Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 54

Oct 15

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • Dwight Howard lets it be known, in advance of Wednesday’s preseason game between the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets, that he’s disappointed that the Magic have allowed Tobias Harris to wear No. 12.
  • In that same link, Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel has the backstory behind Harris’ number choice: “Howard likely didn’t know, and perhaps still doesn’t know, that Harris wanted to wear No. 12 as a tribute to a close friend who had died of leukemia at 17 years old.”
  • Ronnie Price is nursing minor injuries, including a sore hamstring, which will prevent him from playing in front of his friends and family on Wednesday. Price grew up near Houston.
  • Victor Oladipo loves playing at Amway Center already.
  • Josh Cohen of OrlandoMagic.com: “With everything we know now about Dwight Howard after he decided to bolt Los Angeles for Houston this past summer, it really makes you wonder; does he regret requesting out of Orlando, does he wish he handled the process differently, would he have gone a different path?”
  • Howard sees a lot of similarities between the Rockets’ current roster and the 2009 Magic squad that went to the NBA Finals.
  • Even though he’s on the proverbial trading block, Jameer Nelson is committed to helping the Magic through their rebuilding phase by mentoring the young players like Oladipo.

Oct 15

Player Profile: Jason Maxiell

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Frankel’s 2013-14 projections

PPG RPG APG TS% PER
4.2 3.9 0.4 48.2 10.6

Jason Maxiell, through no fault of his own, had to bear the brunt of anger from Pistons fans last season because of his location on the depth chart, which was right in front of Andre Drummond. It was a classic case of a mediocre veteran with an ugly game taking playing time away from an exciting and promising player.

Magic fans can only hope that the same thing doesn’t happen again this season, considering the cornucopia of young talent at power forward and center.

On the offensive end, Maxiell spent most of his time last season loitering from midrange. He shot just 32 percent on shots from 16-23 feet, per Hoopdata. Coupled with the fact he’s always been a below-average free-throw shooter and it should come as no surprise, then, that he posted an awful .478 True Shooting percentage. Maybe Maxiell and Glen Davis can hang out.

Maxiell was largely reliant on his teammates to create shots for him, as 74.5 percent of his shots last season were assisted on, per Hoopdata. He’ll set hard screens, make some cuts, and score off of offensive rebounds when he isn’t busy clanking jumpers, but that’s about it.

Some of the value Maxiell lost on offense was regained on the defensive end, where he was an above-average defender last season according to Synergy Sports and regularized adjusted plus/minus. His defensive RAPM (plus-minus adjusted for opponents and teammates) was plus-2.38, as opposed to minus-3.29 on offense. And the Pistons were 2.1 points per 100 possessions better defensively when Maxiell was on the floor. He’s a little undersized, but has a solid base and moves well in a team scheme.

The 2013-14 projections reveal that Maxiell is likely going to be the player he was last year. He looks to be awful on offense again, with a True Shooting percentage way below the league average, but his defense should stay solid. He’ll mostly play backup power forward, but a few center minutes being mixed in wouldn’t be a shocker.

All in all, there’s nothing wrong with Maxiell being on the team — he’s just a mediocre filler player that won’t drastically swing the ledger one way or another. It’s off the court where his impact should be felt the most, as he mentors the youngsters for the Orlando Magic.

Oct 15

Handicapping the race to land Andrew Wiggins

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Jeff Jacobsen/Kansas Athletics

With a loaded draft class coming up — led by Andrew Wiggins, the projected first overall pick — and the team still rebuilding, the goal for the Orlando Magic this season will be to lose and secure a superstar talent at the top of the draft. Unfortunately for the Magic, that’s the aim of other teams as well.

How do the Magic stack up against some of these “contenders” in the Eastern and Western Conference for the coveted top spot in the lottery?

Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers are the clear favorite for the worst record in the league after a sweeping offseason overhaul. They traded away their best player in Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans in return for Nerlens Noel, who is expected to miss a bulk of the season while he recovers from an ACL injury, and a 2014 first round pick.

Philadelphia only has $40 million on the books this season, and if they decline all options, they could have a payroll as low as $11 million next summer, per ShamSports.com. About half the roster didn’t play more than 200 minutes last season and three of those players have been identified as prime trade chips. It’s going to be ugly.

The best-case scenario for the Magic is that Thaddeus Young isn’t traded, Spencer Hawes plays out of his mind like he did at the start of the 2011-12 season, and Evan Turner makes a leap. What’s more likely though, is that this team challenges the 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats as the worst team of all-time and claims the top odds in the lottery.

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Oct 14

Player Profile: Andrew Nicholson

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Frankel’s 2013-14 projections

PPG RPG APG TS% PER
8.5 4.0 0.6 56.7 15.8

Will he come into his own? Will he ride the train of mediocrity? Will he show us a side of him that we haven’t seen? I’m not sure, but Andrew Nicholson has a good amount of room to grow as a player.

Let’s consider a few details.

Averaging 7.8 points and 2.5 rebounds per game last season is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but Nicholson was relatively efficiently for a young player, boasting a 15.1 PER and a .557 True Shooting percentage. And he’s poised to carry some serious weight on this Orlando roster with the absence of Big Baby to start the season.

Several limitations are still in place, though.

For one thing, Nicholson is still undersized and his physicality is not necessarily prolific, which hurt him defending post-ups last season. The hot stove league was convinced that Jason Maxiell was brought on for the purpose of helping guys like Nicholson learn to be more physical on defense. Whether that’s true or not, we can expect him to make intentional strides in that direction.

Secondly, Nicholson’s skill-set on offense needs to expand. He has a silky smooth post game and a nearly automatic midrange jumper, but his offense needs to become even more dynamic if he is going to steal minutes from Tobias Harris and Glen Davis at the four. That’s why Nicholson made a concerted effort during the offseason to extend his range to the 3-point line. We’ll see if he’s able to turn into an effective 3-point shooter.

Nicholson is a bright kid, and Jacque Vaughn obviously has a long-term plan for him as he limited his minutes throughout last season.

Look for Nicholson to boost his numbers up this year and tack on a handful of double-doubles to boot. He’s not going to be a go-to guy on offense, but he can turn into an extremely dependable option off the bench.

Oct 12

Highlights: Victor Oladipo shows off his jumper

Oct 12

Grades: Cleveland Cavaliers 110, Orlando Magic 105

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

 

Cleveland Cavaliers 110 Final
Recap | Box Score
105 Orlando Magic

Nikola Vucevic
7-14 FG | 1-3 FT | 1 BLK | 6 REB | 15 PTS | -1

Vucevic shot 7-for-8 at the rim and 0-for-6 everywhere else on the floor. That was his game in a nutshell. He had a couple of dunks and made a few lefty hooks. He even had one of his patented offensive rebound putbacks. But whenever Vucevic tried to face up, his usually reliable midrange jump shot betrayed him every time.

Victor Oladipo
7-13 FG | 2-7 3P | 8 REB | 3 AST | 18 PTS | -11

With the first quarter coming to a close, Oladipo made a spot-up 3-pointer from the left wing, threw down a putback dunk, and then nailed another 3-point shot — this time from the right wing — off the dribble in the span of roughly 90 seconds. All while playing point guard. Oladipo had other drool-worthy moments of brilliance at the point, but that sequence was particularly fun to watch.

Arron Afflalo
5-6 FG | 3-3 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 14 PTS | +6

Afflalo has made it a mission to get back to being the efficient player he was in Denver. Against the Cavs, Afflalo accomplished that task, but he did it in the least optimal way possible. Four of his five made field goals were midrange jump shots, with all of them being difficult fadeaways. It wasn’t the most effective way of being efficient, but it worked this time.

Maurice Harkless
2-6 FG | 6-6 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 10 PTS | -10

Much has been written about Harkless reconstructing his jumper during the offseason, given his offensive struggles last season. Well, Magic fans will need to be patient with Harkless, because he had some ugly misses tonight. But his defense is getting there. The one defensive play that stood out the most came in the first quarter when Harkless flashed his athleticism and length to block an Earl Clark right corner 3.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Defense and Anthony Bennett. That’s what won the Cavaliers this game. After the Magic completely picked apart Cleveland’s D in the first half, the Cavaliers ramped up their defensive efforts after halftime and stymied Orlando’s offense. And then in the fourth quarter, Bennett — the top pick in the 2013 NBA Draft — went nova, scoring 14 of his 16 points in the period to lead the comeback charge.

Oct 11

Video: Victor Oladipo blows by Kyrie Irving for layup

Oct 11

Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers at Orlando Magic
  • Date: October 11, 2013
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: NBATV
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Cavaliers: 24-58
  • Magic: 20-62

Probable starters

Cavaliers:

  • Kyrie Irving
  • Dion Waiters
  • Earl Clark
  • Tristan Thompson
  • Anderson Varejao

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Kyle O’Quinn
  • Nikola Vuvevic

Advanced stats

Cavaliers:

  • Pace: 92.3 (13th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 104.3 (19th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 109.4 (27th of 30)

Magic:

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

Read about the Cavaliers

Cavs: The Blog

Oct 11

Player Profile: Glen Davis

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Frankel’s 2013-14 projections

PPG RPG APG TS% PER
12.6 6.3 1.8 49.2 14.8

The good news for Glen Davis is that he’s being smart and not rushing back from his foot injury, especially after suffering a setback in rehab — he underwent surgery to replace a screw in his left foot during the offseason. The bad news is that by the time it heals, he may have to prove his worth, especially if we see huge strides from Tobias Harris and Andrew Nicholson.

However, it should be expected that Davis will heal, recover, and step back into a fairly heavy usage role in the Magic’s starting lineup. The early stages of the season — with no Davis — will be an outlier as far as true expectations. In the long run, though, Big Baby will probably get his.

Since arriving in Orlando two seasons ago, Glen Davis has seen his role increase in a multitude of ways. Last season, Davis averaged career-highs across the board. He was scoring more, rebounding more, and assisting more. Similarly, his 15.0 PER was a career-best.

But offensively, Davis was a black hole. His 25.4 percent usage rate was a career-high, yet he posted an abysmal .483 True Shooting percentage. Big Baby’s continued infatuation with long two’s was the problem, as he shot 33 percent from 16-23 feet on 4.1 attempts per game, per Hoopdata.

And it’s a shame that Davis is a negative on offense, because he’s such a good defender and easily the best defensive player on the roster. Last season, Orlando was 6.1 points per possession better defensively when Davis was on the floor, per NBA.com. And regularized adjusted plus/minus, Synergy Sports, and 82games.com all graded him as a plus-defender.

It’s no secret that the Magic fell off a cliff after their 12-13 start, and that had almost everything to do with the defense cratering once Davis missed time with various ailments.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize a more limited role on offense would probably benefit both Davis and the Magic, and there are few viable options for Jacque Vaughn to turn to. You have Tobias Harris and Andrew Nicholson as previously mentioned, and even a Horace Grant acolyte — Jason Maxiell. That’s the long term outlook.

In the short term, Baby is destined to see relatively limited minutes until Jacque Vaughn is confident that his foot is at one hundred percent. Vaughn has plenty of guys he can platoon while he keeps an eye on Davis, and that should mean nothing but good things should come from the power forward position in the second half of the season if everyone’s healthy.

It might seem crazy to say it, but the Magic really cannot afford for Davis to have anymore setbacks with his foot at such a pivotal time in their rebuild, given that he has the potential to be an attractive trade piece at the deadline. Whether or not he fully recovers from his injury remains to be seen.

Oct 11

How to graciously root for a loser

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

I’m a Buffalo Bills fan. I know I’m writing for a basketball blog, and this is the second time I’ve mentioned a different team sport, but if you’ll bear with me for a second, it’ll come together shortly.

The Bills — if you don’t know — haven’t made the playoffs since I was in high school. That year, we lost to the Tennessee Titans in a game many still remember as the “Music City Miracle.” It was not miraculous for Bills fans.

The brutal twist of fate on that January day in 2000 came after a decade where I spent my formative years detesting Super Bowl Sunday. The Bills lost four straight Super Bowls from 1990-1993. It was a trying time for a young kid from upstate New York who worshipped sports. But I learned a lot from those years and from the ensuing playoff drought we’re currently in the middle of, going back to that horrendous loss in Nashville.

I offer this preface as a way to show you my bonafides as a fan. I have stuck with my Bills through a lot and I have come out with a new appreciation for cheering on a loser.

By most accounts — including most, if not all, of the writers on this site — the Magic are not going to be very good next year. Sure, Tobias Harris offers hope, and ‘Dipo might be a two-way star in the next half-decade, but for the next six months, Magic fans will be faced with a whole lot of losing.

While you never want to get used to the idea of losing, something that has unfortunately stricken a large swath of Bills fans, you also don’t want to be a grouchy, glass-half-empty fan, either, forever looking at an upcoming game as a chance to sob alongside the Nightengale. You should see the beauty in the Nightengale’s song — like Coleridge did, but minus all that opium.

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