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The Orlando Magic’s starting lineup is a typical blend of NBA player archetypes. Scorers, defenders, veterans, youngsters, and leaders — this is a group that makes utmost basketball sense on paper, especially considering the litany of options Jacque Vaughn has at his disposal coming off the bench.
Any critique of the Magic this season necessitates contextualizing the discussion. Orlando has bigger long-term hopes in mind than an immediate and major uptick in wins, and that merits a discerning eye on all organizational decisions.
For the sake of this argument, though, assume Vaughn and the Magic higher-ups are putting the team’s optimum players on the floor to achieve night-to-night success. For or better or worse, the nature of Orlando’s starting lineup suggests that naive optimism anyway.
The Magic ride their starters more than the league’s majority of teams. The five-man unit of Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, Maurice Harkless, Jason Maxiell, and Nikola Vucevic has played 138 minutes this season, good for 12th-most among any quintet in the NBA.
What better puts this group’s court-hogging in perspective, though, is how its time on the floor relates to different Orlando units. Other than Vaughn’s starters, no other Magic lineup has played more than 20 minutes this season. Simple math helps articulate that incredibly wide disparity: Nelson-Afflalo-Harkless-Maxiell-Vucevic has been on the floor nearly seven times as often as Orlando’s next most frequently used unit.
Some of that is inevitable. Starters will notch at least some court time every game. Indeed, that group is the only one that’s been utilized in all but one game so far (the lone exception being Wednesday’s game against the Miami Heat).
But that caveat only accounts for a small portion of this lineup’s gross misuse, and this is without considering just how terribly it’s performed in all of that court time.