Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 49

Nov 21

Orlando’s starting lineup is bad

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

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.

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Nov 21

Highlights: Arron Afflalo scores 30 again

Nov 21

Grades: Miami Heat 120, Orlando Magic 92

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

 

Miami Heat 120 Final
Recap | Box Score
92 Orlando Magic

Nikola Vucevic
2-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | -18

It was a nightmare game for Vucevic. He was swarmed aggressively by the Heat in the post, the pick-and-roll, and on the boards. When he did get his hands on the ball, he struggled shooting it, going 2-for-7 from the field. To cap things off, he fouled out in the third quarter and only logged 23 minutes for the night.

Victor Oladipo
5-12 FG | 8-8 FT | 5 STL | 4 REB | 20 PTS | -19

Oladipo continues to struggle finishing plays on the offensive end, but there were some positive takeaways. He went 8-for-8 from the line, which helped him finish with more points than shots. Where he really shined tonight, though, was on the defensive end. He posted five steals and two blocks, and made Ray Allen look as old as he really is.

Arron Afflalo
9-16 FG | 7-9 3P | 2 REB | 2 AST | 30 PTS | -28

Most wings in the league must be jealous of Afflalo and the type of zone he is in right now offensively. Almost all of his points tonight came within the flow of the offense, too — there weren’t any awkward isolations. Every time the ball came to him with just a few inches of space to work with, the Heat got burned.

Jameer Nelson
5-13 FG | 4-9 3P | 5 REB | 5 AST | 17 PTS | -25

It was a typical game for Nelson. Nothing too special, but it undoubtedly was a good performance nonetheless. He benefited from all the attention the Heat were paying to Vucevic down low in the form of four made 3-pointers. Trade rumors continue to swirl around Nelson right now, but it doesn’t look like it’s hurting his play on the court.

Miami Heat

It took them until the third quarter, but the Heat put away a team they are much better than. They coughed up the ball a lot, but that wasn’t a huge factor because of their blistering 3-point shooting display — Miami shot 15-for-24 beyond the arc. On the flipside, Orlando struggled with the Heat’s hectic, trapping pick-and-roll defense all night.

Nov 20

Video: Maxiell denies Birman at the rim

Nov 20

Preview: Miami Heat at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Miami Heat at Orlando Magic
  • Date: November 20, 2013
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Heat: 8-3
  • Magic: 4-6

Probable starters

Heat:

  • Mario Chalmers
  • James Jones
  • LeBron James
  • Shane Battier
  • Chris Bosh

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Victor Oladipo
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Nikola Vuvevic

Advanced stats

Heat:

  • Pace: 93.3 (18th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 113.5 (1st of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 104.6 (14th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 96.5 (10th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.5 (20th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 102.3 (8th of 30)

Read about the Heat

Heat Index

Nov 19

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • It’s early, but there’s plenty of evidence to show that Maurice Harkless is getting better as a shooter.
  • Glen Davis and Tobias Harris have returned from their respective injuries, and are working to get themselves back onto the court.
  • Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie chimes in on Jameer Nelson’s fourth quarter benching in the Orlando Magic’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday.
  • As the Magic get ready to face off against the Miami Heat on Wednesday, John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com looks back at Nikola Vucevic’s 20-point, 29-rebound game versus the Heat last season.
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “It’s unclear when Davis and Harris will play again, but Harris seemed to indicate Tuesday that he’s unlikely to play when the Magic host the Miami Heat on Wednesday night.”
  • Victor Oladipo is looking forward to a bounce back game against the Heat.
  • Orlando’s spacing on offense has been poor at times.

Nov 19

A blueprint to tank harder

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Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

At 4-6 on the year, the Orlando Magic have again started hot after most preseason prognosticators lumped them in with the Celtics, the Suns, the Jazz, the Sixers and other like-minded franchises attempting to turn things around through the 2014 NBA Draft.

The term “tank” has an odious stank to it that most basketball fans find putrid. This is understandable. Nobody wants their team to try and lose games, since it flies in the face of everything we hold dear about sports and competition in general. That long preamble aside, the Magic really need to start losing more if they’re going to get the best odds in next year’s draft.

That’s not to say this year’s crop of youngsters, plus a few mended or mending veterans — who are, with the exception of Jameer Nelson, all in their 20s — aren’t super fun to watch. No, this scrappy bunch has been incredible to watch grow, and they’ll continue to grow, but they shouldn’t accelerate at a pace that disallows any draft lottery contention.

Is the current lineup good enough to compete with the best in the East? No, and it’s fair to say they won’t ever be, even if Oladipo fulfills his promise, Vucevic continues to blossom, and we stop waiting for Tobias Harris to come back.

The Magic need to get better and it’s preferable to snag one of the exciting college freshman rather than a trading away some cap space to sign a second-tier player from next summer’s free agent class. Rookie deals are a huge luxury because of their controlled costs. This point becomes more acute when you take into account the summer of 2015 when most of the roster is up for an extension or in-line for a new deal.

But how to tank without pissing fans off while instilling a culture of losing? Purposefully losing games just isn’t the way to do it. Even though a lot of GMs hope their teams start losing this year, not a single one is going to make this overt. Rob Hennigan is the same way, and so is coach Jacque Vaughn, who has done an exemplary job with personnel that ranges towards the lower end in age and skill level.

There are a few steps the Magic could take to improve their chances in next year’s draft lottery without forfeiting their competitiveness.

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Nov 18

Monday’s Magic Word

  • Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports: “Despite lots of interest in guard Arron Afflalo last summer, the Magic refused to trade him. Smart move. Afflalo is averaging a team-high 21.7 points.”
  • Will the point guard experiment work out for Victor Oladipo?
  • Arron Afflalo could be playing his way out of Orlando.
  • In Saturday’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks, Jameer Nelson was benched in the fourth quarter in favor of Victor Oladipo. Nelson responds to the benching at Magic practice on Monday.
  • Afflalo was a finalist for Player of the Week honors for November 11-17. LeBron James won the award.
  • Victor Oladipo’s poor numbers are alarming.
  • Marc Stein of ESPN.com: “As if to remind potential suitors that he should be high on the list of Established Vets Likely To Be Traded alongside Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo is already halfway to last season’s eight 25-point games. The flip side: Victor Oladipo’s nine TOs against Dallas reminded you how raw this team really is.”
  • Now that time has settled, Josh Cohen of OrlandoMagic.com reviews the Dwight Howard blockbuster trade.
  • Nelson and Oladipo are learning to coexist with each other.
  • John Schuhmann of NBA.com: “Arron Afflalo has had himself a strong start and is in pretty elite company as one of five guys averaging at least 20 points, five rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. He drained eight threes (four from the left corner) on his way to a career-high 36 points in Wednesday’s win against the Bucks. The Magic’s defense suffered some slippage last week and now faces the league’s best offense twice in a row.”
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Team officials want to test Oladipo and determine over the course of the season whether he can be a fulltime point guard in the NBA. They believe Oladipo’s confidence can withstand rough outings, and they also believe he’ll improve as the season continues. But the decision to play Oladipo over Nelson in the fourth quarter of a winnable matchup also opens the Magic to accusations that they are tanking games to enhance their chances of picking early in the talent-rich 2014 NBA Draft.”
  • Oladipo is looking forward to playing against Dwayne Wade, a player that’s befriended him given their connection with current Indiana University and former Marquette University coach Tom Crean.

Nov 18

Exploring the Magic’s trade options

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Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

While the Orlando Magic have performed admirably early on this season, winning is not the short-term goal of this team and the better-than-expected performance likely won’t continue.

Orlando’s top three trade assets are Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, and Glen Davis. It’s a triumvirate of solid veteran contributors that can appeal to teams with different positional needs. The biggest reason for Orlando to make a deal (or two) is to increase their odds at the top pick in a loaded 2014 draft.

The most desired prize for Orlando is a first round pick, but most teams will be loathed to give one away in the upcoming draft. The best chance of getting a pick may come from dealing Nelson, Afflalo, and Davis to contenders that need some depth and will end up with a pick in the 20s. The alternative, getting a young player with potential, also comes from these teams who would rather make a push for the title now than build for the coming years.

Of course, salaries in a deal need to match up, which means the Magic would likely be getting something back other than the real asset they want. Other teams will probably look to offload some unwanted salary in a deal.

The framework of most possible trades has Orlando giving up one of the aforementioned three vets for a pick or young player and a salary dump. That’s the ideal scenario for the Magic.

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Nov 17

Grades: Dallas Mavericks 108, Orlando Magic 100

Screen Shot 2013-11-17 at 6.55.27 PM

AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.

 

Dallas Mavericks 108 Final
Recap | Box Score
100 Orlando Magic

Nikola Vucevic
8-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 4 AST | 16 PTS | -2

Normally a face-up player, Vucevic went to work in the post against the gangly Samuel Dalembert, leveraging his size to his advantage and scoring with little difficulty. He made a few hook shots with both hands — including two lefty hooks — and displayed good footwork. If Vucevic can keep making strides in the low post, he’ll become a more complete player on offense.

Victor Oladipo
3-8 FG | 3-4 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 10 PTS | -10

Turnovers were a big issue for Oladipo. Most of his nine turnovers related to his passing and ballhandling. Oladipo made several bad passes and lost the ball a few times when trying to split the double-team in pick-and-roll sets. The underlying theme is that Oladipo was forcing it way too much. The good news for Magic fans is that these are correctable mistakes.

Arron Afflalo
6-12 FG | 13-14 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 25 PTS | -2

After setting career highs in points and 3-point field goals made versus the Milwaukee Bucks, Afflalo followed that up by setting a new career-high in free throws made and attempted against the Mavericks. He was aggressive in attacking the rim off the dribble and drawing fouls. That allowed him to rack up free throws in bunches and put together a James Harden-like performance offensively (25 points on 12 shots)

Jameer Nelson
6-11 FG | 3-6 3P | 4 REB | 2 AST | 15 PTS | -4

The biggest storyline in the Magic’s loss to Dallas was a healthy Nelson not playing in the fourth quarter of a close game. Head coach Jacque Vaughn made the decision to play a small lineup (Oladipo-Moore-Afflalo-Harkless-Vucevic) in the final period and his choice raised a lot of eyebrows, given that Nelson was torching Jose Calderon and Oladipo was struggling to do the same.

Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks got contributions from a lot of players in their win over Orlando, but it was Dirk Nowitzki (18 points on 6-for-12 shooting) that had the game’s defining moment. Dirk Nowitzki made a cold-blooded 3-pointer from the right wing over Harkless’ outstretched arm with 3:10 remaining that gave the Mavericks a 100-91 lead and essentially ended the game.

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