Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 46

Oct 09

Player Profile: Tobias Harris

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Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Frankel’s 2013-14 projections

PPG RPG APG TS% PER
17.9 7.5 1.9 55.4 18.8

After being buried on the bench for the first half of last season, Tobias Harris broke out in a big way after being inserted into the starting lineup for the Orlando Magic. His per 36 numbers with the Milwaukee Bucks always indicated that he could be a big producer, and when finally given the minutes in Orlando, he flourished.

With the Magic, Harris functioned as one of the primary focuses on offense, owning a 23.1 percent usage rate (third-highest after he joined the team). And he used the majority of those possessions wisely last season. Most of Harris’ offense came at the rim or from behind the 3-point line, two of the most efficient spots on the floor to score.

It’s a safe bet that Harris will be an offensive focal point again this season, as the Magic have very few players cut out for high usage roles. How a full season of heavy usage and defenses focusing on him effects his efficiency is a big question mark, as he wasn’t that efficient of a player offensively last season (he posted a .524 True Shooting percentage).

He created a lot of offense for himself with post ups and isolations, so it would have been nice to see at least some distribution skills. Sadly, that wasn’t the case, and this season he is projected to have an assist percentage lower than that of Glen Davis and Nikola Vucevic.

Harris will especially have to become more comfortable with the pick-and-roll as a ballhandler, as that made up less than 3 percent of his offense last season, per Synergy Sports. He’s a threat defenses will pay attention to because of his shooting and driving ability, so if he can improve upon his vision, Harris in the pick-and-roll could be a big weapon for the Magic.

The biggest question going into the season for Harris is what position will he play? Last season, he logged most of his minutes with the Magic at the four. But that may not be feasible with a larger, healthier stable of power forwards this year. It’ll be interesting to see how he transitions to more time at the small forward, especially on defense.

It’s hard to say whether or not Harris was an influential defensive player at power forward last season. His defensive metrics were all over the place: opposing power forwards posted an 18.1 PER against him, and he graded out as neutral according to regularized adjusted plus/minus and above-average on Synergy Sports. And his on/off numbers showed Orlando was 7.5 points per 100 possessions better defensively when he was on the floor.

It could be a case of small sample size. And those numbers may change with different responsibilities this season. But the verdict is still out on Harris’ defensive prowess.

When he has the ball in his hands, he’ll be a mismatch nightmare. He’s too quick for power forwards and too big for small forwards. Harris will have to improve his spot-up 3-point shooting in order to play more on the wing though, as he only shot 33.9 percent on spot-up 3s last season, per Synergy Sports.

This will be a big season for Harris, as we still really aren’t sure what he is yet. Is he a legitimate first option? Is he a small forward or power forward? Was his production last season a case of stat-stuffing on a bad team? Depending on how he performs this season, we’ll have a much clearer view of who Harris is and what his role with the Magic should be going forward.

Oct 08

Tuesday’s Mini-Magic Word

  • Maurice Harkless has worked on improving his jump shot.
  • Josh Cohen of OrlandoMagic.com has more on Harkless’ development: “Harkless spent countless hours this past summer improving his strength. It’s not a coincidence that he added 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason. We’ve seen other players around the league with similar talents like Paul George and Trevor Ariza make big strides after concentrated offseason training. Expect Harkless to be vastly enhanced – offensively and defensively – in his second NBA season.”
  • How much playing time will Victor Oladipo get at point guard? John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com offers his take.
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Maxiell has worn a relatively fashionable pair of Wilson glasses during Magic practices. But soon he expects to receive goggles that resemble the eyewear Horace Grant donned during Grant’s days with the Chicago Bulls and the Magic. Maxiell doesn’t expect the new goggles to be ready for Wednesday night’s preseason opener against the New Orleans Pelicans in Jacksonville.”
  • Zach Lowe of Grantland provides his outlook on the Orlando Magic this season: “This is a developmental year for a team that’s finally going to walk into some serious long-term cap flexibility next summer — especially if they deal Jameer Nelson or buy out the final year of his contract.6 There are some interesting pieces here, and it was fun to watch Tobias Harris and Maurice Harkless stretch themselves when things fell apart last season. But Orlando’s defense collapsed without Glen Davis after a surprising 12-13 start, and its offense was never any good. It’ll have major issues spacing the floor, and each young guy will experience growing pains — especially if Jacque Vaughn gives Victor Oladipo heavy time as the team’s main playmaker.”

Oct 08

Player Profile: Doron Lamb

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Photos by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images

Frankel’s 2013-14 projections

PPG RPG APG TS% PER
1.0 3.3 2.4 42.5 5.1

Magic fans are constantly going to have to have perspective this season, that Orlando’s goal is to lose. Bad players playing lots of minutes is a good thing. With that in mind, Doron Lamb should contribute in the right way to this Magic team.

Austin Rivers got all the hype for having one of the worst season’s of all-time for a rookie, but Doron Lamb deserves a bit of attention as well. He had the lowest PER (4.8) and third-worst regularized adjusted plus/minus (-5.9) among players who played more than 500 minutes.

Lamb shot terribly from nearly everywhere, and didn’t do anything to make up for that shooting deficiency, rebounding and assisting at abysmal levels. He was lost on defense, as is typical for rookies, getting blown by left and right and missing rotations to shooters.

But every so often, Lamb would do something good. Like score a career-high 16 points against the Milwaukee Bucks, his former team, and flash a sweet shooting stroke from beyond the arc.

This year, Lamb projects to improve in almost everything, due to his age, but still be terrible. The one glimmer of hope is his aforementioned 3-point shooting, where he shot 37.8 percent on 37 attempts last season. If that is somewhere near his true ability and not a fluke of small sample size, Lamb could at least occupy a semi-useful role on offense in the future.

He has good athleticism, so if he can figure out some of the nuances of NBA defense and keep up at somewhere around that shooting level, Lamb could be more than just a replacement-level player.

Oct 07

Monday’s Magic Word

  • Rob Mahoney of The Point Forward sees Jameer Nelson as a prime trade target this season: “Orlando’s roster teardown is well underway, but Nelson remains as a vestige of the Howard era. The 31-year-old point guard would do much more good for a more competitive team, and with just a quarter of his salary guaranteed next season, he could be an interesting trade chip.”
  • Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “The Orlando Magic will wind down training camp Monday with a morning session. Their first preseason game is set for Wednesday against the New Orleans Pelicans in Jacksonville. Coach Jacque Vaughn said Monday before Orlando’s practice that he doesn’t anticipate heavily using his veterans in the preseason opener.”
  • Is Victor Oladipo the favorite to win Rookie of the Year honors?
  • Arron Afflalo is hoping to become a more efficient player offensively for the Orlando Magic.
  • Nikola Vucevic is no longer a secret around the NBA.
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel shares this tidbit: “The Magic’s starting lineup for the regular season is expected to be Nelson at point guard; Arron Afflalo at shooting guard: Maurice Harkless at small forward; Tobias Harris at power forward; and Nik Vucevic at center.”
  • Ronnie Price understands he’s been brought in to mentor the young players on the Magic’s roster, and it’s something he’s willing to do for the better of the team.

Oct 07

Player Profile: Victor Oladipo

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Frankel’s 2013-14 projections

PPG RPG APG TS% PER
N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A

After his first two seasons at Indiana University, Victor Oladipo might have snuck in at the tail end of the first round in the 2012 NBA Draft. As a defense-first guard with a 6-foot-9 wingspan on a staunch 6-foot-4, 215-pound body, ‘Dip could match up against either guard position. But he didn’t — yet — possess the offensive skills that would translate well to the next level. So he smartly stayed in school, and worked on his game.

Then, as a junior, he improved his outside shot and became an important part of the Indiana offense. He averaged 13.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists a game for an Indiana team that spent 10 weeks ranked No. 1 in the nation.

That’s what happens when you’re as hungry to improve as Oladipo was after his sophomore season as a Hoosier. But how his improved game translates to the NBA remains to be seen — though Summer League evidence seems to point to a hawkish defender with a possible ceiling as an All-Star.

Oladipo’s performance next season on the defensive end is easier to determine than his offensive role. He’ll spend time at point and the off-guard, depending on Arron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson’s health and productivity, so his ballhandling and ability to run the offense will be on display. We just don’t know how bad the growing pains will be.

There’s a huge learning curve for most rookies, but Oladipo appears to have a cot reserved at the gym, and his desire to improve is a large reason he jumped so high in the draft. With the Magic rebuilding, Oladipo is a Rookie of the Year candidate, but any rookie honors will depend on a role that’s still being decided as we enter the second week of training camp and the first round of preseason games.

Oladipo’s shooting improved enough in his final season at Indiana, I was surprised at his junior year shooting splits of 60/44/75. A 60 percent mark from the field with close to two 3-point attempts per game is incredibly efficient against the Big Ten. He’s so strong, while also being quick, opposing points couldn’t keep him from getting easy buckets at the rim.

After watching him leap around the gym during the NBA rookie photo shoot in August, I can attest to his athleticism first-hand. He just runs and jumps like a natural athlete, and when you combine that with his determination on the defensive end, we could be looking at an All-NBA defender in a couple years. That prediction hinges on his ability to defend faster and stronger players, but all signs point to a top-flight defensive talent.

Victor’s junior-year shooting numbers won’t continue at the NBA level, though. He shot 37.5 percent in four games during Summer League play in Orlando, but if you discount his abysmal 2-for-13 performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder, that percentage rises to 44.4, and an outrageous 70 percent from 3 (7-for-10 in three games). But it’s still Summer League, and it’s doubtful Oladipo will be that effective against first-team NBA defenses.

Oladipo drastically  improved his shooting after his sophomore season at Indiana, and there’s no reason to doubt that same improvement as he enters his rookie season.

A possible game-changing perimeter defender, Oladipo has the ability and the drive to be the all-around (point?) guard that helps lead the Magic back to prominence over the next decade.

Oct 04

Friday’s Magic Word

  • ProBasketballTalk unveils its season preview of the Orlando Magic.
  • Dan Devine of Ball Don’t Lie on Maxiell possibly wearing goggles this season: “We don’t yet know if Grant approves of this move, but we can be certain that it will get a lot more people to remember one of the better power forwards of his era, as well as a key figure in the NBA Jam halftime report. With the Magic looking like a lottery team yet again this season, a little nostalgia won’t hurt the experience.”
  • Needless to say, the possibility of Jason Maxiell wearing goggles ala Horace Grant really is grabbing the attention of the national media.
  • Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post interviews Mickell Gladness — a Magic training camp invitee that’s trying to make the roster.
  • David Thorpe of ESPN Insider is bullish on Tobias Harris improving his #NBArank of No. 126.
  • Speaking of #NBArank, every player for the Orlando Magic has been ranked, with Nikola Vucevic leading the pack at No. 97. Harris, by the way, made the biggest leap out of all the Magic players, jumping up 240 spots from last year.
  • Arron Afflalo isn’t worried about trade rumors.
  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com details how the Magic’s young core is meshing with the veterans on the roster.

Oct 04

Player Profile: Arron Afflalo

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Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

Frankel’s 2013-14 projections

PPG RPG APG TS% PER
16.1 3.2 3.4 52.4 13.5

Arron Afflalo’s first season with the Orlando Magic, after arriving from the Denver Nuggets in the Dwight Howard trade, revealed his limitations as a player on both sides of the ball.

Unlike in Denver, where he was more of a tertiary scoring option, Afflalo emerged as one of the main offensive focal points for the Magic. Case in point: Afflalo’s usage rate jumped up from 14.8 percent in 2011 to a career-high 22.5 percent in 2013. The problem was that his efficiency nosedived.

In 2010-11, Afflalo’s True Shooting percentage (.620) ranked third in the NBA. Last season, his percentage (.527) fell below the league-average.

The law of diminishing returns states that when a player increases his usage rate, he becomes less efficient — there are, of course, exceptions to the rule (see Kevin Durant). That’s what happened when Afflalo was asked to do too much on offense for Orlando.

The main culprit behind Afflalo’s dramatic dip in efficiency was his shot selection. When you compare his shot charts from 2011 (the best season of his career) to 2013, they say it all.

In Denver, Afflalo favored the corner 3. But with the Magic, for some odd reason, Afflalo went away from the corner 3 and launched more 3-pointers above the break. His percentages everywhere else on the court — at the rim and from midrange — remained stable, he even shot a career-high 85.7 percent from the line, but it was his sudden shift away from corner 3s that proved to undermine his 3-point percentage. After shooting 42.3 percent beyond the arc in 2011, he shot 30.0 percent in 2013, which killed his efficiency.

On defense, Afflalo was once regarded as one of the better wing defenders in the NBA. However, that reputation began to wane in Denver over time, as he focused more on his offense, and the pattern continued with Orlando, to the point where Afflalo graded out as a below-average defender this past season according to regularized adjusted plus/minus and Synergy Sports. The on-court/off-court data were damning as well: the Magic were 2.9 points per 100 possessions worse defensively with Afflalo on the floor, per NBA.com.

The only bright spot for Afflalo on the defensive end was that he held opposing shooting guards (11.6 PER) and small forwards (13.3 PER) to low PERs, per 82games.com.

The question that everyone is asking now about the 27-year-old Afflalo is how long is he going to be around? As general manager Rob Hennigan continues to fill Orlando’s cupboard with young talent, more and more people feel that Afflalo’s time with the Magic is running out. Especially now that Victor Oladipo, Orlando’s prized rookie, has landed on the roster as the possible shooting guard of the future.

That’s the narrative thread to look out for while following Afflalo this season. Just as J.J. Redick’s name was in the crosshairs last season as an obvious trade candidate due to his impending free agency, it seems the focus has shifted towards Afflalo, with trade rumblings starting to ferment during the offseason. Given that he’s still young and on a reasonable contract, it makes sense.

No matter where he is, whether it’s with a contender or the Magic, Afflalo is best utilized as a third or fourth option, where he can return to being a mid-usage, high-efficiency scorer like he was for Denver. Less offensive responsibility also leaves more energy for defense, which invites the possibility that Afflalo can restore order with his skill-set and be the “3-and-D” player he once was.

If Afflalo can revert to being that guy, then perhaps the allure of trading him won’t be as great for Orlando.

Oct 03

Thursday’s Mini-Magic Word

  • Get to know Kris Joseph, who was one of four players invited to Magic training camp.
  • Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “Free-agent signee Jason Maxiell will become the second player in Magic history to wear no. 54, following Horace Grant. And if Maxiell gets his way, he’ll also don Grant’s familiar and iconic goggles, which were once the centerpiece of a Sports Illustrated cover, for the season ahead.”
  • During the offseason, Maurice Harkless worked hard on his body — as well as his game — and the results paid off. John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com has the details: “The benefits are quite apparent in the physique changes for Harkless. Not only has he added 12 pounds of bulk, but he even grew an inch to 6-foot, 9-inches tall. He couldn’t bench press 225 pounds prior to last season, and now he’s doing three-repetition sets of 275 pounds with ease.”
  • Victor Oladipo talks about meeting his boyhood idol — Tracy McGrady.
  • The Orlando Magic, one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA last season, are working in camp to improve on that end of the floor.

Oct 03

3-on-3: Will Victor Oladipo win Rookie of the Year?

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Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Since being drafted by the Orlando Magic, Victor Oladipo has made plenty of headlines. He wore Google Glass on NBA draft day. He experimented at point guard in Summer League. He went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant in the Goodman League. And he upset Cavs fans by telling Magic season-ticket holders “he really didn’t want to go to Cleveland.”

What other headlines could Oladipo make? We investigate.

1. Fact or Fiction: Oladipo will play more point guard than shooting guard.

Jacob Frankel: Fiction. To think Oladipo will play more point than wing is an oversight of the Magic’s wing flexibility. Arron Afflalo and Maurice Harkless can play both positions on the wing, while Tobias Harris can move down to the four. Oladipo will spend time at the point, but not nearly as much as he will elsewhere.

Spencer Lund: Fact. But that answer comes with the huge caveat that he’ll be lined up at whichever guard position is less healthy. Arron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson missed large chunks of games last year with injuries, and Nelson is older, so Oladipo will probably get more run at the 1.

Jack Winter: Fact. But that doesn’t necessarily say anything positive about Oladipo’s future at the position. Incumbent Jameer Nelson and career journeyman Ronnie Price are the only true lead guards on this roster, and neither has a tenable future with the organization. Of special note: Nelson’s contract is guaranteed for just $2 million next season, making him prime trade deadline bait.

2. Fact or Fiction: Oladipo will finish the season as a starter.

Frankel: Fiction. Nelson has started every game he’s played in the last three seasons. Afflalo is a lock to start throughout the season, be it at shooting guard or small forward. That leaves one starting wing spot for Harkless, Oladipo, and Harris (unless he starts at power forward) to fight over. I just think the proven commodities will win out.

Lund: Fact. Although Hennigan and Vaughn and the entire Magic brass will pretend otherwise, the Magic are hoping to secure a top lottery pick in the mammoth 2014 draft. If they fall out of contention, they’ll want to get their young players as much time as possible, and that means starting Oladipo at one of the two guard spots.

Winter: Fact. The only thing that should keep Oladipo from leading the Magic in minutes this season is an injury. He needs all of the development he can muster in this relative throwaway of a season, and the best way to ensure he gets it is giving him extended court time.

3. Fact or Fiction: Oladipo will win Rookie of the Year.

Frankel: Fiction. The award is about racking up loads of points, and that’s just not what Oladipo will do. Whether he’ll be deserving is a question I might answer yes to. He’ll make an immediate impact on the defensive end, and if he can keep up his shooting and offensive improvement from college, it’s a clear possibility.

Lund: Fiction. Oladipo plays a position where he’ll have the ball in his hands a lot, and he’s on a team where he’ll get a lot of playing time. But choosing this year’s ROY is like betting on Tiger to win the Masters. He might have the best odds, but it’s still smart to take the field.

Winter: Fact. I chose him for Rookie of the Year in July. With the season fast approaching, there’s no reason to waver. Oladipo will struggle with turnovers and offensive efficiency, but no rookie will match his combination of per game numbers and two-way impact. In a class this weak, that should be enough for the hardware.

Oct 03

Player Profile: Ronnie Price

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Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

Frankel’s 2013-14 projections

PPG RPG APG TS% PER
0.8 0.3 0.6 40.9 7.0

At 30 years old and playing for his fifth team in nine years, Ronnie Price finally finds himself with an opportunity. Long and classically cast as a team’s seldom-used third point guard, several factors — the most important of which is completely outside his control — will determine his on-court role with the Magic.

But unless coaching and personnel decisions go unexpectedly and wildly awry, Price seems destined to play the bit part he’s come to know so well at this point in his career.

Blessed with rare explosiveness and long arms, Price has always looked like an NBA point guard. He has good size, quick feet, and is still capable of the thunderous and acrobatic dunks for which he’s mostly known. But Price’s sustained play has never aligned with the flashes of his great physical gifts, and that might especially be the case today.

His mind-bogglingly low .402 True Shooting percentage last season was the second-lowest among all players that played at least 500 minutes, and his 20.7 turnover percentage is far too high for a player who had a 14.8 percent usage rate.

Though he again ranked among the league’s best in steal percentage and is certainly an net-plus defensively, Price was still no more effective last season than replacement-level at best. His 6.8 PER speaks to that as much as anything else.

While it sounds counter-intuitive, none of that means he can’t help the Magic this season — his presence will just (hopefully) be felt more off the court than on it. And that’s by design, given that general manager Rob Hennigan has made it a point of emphasis to surround Orlando’s young core with high-character veterans like Price.

Victor Oladipo is this franchise’s best hope for the present and future, and fostering his overall development should be of utmost importance. Price will help in that regard, as he’s a consummate professional that’s lauded for his work ethic.

And should Oladipo struggle enough on the ball to be played exclusively off of it for most of the season, Price seems like a perfect back-up point guard option for Orlando’s current state of roster reconstruction: a stop-gap whose blanket positive impact will be gleaned in the locker room. While’s that’s a sobering thought for the team’s prospects this season, it’s a necessary reality to ensure future success.

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