Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 63

Oct 17

Player Profile: Nikola Vucevic

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Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

Frankel’s 2013-14 projections

15.0 11.8 2.0 56.1 20.2

By now you know the story of Nikola Vucevic, which has become an urban legend of sorts. He was acquired by the Orlando Magic, by way of Philadelphia, in the Dwight Howard blockbuster trade during the offseason last year, seen as nothing more than another young piece being tacked on in the deal to make it look like the Magic weren’t getting completely fleeced.

For hardcore Magic fans, it wasn’t difficult conjuring up images of the short-lived Rony Seikaly era, which occurred following Shaquille O’Neal’s exodus to Los Angeles in 1996. By swapping Howard for Vucevic, Orlando was following a familiar rode of replacing a once-a-generation center with a mere mortal. Or so people thought.

But as everyone quickly found out last season, Vucevic was no Seikaly redux. Instead, Vucevic quickly emerged as a double-double machine for the Magic. He finished third in the NBA last season in double-doubles, behind David Lee and Howard. He had a league-high four 20-20 games, including two against the two-time defending champion Miami Heat and a 30-20 game versus the Milwaukee Bucks.

And absolutely no one saw this coming. Vucevic went from being in head coach Doug Collins’ doghouse with the Philadelphia 76ers to becoming a franchise cornerstone in Orlando. In a city that’s home to Disney World, it’s a fitting fairy tale story.

So what does Vucevic have in store for an encore? What can he do to get better?

One of the primary areas for improvement is in Vucevic’s post-up game. In 2012-13, he averaged 0.68 points per possession on post-up plays, per Synergy Sports. A halfway-decent figure, but certainly could be much better. The good news for Magic fans is that Vucevic has realized this, making an effort during the offseason to improve as a low post player.

If he can do that, then he’ll be able to augment those offensive upgrades with his already-solid high post skills. Last season, Vucevic proved to be an above-average midrange jump shooter by shooting 42.0 percent from 16-23 feet, per Hoopdata. And his ability to pass out of the high post served the Magic well last season, and should continue to serve the team well, given that general manager Rob Hennigan has been persistent in adding slashers like rookie Victor Oladipo to the roster.

It’d be helpful for Vucevic if he can work on continuing to improve as a free-throw shooter, too, given that he shot 68.3 percent in 2012-13 — up from 52.9 percent in his rookie year — and is still in the developmental stage of his career. That’s one reason why his True Shooting percentage (.534) hovered around the league-average, despite shooting 51.9 percent from the field.

On the flip side, Vucevic could stand to become a better post-up defender. Strength was an issue and he would get bullied inside when trying to defend on the low block. That was his primary weakness on defense last season, alongside his inability to protect the rim. In 2012-13, opponents shot 59.7 percent at the rim with Vucevic off the floor compared to 62.4 percent with him on it, per

Vucevic has said he wants to become a better defensive player, so it remains to be seen if that verbal commitment translates on the court during the regular season where he’ll again see big minutes as Orlando continues to rebuild.

If Vucevic can keep getting better on both sides of the ball, then the Magic will have found their next centerpiece in the paint. Who would have thought that?

Oct 16

Video: Victor Oladipo challenges Dwight Howard

Oct 16

Grades: Houston Rockets 108, Orlando Magic 104


Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images


Houston Rockets 108 Final
Recap | Box Score
104 Orlando Magic

Nikola Vucevic
3-7 FG | 1-3 FT | 1 BLK | 7 REB | 6 PTS | -10

Matched up against the Rockets’ all-world center, Vucevic more than held his own. All thanks to his defense, surprisingly enough. On the very first possession of the game, Vucevic blocked a Dwight Howard righty hook and didn’t relent defensively the rest of the night when both big men were on the floor together. Vucevic disrupted Howard’s rhythm, which translated into a rather pedestrian outing for Superman.

Victor Oladipo
3-12 FG | 0-3 3P | 3 REB | 3 AST | 9 PTS | -6

It was not the best night for Oladipo. He looked out of sorts all game long — he was over-dribbling and his jumpers were falling short. But he did have some good moments. Like when he went right at Howard and converted an acrobatic layup late in the first quarter. Or when he busted out a Eurostep and finished with his left hand in transition early in the second.

E’Twaun Moore
8-17 FG | 1-5 3P | 4 REB | 0 AST | 17 PTS | +6

If you managed to watch more than a handful of Magic games last season, then you know that Moore loves to shoot his patented floater. It’s his primary weapon of choice when attacking the rim off the dribble. And boy was his floater in midseason form against Houston. By my unofficial count, he made five of them, including four in the fourth quarter. Tony Parker would be proud.

Arron Afflalo
6-13 FG | 1-3 3P | 2 REB | 1 AST | 13 PTS | -4

This matchup showcased the difference between a good shooting guard and a great one. Afflalo had 13 points on 13 shots, while Harden had 21 points on 12 shots, and shot selection was the reason for the disparity. While Afflalo was scoring mostly from midrange, Harden manufactured all of his points via layups, free-throws, and 3-pointers.

Houston Rockets

Despite trailing most of the night, the Magic had a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds but blew the opportunity. Trailing 106-103 with 4.6 seconds remaining, Orlando botched things when Manny Harris inbounded the ball to Solomon Jones — a non-threat at the 3-point line. That allowed Donatas Motiejunas the chance to foul Jones, sending him to the line and effectively ending the game.

Oct 16

Preview: Orlando Magic at Houston Rockets


  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Houston Rockets
  • Date: October 16, 2013
  • Time: 8:00 p.m.
  • Television: NBATV
  • Arena: Toyota Center


  • Magic: 20-62
  • Rockets: 45-37

Probable starters


  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Andrew Nicholson
  • Nikola Vuvevic


  • Patrick Beverley
  • James Harden
  • Omri Casspi
  • Francisco Garcia
  • Dwight Howard

Advanced stats


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


  • Pace: 96.1 (1st of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 109.7 (6th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 106.1 (15th of 30)

Read about the Rockets


Oct 16

Player Profile: Romero Osby


Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Frankel’s 2013-14 projections


Romero Osby is a high-energy forward with good character who works hard — exactly the type of young player that general manager Rob Hennigan likes. He can score near the basket and doesn’t shy away from contact while also being a good free-throw shooter (79.4 percent his senior season at Oklahoma).

He can struggles with his lateral quickness and is a bit undersized to defend the stronger PF’s in the NBA, but he had a solid mid-range jumper and shot well — in a small sample size — from 3-point range during his last season at Oklahoma.

He’s not the best post defender, which could hinder his NBA potential at the four, and he could lack the quickness to stay with some small forwards. Ten years ago, everybody would have labeled him a tweener and probably write him off. But that didn’t stop the Magic from selecting the 6-foot-8 Osby in the second round (No. 51 overall), and he rewarded their faith by impressing in Summer League.

Fellow TrueHooper and Magic Basketball’s summer league expert Jordan White wrote glowingly of Osby’s performance in Orlando this past July, too.

That isn’t to say Osby didn’t have his struggles in Summer League, because he did. Another rookie, Boston’s Kelly Olynyk, easily scored while sometimes matched up against the former. Osby had perhaps his best game in Orlando against Boston — going 7-for-8 from the field with 18 points and 5 rebounds — but the ease with which Olynyk scored seemed to overwhelm Osby at times. Olynyk could be that good, or Osby might have trouble with forwards with range.

Osby’s future in the league rests on his ability to defend the strongest four’s and the zippiest three’s. The life of a tweener has changed as the NBA increasingly adopts a position-less style, so Osby’s long-term prospects look good if he can buckle down and defend both forward spots while his offensive game continues to mature.

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 “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


Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Frankel’s 2013-14 projections

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


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 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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Oct 14

Player Profile: Andrew Nicholson


Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Frankel’s 2013-14 projections

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

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