- 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.
Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images
Frankel’s 2013-14 projections
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images
Frankel’s 2013-14 projections
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.
- Jameer Nelson knows there’s a strong possibility he may get traded this season — along with Arron Afflalo and Glen Davis. Nate Drexler touches on the possibility of the latter two players being dealt.
- Glen Davis has openly admitted that his surgically repaired left foot will never be the same.
- General manager Rob Hennigan, head coach Jacque Vaughn, and Magic players share their thoughts on Victor Oladipo.
- What should Magic fans expect from Tobias Harris this season? Tyler Lashbrook of Orlando Pinstriped Post tries to answer that question.
- Jason Maxiell is making an impression with his new Magic teammates.
- ESPN Insider unveiled its player scouting reports and 2013-14 projections for the Orlando Magic today.
- Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose of Grantland riff on the Magic in their NBA Preview.
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “Heading into his third NBA season and his second with the Magic, Harris is expanding his goals. He truly believes that he has the skill set and the supporting cast around him to make a run at getting picked to play in the NBA All-Star Game. If he can build off his 27 games with the Magic – when he scored 20 points nine times and 30 points twice – he thinks he can help the Magic make great strides and put himself in the running for an All-Star bid.”
- NBA rookies, including Oladipo, have a chip on their shoulder, given that they’ve been labeled a weak class.
- Matt Moore of CBSSports.com suggests the Magic should look to move Nelson sooner rather than later because “he could hurt their quest to land in the top three of next year’s super-draft.”
- Harris is hoping to become a more efficient player offensively.
- Nikola Vucevic has made a name for himself back in his native land of Montenegro.
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
There is an elephant in the room in Magic camp as the 2013-14 season gets ready to commence. Actually, there are two elephants — Glen Davis, who is about as big as an actual elephant, and Arron Afflalo, a slightly smaller one.
The big question as the second year of Orlando’s rebuilding phase begins is this: what direction do the Magic want to go? What is the identity of this team?
On the one hand, youth looks great. There’s nothing more exciting for a franchise than having young, talented legs. Especially when those legs are trending towards improvement and occasionally winning games along the way.
But on the other hand, a team full of rookies and sophomores is rendered precarious without the helping hand of some savvy veterans. This is one of those times that I’m glad I’m not a general manager that’s trying to reconstruct a roster.
This brings us to the subject of Afflalo and Davis.
First off, they are both good players on relatively fair contracts, which give them solid trade value.
Second, neither of them is good enough to be gobbling up minutes from some of the younger players who need room (and time) to develop. That’s not a slight on either guy. It’s just that both of them probably are better suited in a very specific role (a la Davis in Boston and Afflalo in Denver).
Lastly, they are likely not part of the long-term plan in Orlando, which makes them categorically different than, say, Jameer Nelson, whose contract can come off the books next season (only $2 million is guaranteed until July 15, 2014) and therefore is not an elephant of any kind.
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
Frankel’s 2013-14 projections
The good news for E’Twaun Moore is that there aren’t many players with an apostrophe in their first name, so even casual basketball fans can remember him. The bad news is he’s not going to receive as much playing time with Victor Oladipo in the backcourt. The good news for Magic fans is that it might not be such a bad thing.
Right now, E’Twaun is right behind Jameer Nelson on the depth chart for next season with Beno Udrih gone to New York, but that could change in a hurry depending on how training camp goes. Oladipo is the future, and while Moore might be just 24 years old, Ronnie Price and Manny Harris will compete for minutes in training camp.
With Aaron Afflalo coming back at the off-guard, expect to see coach Jacque Vaughn use Oladipo at both guard positions to give him some more run in what is basically another post-Dwight rebuilding season before the 2014 draft.
Among every guard in the league last season that played at least 20 games and averaged 20-plus minutes in those games, Moore’s 10.7 PER was only better than 9 other players, per Hoopdata. Of those players with a PER below Moore’s, only Austin Rivers (.431) — who had one of the worst rookie seasons in NBA history — and defensive specialist Avery Bradley (.464) had a worse True Shooting percentage than Moore (.473).
That is bad company to keep. Even Jacque Vaughn, not a celebrated shooter during his 12-year NBA career, had a .500 True Shooting percentage for his career. So maybe ‘Twaun will make his bones like Bradley and hound opposing points when Jameer, Oladipo, and Afflalo take a seat.
Unfortunately, Moore gave up 0.97 points per possession on defense last season, good for 400th in the league, per Synergy Sports. However, he’s pretty decent defending against the pick-and-roll ballhandler (0.81, 138th), which accounts for around 35 percent of the plays he defended. For comparison’s sake, let’s look at Bradley’s stellar defense, since he’s one of the rare players that shot worse than Moore from the field last season.
Bradley gave up just 0.73 points per possession, which was 16th in the league, per Synergy Sports. Avery was also ranked 19th guarding against pick-and-roll ballhandlers, giving up just 0.65 points per possession. That’s impressive and atones for his poor shooting (though with Rajon Rondo in the backcourt with him, get ready for a lot of opposing jerseys in the paint, Celtics fans). Moore doesn’t make up for his poor shooting on the defensive end.
When you watch Moore play, it’s not that he’s loafing on defense, or unable to grasp the offense, it’s that he’s 24 now, and after two seasons in the league and a chance to really show something last season when Nelson went down, he still shot under the Mendoza line (.399 percent). His defense isn’t otherworldly enough to account for that drop-off from a guard — the offensive engines in the contemporary NBA.
The Magic were actively worse last season when Moore was on the court. While starting 21 games last season and appearing in all 82 games, the Magic were 3.8 points per 100 possessions worse with Moore on the floor, per NBA.com.
While 24 is still a young age and he’s only played two seasons since being drafted out of Purdue in the second round by Boston, Moore has to show an improved offensive game more than anything else.
At least he’s got that apostrophe, and by most accounts he’s a good guy too, but from what he showed last year, he might not be an NBA-caliber guard.
- The Orlando Magic began training camp today. One of the major storylines to come out from the first day is Tobias Harris logging minutes primarily at small forward.
- Bradford Doolittle and Amin Elhassan of ESPN Insider think Jameer Nelson is better off as a third guard for another team. Doolittle believes Nelson is best served playing with the Indiana Pacers, while Elhassan suggests Nelson is aptly suited to play with the Toronto Raptors.
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com chronicles Victor Oladipo’s first practice as an NBA player.
- Nikola Vucevic talks about what he wants to improve on: “My goal this year is to be a better defensive player. I have to do that so that our team can be better. As I get older, stronger, it’s something I want to focus on.”
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Using Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook as the model, the Magic envision utilizing Oladipo’s dynamic athleticism at the point at times during the season. He was primarily a shooting guard at Indiana.”
- Glen Davis is the key to the Magic’s defense.
Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images
Frankel’s 2013-14 projections
At this stage in his career, it’s safe to say that Jameer Nelson is a seasoned veteran as he enters his 10th season with the Orlando Magic, which makes him the longest-tenured Magic player in franchise history along Nick Anderson (who would have thought Nelson would last this long with the organization?).
Here’s what’s important to consider. Despite receiving major scrutiny — from basically anyone — for being unable to consistently recapture his 2009 form, Jameer definitely has a little more left in the tank.
Nelson saw an increase in his points and assists in the 2012-13 season, but don’t let the improvement of his per game averages fool you. He saw a rise in his stats across the board, but that was due to a dramatic increase in playing time — he played 35.3 minutes per game (his career average is 28.9 mpg). His per-36 numbers last season showed he was the same player he’s always been.
The bottom line with Jameer is that he gets it done over the course of a long regular season. There are going to be moments when he looks sloppy and even lost on the floor, but then he will explode for 25 points a week later and absolutely torch guys on the perimeter like he’s still got his St. Joe’s legs.
Streaky shooting is his downside, and with the new-found support of Victor Oladipo and return of Arron Afflalo, look for (or at least hope for) Jameer to turn into more of a drive-and-kick point guard, given that his shot has fallen off significantly since 2009.
The big worry for Nelson is that his PER has declined each year over the last four seasons. This past season, he found himself hovering around the league-average with a 14.4 PER.
Nelson’s .498 True Shooting percentage wasn’t that much better, either. When you can’t hit the deep ball and the long 2’s aren’t falling, you become less of an offensive threat. That’s the bottom line.
Nelson should look to lead in other ways than he’s used to leading. If he can look to facilitate first, drive second, and shoot third, he will get back to being more of an efficient player. There is plenty of young talent now offensively where he can start to think more like a traditional point guard instead of a primary scoring option on the team.