

Potential is an interesting thing. It’s exciting, a little bit scary, and truly hard to gauge. Just ask every GM who has participated in an NBA draft. You can crunch the numbers, consult the experts, or even just have a really good feeling about someone. Trouble is, you don’t know. You kind of know, or at least you think you kind of know, but you don’t.

For Orlando, potential is a word you’re going to hear a lot when it comes to Victor Oladipo. In these early stages of his career, it’s hard to know how his development will pan out.

These are the very first steps of Oladipo’s career. He’s an infant. That is not to say that he’s going to steal your crayons and cry when you take his iPad away. He’s just young, malleable, impressionable, and at a pivotal juncture in his development.

For instance, he could decide it’s all about him, and try to leverage his position on a young and largely unsuccessful team to fill the stat sheet and work towards a max contract. He could also choose to resent the fact that he was drafted by a team in transition and purposely avoid a leadership role.

The third option, that of humbly growing within the system, while showcasing his natural abilities without being a ball-hogging prima donna, seems right to most of us, but it’s easier said than done. Nonetheless, it’s the route Dipo looks like he’s chosen, and this has been most evident in the graceful way he has asserted himself in preseason.

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Oct 17

Player Profile: Nikola Vucevic

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Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

Frankel’s 2013-14 projections

PPG RPG APG TS% PER
15.0 11.8 2.0 56.1 20.2

By now you know the story of Nikola Vucevic, which has become an urban legend of sorts. He was acquired by the Orlando Magic, by way of Philadelphia, in the Dwight Howard blockbuster trade during the offseason last year, seen as nothing more than another young piece being tacked on in the deal to make it look like the Magic weren’t getting completely fleeced.

For hardcore Magic fans, it wasn’t difficult conjuring up images of the short-lived Rony Seikaly era, which occurred following Shaquille O’Neal’s exodus to Los Angeles in 1996. By swapping Howard for Vucevic, Orlando was following a familiar rode of replacing a once-a-generation center with a mere mortal. Or so people thought.

But as everyone quickly found out last season, Vucevic was no Seikaly redux. Instead, Vucevic quickly emerged as a double-double machine for the Magic. He finished third in the NBA last season in double-doubles, behind David Lee and Howard. He had a league-high four 20-20 games, including two against the two-time defending champion Miami Heat and a 30-20 game versus the Milwaukee Bucks.

And absolutely no one saw this coming. Vucevic went from being in head coach Doug Collins’ doghouse with the Philadelphia 76ers to becoming a franchise cornerstone in Orlando. In a city that’s home to Disney World, it’s a fitting fairy tale story.

So what does Vucevic have in store for an encore? What can he do to get better?

One of the primary areas for improvement is in Vucevic’s post-up game. In 2012-13, he averaged 0.68 points per possession on post-up plays, per Synergy Sports. A halfway-decent figure, but certainly could be much better. The good news for Magic fans is that Vucevic has realized this, making an effort during the offseason to improve as a low post player.

If he can do that, then he’ll be able to augment those offensive upgrades with his already-solid high post skills. Last season, Vucevic proved to be an above-average midrange jump shooter by shooting 42.0 percent from 16-23 feet, per Hoopdata. And his ability to pass out of the high post served the Magic well last season, and should continue to serve the team well, given that general manager Rob Hennigan has been persistent in adding slashers like rookie Victor Oladipo to the roster.

It’d be helpful for Vucevic if he can work on continuing to improve as a free-throw shooter, too, given that he shot 68.3 percent in 2012-13 — up from 52.9 percent in his rookie year — and is still in the developmental stage of his career. That’s one reason why his True Shooting percentage (.534) hovered around the league-average, despite shooting 51.9 percent from the field.

On the flip side, Vucevic could stand to become a better post-up defender. Strength was an issue and he would get bullied inside when trying to defend on the low block. That was his primary weakness on defense last season, alongside his inability to protect the rim. In 2012-13, opponents shot 59.7 percent at the rim with Vucevic off the floor compared to 62.4 percent with him on it, per NBA.com.

Vucevic has said he wants to become a better defensive player, so it remains to be seen if that verbal commitment translates on the court during the regular season where he’ll again see big minutes as Orlando continues to rebuild.

If Vucevic can keep getting better on both sides of the ball, then the Magic will have found their next centerpiece in the paint. Who would have thought that?

Oct 16

Video: Victor Oladipo challenges Dwight Howard

Oct 16

Grades: Houston Rockets 108, Orlando Magic 104

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Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

 

Houston Rockets 108 Final
Recap | Box Score
104 Orlando Magic

Nikola Vucevic
3-7 FG | 1-3 FT | 1 BLK | 7 REB | 6 PTS | -10

Matched up against the Rockets’ all-world center, Vucevic more than held his own. All thanks to his defense, surprisingly enough. On the very first possession of the game, Vucevic blocked a Dwight Howard righty hook and didn’t relent defensively the rest of the night when both big men were on the floor together. Vucevic disrupted Howard’s rhythm, which translated into a rather pedestrian outing for Superman.

Victor Oladipo
3-12 FG | 0-3 3P | 3 REB | 3 AST | 9 PTS | -6

It was not the best night for Oladipo. He looked out of sorts all game long — he was over-dribbling and his jumpers were falling short. But he did have some good moments. Like when he went right at Howard and converted an acrobatic layup late in the first quarter. Or when he busted out a Eurostep and finished with his left hand in transition early in the second.

E’Twaun Moore
8-17 FG | 1-5 3P | 4 REB | 0 AST | 17 PTS | +6

If you managed to watch more than a handful of Magic games last season, then you know that Moore loves to shoot his patented floater. It’s his primary weapon of choice when attacking the rim off the dribble. And boy was his floater in midseason form against Houston. By my unofficial count, he made five of them, including four in the fourth quarter. Tony Parker would be proud.

Arron Afflalo
6-13 FG | 1-3 3P | 2 REB | 1 AST | 13 PTS | -4

This matchup showcased the difference between a good shooting guard and a great one. Afflalo had 13 points on 13 shots, while Harden had 21 points on 12 shots, and shot selection was the reason for the disparity. While Afflalo was scoring mostly from midrange, Harden manufactured all of his points via layups, free-throws, and 3-pointers.

Houston Rockets

Despite trailing most of the night, the Magic had a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds but blew the opportunity. Trailing 106-103 with 4.6 seconds remaining, Orlando botched things when Manny Harris inbounded the ball to Solomon Jones — a non-threat at the 3-point line. That allowed Donatas Motiejunas the chance to foul Jones, sending him to the line and effectively ending the game.

Oct 16

Preview: Orlando Magic at Houston Rockets

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Houston Rockets
  • Date: October 16, 2013
  • Time: 8:00 p.m.
  • Television: NBATV
  • Arena: Toyota Center

Records

  • Magic: 20-62
  • Rockets: 45-37

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Andrew Nicholson
  • Nikola Vuvevic

Rockets:

  • Patrick Beverley
  • James Harden
  • Omri Casspi
  • Francisco Garcia
  • Dwight Howard

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 92.2 (14th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.6 (27th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 109.1 (25th of 30)

Rockets:

  • Pace: 96.1 (1st of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 109.7 (6th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 106.1 (15th of 30)

Read about the Rockets

Red94

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