Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 64

Jan 11

3-on-3 roundtable: #ORLrank debate

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Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images

There’s little debate the top 10 players are among the very best in Magic franchise history. But how exactly do you order them? If #ORLrank must split hairs at this point, so be it. Rage on, debate, rage on.

Which players deserve their spots in the top 10? Who should be bumped up or back? Magic Basketball weighs in on the best of the best.

Who was ranked too high?

Nate Drexler: Dwight Howard. And really just barely. Looking back at the raw data, Shaq was just pound-for-pound better in 1994 than Dwight was in 2011. If we’re looking at only the pinnacle of that player’s career, than I have to put Shaq ahead of Dwight.

Sean Highkin: Ryan Anderson. I generally don’t think we overrated anybody, but if I have to quibble, he doesn’t have the longevity most of the other guys did. But I’m fine with him being where he was, given his production was outstanding during his tenure with the Magic.

Noam Schiller: Dwight Howard. It’s almost ridiculous to say that a player who won three consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards and was the consensus best player at his position is overranked. That said, dominant as he was, I can’t place any Dwight season above T-Mac’s 2002-03 campaign or the insane two-way beast that was Orlando Shaq.

Who was ranked too low?

Drexler: Hedo Turkoglu. Again, I’d flip flop him and Rashard at the very least. When he was good, he was really pretty great. You can’t say enough about his tools and the bigger thing you get out of Hedo is a long list of intangibles. He was a big game player, and a big moment guy with ice in his veins and confidence pouring out of his ears. I’d take 2009 Hedo on my team any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Highkin: Tracy McGrady. I had him third on my ballot, which is where he ended up, but I think I’d put him ahead of Shaq in second place if we got to redo it. His 2002-03 campaign is the best individual season any Magic player has ever had.

Schiller: Tracy McGrady. I had T-Mac at second place in what amounted to a coin flip and he finished third. It’s not a huge difference, but I still feel it does him a disservice. McGrady may have had the worst teammates throughout his Magic tenure as anybody who finished in the top 10 and still played at a level that rivaled anybody in the league at the time. I’m not sure what else he could have done.

Who was ranked just right?

Drexler: Tracy McGrady. At first I thought he needed to be higher, but there was no way I could justify moving him above Shaq or Dwight just based on the sheer impact of their game. McGrady was awesome and there’s no one on this list below him that should be higher. I love where he fits just behind two of the most dominating centers to play the game.

Highkin: Dwight Howard and Bo Outlaw. When you combine longevity, numbers, and team accomplishments, it’s pretty clear Howard is the best player in Magic history. And something about Outlaw sneaking in at No. 10 feels like a perfect encapsulation of who he was as a player.

Schiller: Darrell Armstrong. I was pleased to see him finish first outside of the obvious top four. We were instructed to go with singular excellence of career-long achievements, but Armstrong was a combination of both — with nine years in Orlando peaking during the “Heart and Hustle” campaign.

Jan 11

Andrew Nicholson, the Magic’s identity, and tanking

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Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

If you’re a Magic fan and don’t find yourself a little fatigued by the incessant jerking between excitement, pessimism, disappointment, approval, and ambivalence toward this team, then maybe you’re not paying attention.

I’m going to talk about Andrew Nicholson, but first some context.

At the outset of the season, fans were pessimistic, if not even a little lachrymose, about the real possibility that the Orlando Magic could be a 15-win team. It was ugly, but there was not much to do about it more than offering up some sad tweets and slowly morphing into a passive and indifferent fanbase. To be clear, this was a bad team and the average Magic fan knew it, but was at least self-aware enough to not really give a flying frisbee.

So what was next? Well, fans all thought about the upside of this whole terrible team situation. Tanking! Now that’s an idea. Dwight, SVG, Ryan Anderson, Jason Richardson. All gone. Great. Let’s go 15-67 and grab the top overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.

But then the young guns had to go and step up their game, learn how to play team defense, and throw a wrench into everybody’s low expectations. Andrew Nicholson looked pretty solid, Mo Harkless had shades of defensive excellence, DeQuan Jones could score, and even Kyle O’Quinn came off as relatively solid. Okay, then. Maybe we have something here.

Then things got worse (or better, depending on what you wanted to see happen this season). Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick turned it up, Nikola Vucevic started playing above his pay grade, and Orlando hit a little hot streak. Well, that doesn’t sound like tanking at all! That’s about the time I wrote about this hot streak that would only end in mediocrity and fail to accomplish any goals or dreams about the Magic potentially landing a top three pick.

Then you have the return of Turkoglu and the 10-game skid where Orlando, from night to night, has played well, played hard, and lost a lot of games. Jameerkat posted huge numbers in a handful of those games, as did Vucevic and Aaron Afflalo. But something was missing. Like, I don’t know, a bonafide closer who could ice games for the Magic and boost them above .500 or something.

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Jan 10

Thursday’s Magic Word

  • Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie: “The Orlando Magic continue to acquit themselves well. They play hard and truly attempt to compete athletically with opponents night in and night out, but this team just doesn’t have the spring to make it work.”
  • Video of a pair of dunks from DeQuan Jones and Josh McRoberts in last night’s game between the Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets.
  • During their season-high 10-game losing streak, the Magic have missed Glen Davis’ presence particularly in crunch time. Instead, Orlando has used McRoberts in Davis’ place and the results have not been pretty.
  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk on the Magic’s 108-105 loss to the Nuggets: “[T]he Magic have to be kicking themselves because they led by seven late in the fourth quarter then Denver went on a 15-5 run and grabbed the win.”
  • “Arron Afflalo is tired of losing.”
  • Matt Moore of CBSSports.com gives Afflalo a “D” for his performance against Denver: “Arron Afflalo came home to Denver for the first time since being traded to Orlando in the Dwight Howard trade and he was greeted rudely by his former team. The Nuggets held him to 12 points on 4-of-14 shooting. Afflalo also fouled out, had four turnovers and just one assist. Hopefully, everybody was nice to him on his way out.”
  • In the midst of a losing streak that has reached 10 games, Jameer Nelson says, “The one thing we have to do is we can’t separate. It’s easy to separate when adversity hits. But we know we can’t allow ourselves to do that as a team, and I’m not going to allow us to do it as a captain.”
  • Yesterday, the Nuggets committed just seven personal fouls. Orlando, by comparison, was called for 27 personal fouls. Nelson and head coach Jacque Vaughn try to curtail the subject when asked about the foul discrepancy.
  • Hedo Turkoglu’s surgically repaired left hand is still bothering him. He sat out yesterday’s game against Denver, but hopes to play against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.
  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com suggests that Nikola Vucevic should be a lock to participate in the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star Weekend in Houston.
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Magic have made it clear from Day One that they will not ‘tank’ games to get the highest lottery pick possible, not after the Dwightmare. But I think they’ve largely accomplished what they wanted to accomplish. Their goal has been to play hard and be ultra-competitive despite the loss of Dwight, proving to a veteran group and the league that they are committed to winning.”

Jan 10

Recap: Denver Nuggets 108, Orlando Magic 102

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AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez

BOX SCORE

With the score tied at 99 apiece and 2:14 remaining, the Orlando Magic found themselves in a familiar place — in position to win the game late. This time against the Denver Nuggets. Once again, Orlando came away with a loss. And once again, it was a game full of missed opportunities for the Magic.

With 1:27 left, Ty Lawson converted a traditional three-point play that gave the Nuggets a 102-99 lead. Lawson found himself isolated against Jameer Nelson and broke him down off the dribble, drawing the foul while converting the layup.

On the ensuing possession, the Magic had a chance to cut the deficit to one or tie the game. With Andre Iguodala defending him, J.J. Redick executed a backdoor cut, Josh McRoberts delivered a perfect pass, but Redick missed the reverse layup.

Orlando continued to dig themselves a hole by allowing a wide open dunk to Danilo Gallinari on a baseline out-of-bounds play shortly thereafter. Arron Afflalo, who had a forgettable night in his first game back in Denver since being traded to Orlando in the Dwight Howard blockbuster, lost track of Gallinari defensively.

Afflalo compounded the mistake by missing a lefty layup on the next play. Gallinari found himself switched onto Afflalo on the perimeter and did a good job of contesting the layup. Kenneth Faried corralled the rebound and was fouled, but missed both free-throws.

Trailing 104-99, Afflalo drilled a three-pointer from the right wing with 36.3 seconds remaining, keeping the Magic’s hopes alive of producing a come-from-behind victory.

But Iguodala responded by making a layup, increasing the Nuggets’ lead to 106-102 with 19.2 seconds left, and effective ending the game.

During their season-high 10-game losing streak, Orlando has had chances to win games in crunch time against not only Denver but also the Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz, New Orleans Hornets, Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, and Portland Trail Blazers. And a common theme emerged in those games: the Magic didn’t make enough plays at the end. A lack of execution has been Orlando’s downfall in recent weeks.

The Magic have also been unlucky. Orlando has now lost six games by margins of five or fewer during their losing streak.

It’s easy to pin the Magic’s losing streak on a lack of talent. In part, that’s exactly what it is. But it’s not been for a lack of trying.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

The “Manimal” was unleashed and there was not much the Magic could do to contain him. Kenneth Faried (19 points and 19 rebounds) was everywhere all over the court for the Nuggets, particularly in the fourth quarter.

Defining Moment

Despite a lackluster performance, Andre Iguodala made his presence felt when it mattered most. With Denver clinging to a 104-102 lead, Iguodala’s layup with 19.2 seconds left extended the advantage to four and effectively ended the game.

That Was … a Model of Efficiency

The three most efficient shots in basketball are the layup, free-throw, and three-pointer. In related news, 102 of the Nuggets’ 108 points were in the paint, at the free-throw line, or beyond the arc. Not surprisingly, Denver won.

Jan 09

Preview: Orlando Magic at Denver Nuggets

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Denver Nuggets
  • Date: January 9, 2013
  • Time: 9:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Pepsi Center

Records

  • Magic: 12-22
  • Nuggets: 20-16

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • DeQuan Jones
  • Andrew Nicholson
  • Nikola Vucevic

Nuggets:

  • Ty Lawson
  • Danilo Gallinari
  • Andre Iguodala
  • Kenneth Faried
  • Kosta Koufos

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.4 (17th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.4 (24th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 105.8 (16th of 30)

Nuggets:

  • Pace: 93.9 (5th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 108.0 (8th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 105.2 (13th of 30)

Read about the Nuggets

Roundball Mining Company

Jan 09

Wednesday’s Magic Word

  • Joe Kaiser of ESPN Insider lists Gustavo Ayon as one of the NBA’s top trade chips: “Ayon is the perfect backup big man — an energy guy who rebounds, defends and comes at a low cost. But if you’re Orlando, a loser of nine straight with its sights suddenly more on next season and its future wrapped up around Nikola Vucevic, it’s probably worth seeing what contending teams might be willing to offer for him.”
  • Arron Afflalo talks about playing in his first game back in Denver since the four-team blockbuster trade that sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers during the offseason.
  • Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post on Nikola Vucevic’s impact as a rebounder for the Orlando Magic this season: “With Vučević on the bench, Orlando holds the slimmest of rebounding advantages, grabbing 50.1 percent of available boards. With Vučević on the floor, however, Orlando’s rebounding advantage increases to 51.4 percent.”
  • Could Vucevic become the next Marc Gasol?
  • Heading into tonight’s game, the Denver Nuggets are looking to atone a 102-89 loss suffered at the hands of the Magic on November 2.

Jan 09

Revisiting the Ryan Anderson trade

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Rob Hennigan’s decision not to match the Hornets’ four-year, $34 million offer sheet for Ryan Anderson in July during the offseason was a polarizing one.

On the one hand, Anderson was the reigning Most Improved Player and had proven himself a more-than-reliable floor-spacing big, and a contract in the neighborhood of $8.5 million per year seemed perfectly reasonable for him.

On the flipside, even though the blockbuster trade wouldn’t happen for another month, everyone knew Dwight Howard was as good as gone, and it was hard to fault Hennigan’s decision not to re-sign expensive role players when the Magic weren’t going to contend for another few years.

Plus, the Magic were able to snare the much less expensive Gustavo Ayon in the Anderson sign-and-trade. The Mexican big man impressed in his first year with the Hornets, as both Magic Basketball’s Noam Schiller and Eddy Rivera wrote at the time. If the Magic had to lose a player as good as Anderson, they at least didn’t let him go for nothing and got a cheap prospect out of the deal.

Fast forward to two months into the season and it’s starting to look like the deal was a misstep, but hardly a franchise-killing one.

The Magic have a roster full of rookies and unproven players and several of them — including Andrew Nicholson, Nikola Vucevic, Maurice Harkless, and DeQuan Jones — have performed well above expectations. Ayon cannot be counted among that group. He’s playing fewer minutes per game on a similarly thin, lottery-bound roster to the one he was on in New Orleans last season. While his rebounding has slightly improved per 36 minutes, he’s regressed a smidge both offensively and defensively.

Anderson, meanwhile, has absolutely proven himself to be the real deal since joining the Hornets. His 20.0 Player Efficiency Rating is a hair above his career PER (18.6). He’s shooting 41 percent from beyond the arc, the highest clip of his career, and he’s doing it with a career-high 7.8 attempts per game. His rebounding has taken a slight dip from where it was last year, but he’s still been pulling down a perfectly respectable 7.6 boards per 36 minutes.

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Jan 08

Tuesday’s Mini-Magic Word

  • Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports: “‘Melo waiting by the bus brought a reminder of when former Nuggets coach George McCloud punched then-Magic star Ron Mercer after a game in 2000. Mercer’s head hit a steel beam after the punch.”
  • With a 125-119 overtime loss to the Portland Trail Blazers in last night’s game, the Orlando Magic are now on a season-high nine-game losing streak.
  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com on Jameer Nelson’s record-setting night, in which he moved by Scott Skiles into first place for most career assists in Magic franchise history: “Nelson entered Monday’s game needing one assist to tie Scott Skiles, and he did that in the opening minutes of the game. Then, with 4:13 left in the first quarter, Nelson put on a clinic in one play on how to set up a defense for a basket and his record-setting assist.”
  • Denton also provides an injury update on E’Twaun Moore (sprained left elbow), Glen Davis (sprained left shoulder), and Gustavo Ayon (right thigh contusion).

Jan 08

Recap: Portland Trail Blazers 125, Orlando Magic 119 (OT)

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Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

The Blazers and Magic have a number of similarities, but are riding streaks of opposite types at the moment.

Both teams came into the season with little to no expectation of success and feature new coaches who have done impressive work replacing mainstays in their respective cities. They both have rosters with some well-regarded veterans, but a lot of inexperienced and unproven talent of varying levels.

But the Blazers are currently riding a hot streak nobody could have seen coming, while the Magic have slid to a season-high ninth straight loss. Orlando is staying competitive during this losing streak, but they’re having trouble putting themselves over the top against teams with superior talent.

This was a game of two halves for the Magic, both in terms of where they found their production and their approach defensively.

Arron Afflalo led the charge in the first half, scoring 16 of his 24 points in the first two quarters. His shot selection was interesting — all of his makes were at the rim or from midrange, and he didn’t attempt a single three-pointer.

Defensively, Jacque Vaughn opted not to have the Magic double LaMarcus Aldridge at all in the first half, letting him get pretty much whatever he wanted and focusing more on neutralizing Nicolas Batum and Damian Lillard. The strategy seemed to work and the Magic rode it to a nine-point lead at halftime.

In the second half, Andrew Nicholson and Nikola Vucevic began paying more attention to Aldridge, but Batum, Lillard, Wesley Matthews, and J.J. Hickson heated up. The Blazers’ defense also improved noticeably after halftime, and they outscored the Magic 37-28 in the third quarter and 60-51 in the second half to send the game to overtime.

The inexplicable exception to the Blazers’ defensive improvement was Redick, whom they left open and he made them pay, single-handedly keeping the Magic in the game during the Blazers’ third-quarter scoring explosion.

A three-pointer with 8.9 seconds left in regulation by Jameer Nelson and a failed isolation attempt by Lillard shortly thereafter forced an overtime. Lillard proceeded to take over in the extra period and the Magic had no response.

The Blazers’ recent hot streak is deceptive. Portland continues to lean heavily on their starters and get almost nothing out of their bench on a nightly basis, but their top-level talent is still superior to a team like the Magic. In that sense, it’s encouraging that Orlando was able to hang with them in Monday’s game.

Considering the lottery implications, the losses piling up aren’t the worst thing in the world for the Magic. But it wouldn’t hurt for Orlando to get over the hump and actually win one of these close games.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

J.J. Redick could not miss in the third quarter, single-handedly keeping the Magic in the game as Damian Lillard heated up and the Magic’s defense fell apart. Redick finished with 29 points on 11-for-17 shooting.

X-Factor

Points in the paint. The Blazers outscored the Magic 60-44. Part of it was riding a hot shooting night from Redick, but Portland’s bigs were more successful inside than Orlando’s.

Defining Moment

Jameer Nelson hit a late three to tie the game, which ended up going to overtime after a failed Lillard isolation. In the extra period, Lillard scored or assists on eight of the Blazers’ 17 points to guide them to victory.

Jan 07

Preview: Orlando Magic at Portland Trail Blazers

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Portland Trail Blazers
  • Date: January 7, 2013
  • Time: 10:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Rose Garden

Records

  • Magic: 12-21
  • Blazers: 18-15

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • DeQuan Jones
  • Andrew Nicholson
  • Nikola Vucevic

Blazers:

  • Damian Lillard
  • Wesley Matthews
  • Nicolas Batum
  • LaMarcus Aldridge
  • J.J. Hickson

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.4 (19th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.9 (26th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 105.2 (14th of 30)

Blazers:

  • Pace: 90.6 (23rd of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 104.8 (14th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.2 (24th of 30)

Read about the Blazers

Portland Roundball Society

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