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While we as basketball fans love to determine improvement through an increase in the main statistical categories, the indication it can give can be minimal at times.
Take Kyle O’Quinn for instance: when comparing his stats from this season to last, you’ll notice they’re fairly similar — a slight jump in most areas, but nothing that screams “big improvement.” Despite this, it’s common belief among Magic fans and writers that O’Quinn developed greatly as a player this year.
The increased trust that Magic coach Jacque Vaughn showed in Kyle played a huge part in his development. As the season went on, O’Quinn saw a somewhat steady increase in his minutes — he seized the opportunity, and increased his production significantly with an increased role in the rotation.
The stats — when split into sections of the season — are telling:
Not only did he improve across the board statistically as the season went on, it was clear he was playing with more confidence. He was far less hesitant with the ball, and showed off the fantastic passing skills he possesses, both on outlets and in the half-court, rare for a player of his position.
It also must have been encouraging for Magic brass to see him play comfortably at either frontcourt spot, playing a lot of minutes in a big lineup with himself at the 4 and Nikola Vucevic at the 5, yet also sliding to center himself when need be.
SportVu’s rim protection data backs up the claim that O’Quinn is an excellent defensive player, with him being ranked 13th in the league in field goal percentage allowed at the rim, for guys who contest at least four shots a game.
He’s ranked above Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah (16th) and fairly close to Andrew Bogut (10th), Serge Ibaka (7th), and Taj Gibson (11th), along with various other elite defensive big men. That’s a pretty great sign, and shows his potential to be an elite defensive big for years to come — guys that can protect the rim generally stay in the league for a long time.
Kyle is a fan favorite, too. Working hard to transform himself from a guy who rode the bench his rookie season to a pivotal part of the Magic rotation has not gone unnoticed, and when combined with his excellent defensive awareness and never-ending motor, he’s a fantastic guy to have on the court.
With O’Quinn’s development on both ends of the floor — and his ability to play either big position — it’s looking like the Magic have their frontcourt set for the future, considering himself and Nikola Vucevic have shown they can both see the court at the same time (O’Quinn’s best defensive lineup includes Vucevic, per 82games.com).
With the kind of intensity and energy O’Quinn brings to the team, the minutes increase is likely to be a continuing trend, and the extra experience will only help his confidence even more.
Whatever happens, Kyle O’Quinn will always be the feel-good story that came out of a pretty tough season for the Orlando Magic.
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With the season over for the Orlando Magic, it’s time to hand out team awards. We asked our panel to hand in their picks for the 2013-14 season.
1. Who’s the 2013-14 most valuable player?
Ryan Drawdy: Arron Afflalo. He may not factor into the future plans of the organization, but if we’re zooming in on this year alone, there’s no other answer. Afflalo gave the team an offensive punch it hardly possessed otherwise. The only other option here would be Vucevic, but he played in 16 less games and wasn’t as consistent a threat to defenses.
Jacob Frankel: Arron Afflalo. Nikola Vucevic has been close in quality of play, especially with Afflalo’s late season lull, but just hasn’t played enough games to be in contention for the Magic MVP.
Spencer Lund: Arron Afflalo. He shot over 42 percent from beyond the arc, and while his performance on a game-by-game level dropped significantly in March and April, he was the biggest reason other Magic players got open looks offensively. His shooting had to be respected, but that tapered off at the end (like the Magic) and his defense is overrated at this point.
Andrew Lynch: Arron Afflalo. Value was hard to come by for the Magic this year, but Spell Check managed to give the people a show. He garnered legitimate All-Star consideration, which is not an easy task for a team on its way to a top-three pick.
Tim Sartori: Arron Afflalo. Afflalo was huge for the Magic this season, particularly through the first half — prior to the All-Star break, he averaged 19.4/4.1/3.7 on excellent shooting percentages. He slowed down a bit in the second half of the season, but he was still without a doubt the Magic’s best player.
AP Photo/John Raoux
5-9 FG | 4-7 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 14 PTS | -20
Last season, Harkless shot 27.4 percent from 3-point range. This season? He upped his percentage to 38.3 percent when it was all said and done. That’s a win for the Magic. Harkless has all the makings of being a 3-and-D player, who can also be an effective slasher (think Matt Barnes, but without the passing ability). Now about that free throw shooting.
5-12 FG | 3-3 3P | 6 REB | 3 AST | 13 PTS | -8
Amidst all the youth on Orlando’s roster, I think people tend to forget that Moore (24) is one of the team’s “older” young players. Which is to say that the odds of Moore continuing to get exponentially better are lower than Victor Oladipo, for example. Moore got better this season, mostly as a shooter, but he’s still nothing more than a fringe back-up guard.
4-12 FG | 3-7 3P | 0 REB | 2 AST | 11 PTS | -16
After getting barely any playing time for most of the season, Lamb saw a lot of action in the month of April. Part of that was Oladipo’s minutes getting cut. Part of that was Nelson getting hurt. The problem for Lamb is that he didn’t prove he belongs on the court. His 8.5 PER in April (7.5 PER for the season) is replacement-level.
4-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 10 PTS | -6
Nicholson has to be happy that he was able to finish the season on a positive note. He scored in double figures in each of the Magic’s last three games. That’s after Nicholson failed to score in double figures in three months. As for the corner 3 experiment, Nicholson’s 3-point percentage for the season was 31.5 percent. That’s solid and something Nicholson can build on.
With the Pacers sitting three of their starters (Lance Stephenson, Paul George, and David West) and playing George Hill and Roy Hibbert in the first half only, combined with the Magic resting most of their starters, this matchup was nothing more than a glorified D-League game. With the No. 1 seed locked up, Indiana had nothing to play for. Neither did Orlando.
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Via Orlando Magic press release:
Kyle O’Quinn was named the Aleve ‘Hustle Player of the Year’ at halftime of the Orlando Magic’s regular season home finale Wednesday evening against the Indiana Pacers. At the close of each month this season, Aleve has highlighted the top hustle plays of the month in-game and has allowed Magic fans the opportunity to vote for the top play on OrlandoMagic.com. Due to his constant commitment to playing every game with more excitement than the last, O’Quinn was selected as the recipient of the 2013-14 Aleve ‘Hustle Player of the Year’ honor, his second consecutive year to win the award.
O’Quinn accepted the award from Joe Raymond on behalf of Bayer Healthcare, the makers of Aleve. In honor of O’Quinn’s accomplishments, Bayer Healthcare is donating $5,000 to CECO – Conductive Education Centers of Orlando.
- Teams: Indiana Pacers at Orlando Magic
- Date: April 15, 2014
- Time: 7:00 p.m.
- Television: Fox Sports Florida
- Arena: Amway Center
- Pacers: 55-26
- Magic: 23-58
- George Hill
- Evan Turner
- Rasual Butler
- Luis Scola
- Roy Hibbert
- Victor Oladipo
- Arron Afflalo
- Maurice Harkless
- Kyle O’Quinn
- Dewayne Dedmon
- Pace: 92.5 (20th of 30)
- Offensive Rating: 104.0 (23rd of 30)
- Defensive Rating: 99.4 (1st of 30)
- Pace: 93.7 (15th of 30)
- Offensive Rating: 101.7 (29th of 30)
- Defensive Rating: 107.3 (16th of 30)
Read about the Pacers
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
The circle of life that is the 2013-14 Orlando Magic regular season comes to a close tonight in the same way it began. It’s as if the schedule-makers, the Magic, and their opponent, the Indiana Pacers, the team they faced to start the season, conspired with the creative minds over at HBO to capitalize on the momentum of “flat circle” concepts of time.
Sure, the place is different. This final encounter comes in Orlando, not the confines of Bankers Life Fieldhouse, whatever the hell that is. Everything else, though? It’s the same, because such is life for the Magic as they build toward their future selves. This season is only nominally different from the last, a journey through the NBA calendar predicated on patience, development, and a “let’s see what we’ve got here” mentality coupled with an eye on future asset acquisition.
And if one year to the next is the same, how could April be unique to October? Orlando has successfully tanked this year, but been outdone by the Bucks and Sixers in the race for ping pong balls.
For all of their turbulence, internal and external, the Pacers are the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, a result as likely now as it was when the season started.
And even the trials and tribulations Indiana’s faced this year are reflected in the Ouroboros of Orlando’s season. The Magic, you’ll recall, battled the Pacers tooth and nail over the first 30 minutes or so of their season opener, succumbing in the third quarter only to be buried in the last. It was the first data point on a trend for Indiana, as they’d spend far too many games politely deferring to the opposition in the first half only to impose their will after halftime.
Moral victories against superior competition gave way to an actual, honest-to-goodness, it’s-on-the-scoreboard victory for the Magic the last time the Pacers were in Orlando.
And, just like with seemingly every other win this year, a repeat tonight would not be in the Magic’s long-term interests. They currently stand alone with the third-worst record in the league, and all of the lottery chances that come with such a lofty ranking.
A win tonight and a loss by the Jazz, however, would drop Orlando and Utah into a tie for third-worst. The two teams would split the average of the number of ping pong ball combinations for third (156 combinations out of a total 1,000) and fourth (119), with each team receiving 137 combinations and a coin flip determining who gets the extra one.
In practical terms, a win tonight, combined with a Jazz loss, drops Orlando’s chance of getting the first overall pick from 15.6 percent to either 13.7 or 13.8 percent.
Maybe that’s worth it. Maybe fans want to start the summer with one last win, small changes in odds be damned. I don’t think there is a wrong or a right answer. All I know is that we’ll ask the question in the same manner that we first ruminated on another season of tanking — against the Pacers, with nothing and everything on the line.
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “As he’s prepared for games late in the season, Vaughn has often popped in video of the Magic playing a similar opponent early in the season to see the level of improvement. He is satisfied that several of the players have made significant strides – even if it hasn’t necessarily translated into winning a bevy of games.”
- It’s “Fan Appreciation Night” when the Magic host the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday on the final day of the regular season.
- The Pacers will be resting some of their starters against Orlando.
- Tyler Lashbrook of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “It’s hard to believe, but the Orlando Magic are one game away from being two full seasons into the rebuilding process. In two years, the roster has transformed from a club full of Otis Smith’s spare parts to Hennigan’s young guns, sans Jameer Nelson. Those shiny, new Corvettes have produced precisely 120 losses, 121 if the Indiana Pacers take care of business like it should on Wednesday.”
- The Magic are finalizing plans to enter a single-affiliation hybrid relationship with the Erie Bayhawks of the D-League. It’s the same type of partnership that the Houston Rockets have with the Rio Grand Valley Vipers.
- It’s awards season in the NBA and Zach Lowe of Grantland — who has an actual ballot this year for the first time — reveals his pick for Rookie of the Year.
AP Photo/Jeff Haynes
5-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 13 PTS | +3
Afflalo’s best offensive sequence came when he made a fadeaway jumper along the right baseline, a 3-pointer off the dribble from the right wing, and a catch-and-shoot jumper from the left wing during a four-minute stretch in the third quarter. Outside of that, Afflalo was relatively quiet offensively, as coach Jacque Vaughn again — like he did on Sunday — elected to give the bench some extended minutes.
9-11 FG | 3-5 FT | 1 BLK | 7 REB | 20 PTS | +9
You’re looking at the best second round draft pick in Magic franchise history. Anderson Varejao doesn’t count, given that he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers (in the Tony Battie trade) a month after he was drafted in 2004. On a day where it snowed in Chicago, O’Quinn brought a little rain with him, as he was raining midrange jumpers all over the court.
8-9 FG | 3-3 3P | 1 BLK | 4 REB | 19 PTS | -9
After having his best game in months in Sunday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets, Nicholson followed that up with one of his best games of the season. This is the player that Magic fans expected to see on a regular basis before he regressed after the first month of the regular season. Hook shots, midrange jumpers, corner 3s — everything was clicking for Nicholson.
3-8 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 10 PTS | +3
With Orlando’s season winding down, Vaughn has said that he was going to cut Oladipo’s playing time since he’s already amassed nearly 2,500 minutes in his rookie year. To put that number in comparison, Oladipo played just 1,021 minutes in his final college season at Indiana. What’s amazing is that Oladipo never visibly showed he hit the rookie wall.
No Derrick Rose, no Luol Deng, and yet the Bulls are now 48-33 and in line for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, as long as they beat the Charlotte Bobcats in their final regular season game on Wednesday. All hail Tom Thibodeau and Joakim Noah. This is a team that no one in the East wants to face in the playoffs.