Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 6

Jun 11

Investigating Nikola Vucevic’s path to greatness

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 10.36.04 AM

Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Over the past two seasons, Nikola Vucevic has shown us he has the ability to be a serviceable — if not great — big man for the Magic in the coming years. He has continued to refine his offensive game since coming into the league, shooting a touch over 50 percent from the floor this season, and improving his midrange jump shot to the point where he is able to provide some floor spacing, as well as showing off a solid low post game.

One area offensively that Vucevic struggled with this year was in the pick-and-roll, only converting on 42.8 percent (77-for-180) of his field goal attempts as the roll man in this situation. Granted, he spent most of his time with rookie Victor Oladipo playing point guard — a player who had spent minimal time at this position prior to this season — but a number that low, for somebody that size, is worthy of investigating.

Vucevic was often hesitant to attack the rim once he caught the ball on the roll, both in looking to put himself in a position to score, or to make a pass for a teammate to be in a position to do so. This was particularly evident against teams that would “trap” the pick-and-roll — a defensive method which is becoming increasingly outdated in the NBA.

Read the rest of this entry »

Jun 04

Determining Arron Afflalo’s future

Arron+Afflalo+Orlando+Magic+v+Phoenix+Suns+rBcxARdFgjrl

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

There weren’t many bright spots for the Orlando Magic in the 2013-14 season, but one of them was certainly the emergence of Arron Afflalo.

Afflalo joined the team in the notorious Dwight Howard, 12-player trade, and as the primary option on a lottery-destined roster in 2012-13, he struggled out of the gates. Being the focal point of the team took some adjusting and questions began to arise about whether or not Afflalo could fulfill a bigger role than the 3-and-D one he had in Denver.

Nevertheless, he treated it as a learning experience, and in his second year with the team, any concerns about his ability to be a go-to scorer were quickly put to bed. He posted career numbers across the board, averaging 18.2 points per contest on 45.9 percent shooting from the floor and 42.7 percent from 3-point range. He finished the season as the Magic’s leading scorer, and heading into the All-Star break, he was a sleeper to represent the Eastern Conference as a reserve.

However, with two years remaining on his team-friendly contract ($7.5 million each year), the Magic are at a crossroads with what to do with him. As they look to turn the corner and add a final piece to their post-Dwight Howard-era puzzle, Afflalo sticks out like a sore thumb: A veteran in his prime on a rebuilding team. While the Magic are hoping to turn the corner next season and pull themselves out of the lottery, they’re still a few years removed from making any legitimate noise in the Eastern Conference — ones that extend beyond Afflalo’s prime.

Read the rest of this entry »

May 28

Maurice Harkless: 3-and-D player in the making?

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 11.53.04 AM

Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

When the wild, unwelcome dust from the Dwight Howard tornado-trades eventually settled in the summer of 2012, a cast of no-names found themselves standing in Orlando. No one knew exactly who among them would stand time’s test and fill out the Magic’s future constitution. Some are already memories (Josh McRoberts, Al Harrington). But some are still here and appear to be central to the future of the team.

One of those former no-names is Maurice Harkless. Anytime you read about the bright outlook for the Magic or the successful pieces GM Rob Hennigan has accumulated, you almost always hear the names of Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Victor Oladipo, and Harkless, with the recent inclusion of Kyle O’Quinn for some.

The first three are no-brainers in that regard; if they don’t pan out, the whole rebuilding plan will undoubtedly collapse.

But the inclusion of Harkless always gets me thinking. Is he truly that vital? How significantly would the rebuild be derailed if he suddenly retired in order to stop people from hearing what the Herald Angels are singing?

Truthfully, if you compare his statistics from his most recent sophomore season to his first, his numbers are down in almost every category across the board. Not significantly, but the point is that the trend isn’t on the up. He scored, rebounded, and blocked less than in his rookie year. These aren’t areas you want to see regression in from a building block player.

And then your eye fixes on one single stat that changes your entire outlook on Harkless: his 3-point percentage. What an improvement we find there. This past season he jumped over a hundred percentage points in made 3-pointers, from a painful 27.4 percent to a very healthy 38.3 percent.

To put that stat in perspective, it’s among the top 50 in the league and only .1 percent behind a guy named Kevin Durant, who’s pretty good. That’s no fluke. Harkless has clearly worked very hard to expand his shooting arsenal.

Couple that improved shooting with his already-known defensive capabilities and you begin to see why there is so much promise to be found in the guy. He could be exactly the type of role player a winning team needs: a defensive stopper who specializes in the knocking down the most valuable shot in the game. What more could you really ask for?

Harkless’ game somewhat reminds me of a former Magic player: Trevor Ariza. Ironic, given that he was traded away by the Magic for his inability to shoot 3s before he eventually developed into a sharpshooter. I think it’s fair to say that if Harkless’ career ends up following Ariza’s path, Magic fans can consider that a win.

Ariza is a player who now is consistently averaging 1.5 to 2.0 steals per game, but it took him five seasons to even get above 1.0 per game. Harkless has been at that level right from the start. Ariza barely attempted 3s during his first five years; this past season, he finished among the league leaders in 3-pointer percentage at 40.7 percent. Yet he’d never reached Harkless’ 38.3 percent before last year.

So it’s just possibly possible that Maurice Harkless is a Trevor Ariza type, a 3-and-D player with a lengthy wingspan, but on a faster and more extensive progression. Or it’s at least exciting to think that way.

The point: there is absolutely more room for growth, and he’s only played two seasons in the league. The Magic are desperate for shooters, and seeing more improvement from the current players, and Harkless, may go just as far as bringing in outside help.

Let’s keep putting Harkless in the “Magic cornerstones” category for now. It’ll be exciting to see where the young man elevates his game to next.

May 23

In defense of Jacque Vaughn

7755840

Photo by Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

When the Orlando Magic extended the contract of coach Jacque Vaughn (and GM Rob Hennigan) through the 2015-16 season, the general consensus among Magic fans was that Vaughn was not deserving of his extension. Their reasoning was simple: he has not proven to be a good head coach.

Even though Vaughn was the NBA’s youngest head coach at the time of his hiring (at age 37) in the summer of 2012, expectations within the Magic fan base were high since he was coming from the hallowed Gregg Popovich coaching tree, having spent two seasons on the sidelines as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs. Given that Popovich is undoubtedly the best head coach in the league, the thinking was that Vaughn would be an excellent head coach himself by symbiosis.

In the eyes of Magic fans, Vaughn hasn’t lived up to the hype. In two seasons with Vaughn at the helm, the Magic have gone 43-121 (.262) — the worst two-year stretch in franchise history.

Even though it’s common knowledge that the Magic have been purposely built, in the short term, to lose (or to tank in more blunt terms), the prevalent feeling in Orlando is that Vaughn has not done a good enough coaching job. In fact, there are those within the Magic fan base that feel Vaughn should have been fired already.

Read the rest of this entry »

May 22

Oladipo named to NBA All-Rookie First Team

Victor+Oladipo+Orlando+Magic+v+Atlanta+Hawks+vzj8YEUBJIll

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Via Orlando Magic press release:

Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team, the NBA announced today. Joining Oladipo on the first team are Michael Carter-Williams of the Philadelphia 76ers, Trey Burke of the Utah Jazz, Mason Plumlee of the Brooklyn Nets and Tim Hardaway Jr. of the New York Knicks.

Oladipo, who was selected second overall in the 2013 NBA Draft, played in 80 games (44 starts) during his rookie campaign with Orlando, averaging 13.8 ppg., 4.1 rpg., 4.1 apg. and a team-high 1.61 spg. in 31.1 mpg. As a starter, he averaged 14.7 ppg., 4.6 rpg., 4.5 apg. and 1.93 spg. in 35.5 mpg. Oladipo ended the season tied for 15th in the NBA in steals, and also ranked among all NBA rookies in scoring (2nd), rebounding (T-8th), assists (3rd), FG percentage (.419, 8th), 3-point FG percentage (.327, T-7th), FT percentage (.780, 6th), steals (2nd) and minutes played (3rd).

Oladipo, who was named the NBA’s Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for both December 2013 and February 2014, became just the second rookie in Magic history with 1,000+ points, 300+ assists and 100+ steals in a season (along with Penny Hardaway). He led (or tied) the team in scoring 13 times, in rebounding twice and in assists 18 times, scored in double figures 62 times and recorded the first triple-double of his NBA career on Dec. 3 at Philadelphia with 26 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in 52 minutes.

Oladipo is the seventh Magic player to be named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team and the first since 2004-05.

To view the media voting results, click here.

May 22

Tobias Harris: starter or sixth man?

Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 11.43.00 PM

Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

Two seasons ago, Tobias Harris joined the Orlando Magic, by way of Milwaukee, in the now famed J.J. Redick trade at the February deadline. Before swapping his green and red jersey for Dwight’s old uniform (which flustered the big man), Harris had spent the better part of his first two seasons in the Association buried deep on the Bucks’ bench.

But, following the trade, he was given a shot right off the bat with his new squad and he came out swinging, finishing the season with numbers that changed the course of his future.

He was a reserve for just his first seven games in sunny Orlando. After that, he was thrusted into a starting role. Overall, he thrived, averaging 17.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per contest with a 17.0 PER in 27 games. Harris was only one of seven players in the NBA to average at least 17.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 1.0 block per game — Tim Duncan, Al Jefferson, LaMarcus Aldridge, Al Horford, Dwight Howard, and Josh Smith were the others to accomplish that feat during the season.

Had it not been for a high ankle sprain prior to the 2013-14 season kicking off, Harris would’ve cemented his role in the starting unit this year, too (he was sidelined for 21 of the first 22 games). Instead, he was in and out of the starting lineup for much of the year.

Nevertheless, Harris remains an integral part of this Magic team moving forward as they continue to rebuild in the wake of the Howard debacle. However, what that role will be — a starter or sixth man — is a question that is yet to be answered.

Read the rest of this entry »

May 22

Magic to host 2014 Orlando Pro Summer League

bos_g_oladipo01jr_576

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images

Via Orlando Magic press release:

The Orlando Magic will host the Southwest Airlines Orlando Pro Summer League at the team’s practice court at the Amway Center from July 5-11, 2014. The 25-game, seven-day event will feature the Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and Philadelphia 76ers.

Each team will play five games over the seven-day event, with a championship day being played on the final day of the league. A point system will establish the standings leading up to the final day, with eight points awarded each game based on: four points for winning the game and one point for winning a quarter (in the event of a tied quarter, each team will receive 0.5 points). In the event of ties in seeding heading into championship day, three tiebreakers will be in place: 1) total point differential; 2) total points allowed; 3) coin flip.

Due to space limitations, the event is not open to the public and will be open only to the media and professional team/league personnel. Fans can access box scores, game recaps and cumulative statistics by visiting www.orlandomagic.com.

NBA TV will televise the Southwest Airlines Orlando Pro Summer League games, with a complete schedule of games and broadcast information to be released at a later date. Additionally, fans will once again be able to watch every game live on NBA.com and on the NBA Game Time app.

Click here for a complete game schedule for the Southwest Airlines Orlando Pro Summer League.

May 21

Rebuilding Magic kingdom, brick by brick

Pelicans Magic Basketball

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

After a long season that saw them lose 59 games, the Orlando Magic had a 46.9 percent chance of nabbing a top-three pick heading into the lottery on Tuesday night. But, as it turned out, luck wasn’t on their side. Not only did they miss out on taking home the top prize, they fell lower than expected, putting them out of the Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Joel Embiid sweepstakes.

It’s not like the Magic were entirely unlucky, however. Remember, no one was expecting them to nab a second lottery pick in the 2014 draft. The pick was originally projected to be in the 20s. But thanks to the Dwight Howard trade and the collective misfortunes of the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks this season, that pick flirted with being in the top 10.

So really, it isn’t all doom and gloom. At the end of the day, the Magic pocketed a pair of lottery picks – 4th and 12th — in one of the more loaded drafts in recent memory and while they are relying on its depth to bring in a top-tier talent, they are still in a great position to build on their current roster.

Read the rest of this entry »

May 21

3-on-3: Who should be the No. 12 pick?

Nik+Stauskas+NCAA+Basketball+Tournament+Regionals+KHvhqw_DxO7l

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Who’s the best player available for the Orlando Magic in the 2014 draft? Our experts weigh in on overall game, upside, and who the Magic should ultimately choose with the No. 12 pick.

1. Who’s the twelfth-best player in the 2014 draft?

Jacob Frankel: It’s impossible to know in this draft. There’s the top-four of Embiid, Wiggins, Parker, and Exum, then there’s Vonleh, Gordon, Randle, and Smart, and then … who knows. There’s a muck of guys in the 9-12 spots, and almost every mock is different. The more options for the Magic, the better.

Scott Rafferty: Nik Stauskas. If there’s one thing Stauskas will be able to do in the NBA, it’s space the floor — as a sophomore at Michigan, he averaged 17.5 points per game and converted on 44.2 percent of his 3s. His ceiling isn’t as high as some other players in the lottery, but, as the best shooter in the draft, he brings something to the table that every team can make use of.

Tim Sartori: Nik Stauskas. He made a ginormous leap this season and transformed himself into a far more complete offensive player, now possessing an off-the-dribble game to go with the lethal perimeter jumper he’s always had. He’s also a good passer, and showed the ability to switch between the two guard positions for stretches, having improved his ballhandling skills to an above-average level for a shooting guard.

2. Which player has the best upside at No. 12?

Frankel: Kyle Anderson. This 6-foot-9 player with no defined position has literally put up stats not seen since Magic Johnson. There are athleticism, shooting, and defense questions, but his skill-set is so unique it’s tough to pass up. He could just be a college player, but players with his numbers usually don’t flop in the NBA.

Rafferty: Zach LaVine. It’s unlikely that some team will snatch Zach LaVine this early in the draft, but there’s no denying his upside. At only 19 years of age, LaVine has already proven to be a capable outside shooter and he’s a freak of nature, one that thrives in an up-and-down game. However, he’s a project. His shot selection is questionable at times and he tends to disappear on the defensive end.

Sartori: Zach LaVine. I’ve seen Lavine ranked both in the late lottery, as well as the very end of the first round — he’s a real wildcard. He’s a big guard with incredible explosiveness, paired with a solid shooting stroke and good ballhandling skills. If he can tie it all together at the pro level, he has the potential to be a fantastic player.

3. Who should the Magic select at No. 12?

Frankel: Gary Harris. Arron Afflalo won’t be around forever, and Harris is a prototypical wing to fill the void when he leaves. He brings good 3-point shooting, which the Magic are in need of, and he put up really solid numbers at Michigan State with no red flags. He’s a safe pick, but that’s probably a good thing with the lack of knowledge about Exum with the fourth pick.

Rafferty: Nik Stauskas. The Magic’s bench desperately needs a facelift and adding someone like Stauskas would solve a lot of their problems, like their lack of shooting. He can stretch the floor, relieve Victor Oladipo of ballhandling duties in short spurts, and still has further room for growth.

Sartori: James Young. It’s unlikely Aaron Gordon will fall to No. 12, but if he happens to, the Magic should go for him. Otherwise, I think Young may be the best pick for Orlando. Young does a little bit of everything, is only 18, and could play next to both Oladipo and Exum.

May 21

3-on-3: Who should be the No. 4 pick?

7. Dante EXUM (Australia)

Photo by fiba.com/2013 FIBA U19 World Championship

Who’s the best player available for the Orlando Magic in the 2014 draft? Our experts weigh in on overall game, upside, and who the Magic should ultimately choose with the No. 4 pick.

1. Who’s the fourth-best player in the 2014 draft?

Jacob Frankel: Dante Exum. Embiid, Wiggins, and Parker are the obvious 1-2-3 picks in some order. There’s basically no tape or stats available on Exum, but credible sources love him, so he seems like the consensus fourth-best pick.

Scott Rafferty: Julius Randle. While there are some legitimate concerns about his game — many believe he is undersized for an NBA power forward and that his “bully ball” style won’t translate all that well to the next level — Randle is the fourth-best player in the draft. He has the skills to make an immediate impact in the league and is one of the more polished scorers in the lottery.

Tim Sartori: Dante Exum. At 6-foot-6 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, he has the height and length to be a combo guard from the moment he enters the league. He has an incredibly quick first step, a great handle, and is a fantastic playmaker. To me, he is on a tier only slightly below the top three (Wiggins, Embiid, Parker) likely to be picked ahead of him.

2. Which player has the best upside at No. 4?

Frankel: I’ll go with a split here between Noah Vonleh and Aaron Gordon. Both are super-athletic power forwards. Gordon has the potential to be a terror on defense, while Vonleh is already shooting 3-pointers and could be an evolutionary Chris Bosh.

Rafferty: Dante Exum. It’s hard not to fall in love with Dante Exum’s potential. He’s a 6-foot-6 point guard with lighting-quick speed and, most importantly, he knows how to put those skills to good use. However, unlike Parker, Wiggins, and Embiid, there isn’t a big body of work to base that on and for that reason, Exum isn’t a surefire hit.

Sartori: It’s a toss-up between Dante Exum and Noah Vonleh. Exum is obvious, for the aforementioned reasons — height and length at his position, scoring abilities, etc. Vonleh, however, has an NBA body at 6-foot-10, 250 pounds, and a 7-foot-4 wingspan! He’s a great rebounder who has showed to have some promising tools offensively, and is only 18 years old.

3. Who should the Magic select at No. 4?

Frankel: Dante Exum. Reports coming from Chad Ford and others say the Magic want a point guard, so Exum should be the guy. Neither Exum nor Oladipo is a pure point guard, so they can share the duties together, making a frightening backcourt. Exum is 6-foot-6 and super explosive, and Oladipo is already an impact defensive player. The two together in the backcourt would be suffocating.

Rafferty: Dante Exum. Exum has the talent to be a top-three pick and where he winds up may come down to how he performs in workouts and interviews leading up to the draft. He’ll likely be on the board when the Magic get their shot and if that’s the case, he’d be a great fit in the backcourt with Victor Oladipo.

Sartori: Dante Exum. Picking Exum means he and Oladipo would be able to share ballhandling duties, and the Magic have a backcourt for the future with as much potential as any other in the league.

Page 6 of 252« First...45678...203040...Last »