Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 64

Mar 08

Preview: Indiana Pacers at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Indiana Pacers at Orlando Magic
  • Date: March 8, 2013
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Pacers: 38-23
  • Magic: 17-45

Probable starters

Pacers:

  • George Hill
  • Lance Stephenson
  • Paul George
  • David West
  • Roy Hibbert

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Tobias Harris
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Pacers:

  • Pace: 89.7 (26th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.4 (20th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 98.7 (1st of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.6 (17th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.4 (25th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 109.0 (26th of 30)

Read about the Pacers

8 Points, 9 Seconds

Mar 07

Nikola Vucevic: the Magic’s big bargain

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Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

When Bill Simmons wrote at Grantland last week that Nikola Vucevic has the 11th-best bargain contract in the NBA, he was not just whistling Dixie. Not only is Vucevic averaging a double-double (12.3 ppg and 11.4 rpg), he’s also shown the capacity to put up huge numbers (just ask the Miami Heat). And the kicker is that he’s doing it all for $1.7 million this season.

Simmons breaks down his bargains, but I tend to think there are only two real types of value contracts in the landscape of the new CBA: 1.) a superstar on a max contract like LeBron James or Kevin Durant and 2.) a player on a rookie-scale contract that’s already a stud — guys like Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis come to mind immediately.

Vucevic definitely belongs in the second category. I think the best way to realize his ridiculous value is to compare his production with those around him and then find out what his contemporaries are getting paid.

For instance, right now Vucevic has a Player Efficiency Rating (17.4) that’s on par with Emeka Okafor (16.3) and DeAndre Jordan (16.8), who make $13.5 million and $10.5 million respectively. Vucevic, I repeat, makes $1.7 million this season and is putting up comparable numbers when examining all three players side-by-side. That alone shows that Vucevic is a bargain for the Orlando Magic.

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Mar 07

Highlights: Nikola Vucevic’s 20-20 game in Miami

Mar 07

Video: Maurice Harkless finishes the alley-oop

Mar 07

Grades: Miami Heat 97, Orlando Magic 96

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AP Photo/J Pat Carter

 

Miami Heat 97 Final
Recap | Box Score
96 Orlando Magic

Nikola Vucevic
11-16 FG | 3-3 FT | 21 REB | 4 AST | 25 PTS | +9

No, Vucevic didn’t grab a franchise-record 29 rebounds this time around, but he did tie a career-high with 25 points to help fuel his second 20-20 game of his career (both taking place this season against the Heat). It was déjà vu all over again, as Vucevic towered over Miami’s undersized frontline, and channeled his inner-Moses Malone with offensive rebounds and putbacks galore.

Jameer Nelson
6-18 FG | 3-11 3P | 2 REB | 14 AST | 16 PTS | +9

Missing 12 shots is bad, but the night wasn’t a total disaster for Nelson. He did a good enough job of distributing the basketball and setting up his teammates, flicking passes all over the court like a game of darts. Most of the times Nelson got a bullseye (14 assists — one shy of his career-high). Other times he missed (six turnovers).

Tobias Harris
6-15 FG | 3-5 FT | 7 REB| 1 AST | 16 PTS | +6

Harris was involved on a game-changing sequence that proved to be costly for the Magic. With less than a minute left and Orlando up 96-93, Harris made a floater off the dribble along the baseline as he collided with Shane Battier. A whistle was blown. The call? Offensive foul. It was a bang-bang play that proved to be the Magic’s undoing.

Arron Afflalo
5-16 FG | 0-5 FT | 4 REB | 5 AST | 13 PTS | -13

It’s been feast or famine with Afflalo. When he’s good, like he was against the New Orleans Hornets on Monday, he’s very good. When he’s bad, well, you get the picture. Miami put the clamps on Afflalo after he had his way with the Hornets. The Heat forced Afflalo into a lot of contested shots from the perimeter and he obliged by missing them.

Miami Heat

Miami played with fire against Orlando and almost got burned. Pun intended. After leading by as many as 20 points early in the third quarter, the Heat were trailing with less than a minute to go and in serious danger of having their franchise-high 15-game winning streak snapped to the lowly Magic. Fortunately for the Heat, LeBron James bailed them out with a game-winning layup.

Mar 06

Video: LeBron’s game-winner against Orlando

Mar 06

Preview: Orlando Magic at Miami Heat

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Miami Heat
  • Date: March 6, 2013
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: American Airlines Arena

Records

  • Magic: 17-44
  • Heat: 44-14

Probable starters

Magic:

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

Heat:

  • Mario Chalmers
  • Dwyane Wade
  • LeBron James
  • Udonis Haslem
  • Chris Bosh

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.6 (17th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.4 (26th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 109.1 (26th of 30)

Heat:

  • Pace: 88.8 (29th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 112.5 (2nd of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 104.6 (11th of 30)

Read about the Heat

Heat Index

Mar 06

Wednesday’s Magic Word

  • Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers compares the Andrew Bynum situation in Philadelphia to the Grant Hill saga when he coached the Orlando Magic (2000-2004): “I had Grant Hill for three years and we made the playoffs every year with that group, but it was hard. [The 76ers] are doing that same thing we did. You go into the year with your offense and defensive schemes for Grant and for Bynum, and then you’re running half of it but you don’t want to change too much because if he comes back, then you’re going to have to change back. You just felt like you were caught in flux the entire season. In our case, Grant would play, like, three games and sit out 30 more. It was really hard.”
  • Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie also looks back at the Hill era: “The pairing of Hill and McGrady, who averaged 32.1 points, 12 combined rebounds/assists, and 2.5 blocks/steals in his third season with Orlando, should have been devastating. It was all shot to hell when Hill, a free agent to-be with a nice guy image to uphold, decided to come back way too early from an ankle injury late in 1999-00. Sound familiar? He then, as Orlando’s new showy centerpiece, came back far too early in 2000-01. In trying to play the nice guy, Hill overreached, and his health and career never recovered.”
  • Jared Wade of TrueHoop: “In 2013, teams use analytics to increase their bottom lines as much as they do to boost their win totals. The Orlando Magic, for example, knew that ticket demand would nose-dive after they traded Dwight Howard. But Orlando’s gate revenue is down just 3.3 percent this season compared to 2010-11, according to team vice president of business strategy Anthony Perez, who spoke on a ticketing panel during the 2013 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston. Compared to the related fall in the secondary resale market for tickets, which Perez said has dropped 28 percent, the sales team seems to be doing well. Although fewer people are coming to games (1,322 fewer fans per game from a franchise-high average of 18,972 two years ago), Orlando has gotten better at squeezing money out of its building.”
  • After snagging a Magic franchise record and career-high 29 rebounds against the Miami Heat on December 31, Nikola Vucevic is on the Heat’s radar this time around as they get ready to face off against Orlando in tonight’s game.
  • Today is Shaquille O’Neal’s birthday (he’s 41). Here are some highlights from his rookie season with the Magic in 1993.
  • Jameer Nelson reacts to Dwight Howard’s comments from his now-infamous interview with Kristine Leahy of KCAL9 and CBS2 in Los Angeles, in which he threw his former Magic teammates under the bus.

Mar 05

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • J.J. Redick, now a member of the Milwaukee Bucks after being traded at the deadline, reflects on his tenure with the Orlando Magic: “My wife Chelsea and I built a life in Orlando. Listen, there was no anger [over the trade], but there was a little bit of disappointment. Part of me wishes I could’ve been there my whole career and been part of the rebuilding, part of the turnaround, and gotten back to the finals in my 11th or 12th year. That’s the romantic in me, the idealist.”
  • Dwight Howard was also reflective on his Magic tenure: “My team in Orlando was a team full of people that nobody wanted and I was their leader.”
  • Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie reacts to Howard’s comments: “Awesome thing to say, Dwight Howard. Especially when two members of that team – Earl Clark and Chris Duhon – were sent to Los Angeles with you. To say nothing of all the deals former Magic GM Otis Smith made to appease Howard, including dealing for and retaining Glen Davis and Jason Richardson.”
  • So does Matt Moore of CBS Sports: “Maybe Howard will come out later this week before the Lakers face the Magic next Tuesday in his return and say that he meant they were underdogs. But the 2009 team had Hedo Turkoglu, who is awful now, but was very good from 2008 to 2009. It had Rashard Lewis just a smidge past his prime, who was a deadly 3-point and mid-range shooter. Jameer Nelson was an All-Star that year and it wasn’t all lobs to Howard. [...] The Magic were filled with guys who stepped up in those playoff series and made plays, like J.J. Redick.”
  • Arron Afflalo has embraced the idea of helping the Magic through their rebuilding process and being a leader for the younger players.
  • Zach Lowe of Grantland provides a status report on Orlando: “The next 100 games are about simultaneously semi-tanking and learning what they’ve got in all the youngsters: Andrew Nicholson, who has been productive in limited minutes, but nonetheless struggled to get to the line or grasp the nuances of NBA big-man defense; Tobias Harris, thriving from all over the floor at multiple positions since the Magic rescued him from Milwaukee; and Moe Harkless, a raw slasher with good athleticism and size who has flashed a very smart cutting game on offense.”
  • Afflalo led the way in the Magic’s comeback victory against the New Orleans Hornets on Monday.
  • Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports: “Former Magic center Dwight Howard returns to Orlando on March 12 for the first time since being traded to the Lakers. According to ticketmaster.com, there are still plenty of tickets available.”

Mar 05

The Magic, analytics, and you

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AP Photo/John Raoux

This past weekend, six members of the Orlando Magic’s basketball operations department attended the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference at MIT. That group included general manager Rob Hennigan and assistant general manager Matt Lloyd.

The event, founded by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, has been growing consistently in stature since its inception in 2006. What was at first a fringe event that didn’t hold a lot of interest outside of the most forward-thinking executives and analysts has now become a mainstay.

We’re reaching a point where analytics are a staple of basketball writing in one form or another. Whether it’s your more basic advanced stats like PER and True Shooting percentage or the cutting-edge SportVU cameras, analytics are permeating nearly every facet of the sports conversation.

And the fact that the Magic’s basketball-ops department had a half-dozen representatives at this year’s conference is an encouraging sign for the future of the organization.

Since taking over for Otis Smith in June, Hennigan has adopted a team-building philosophy that’s consistent with his roots with the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder organizations. General manager Sam Presti and the Thunder, as well as general manager R.C. Buford and the Spurs, have long been among the trailblazers in basketball analytics and have based their basketball decisions around asset accumulation, smart drafting, and finding value on the free-agent market.

The pieces Hennigan pulled in as part of the trades of Dwight Howard and J.J. Redick bear this out, but we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of what’s possible with the greater integration of analytics into the game.

With the introduction of STATS LLC’s SportVU cameras, the specificity with which teams can break down data has never been greater. Grantland’s Zach Lowe recently took an in-depth look at this technology:

Fifteen of the league’s 30 teams have purchased a data-tracking camera system from STATS LLC that records every single movement on the court — the ball, the players, the referees, etc. — in three dimensions. The cameras can measure just about anything, and the teams that are using them best have moved far ahead in developing their own algorithms to measure whatever they wish — which team forces pick-and-rolls left most often, where corner 3s typically rebound when they miss, and how often a player accelerates from “jog” to “sprint” during a game.

It should be noted that the Magic are one of the 15 teams which have purchased the cameras, and one can only imagine that Hennigan plans to make use of them when scouting potential free-agent signings and trade targets. For the time being at least, this gives them a significant competitive advantage over half the league.

When you factor in that three of the other franchises that are making use of SportVU are the Thunder, Spurs, and Rockets — consistently three of the smartest, shrewdest, and most forward-thinking franchises in the league — it’s impossible not to think the Magic are in good company.

The cameras are a significant financial investment, especially for a small-market team, but without the resources to spend unlimited dollars on players like the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, or Brooklyn Nets, a team like the Magic needs every edge it can get.

How Hennigan makes use of SportVU and other new developments in the field of analytics remains to be seen. But it’s a positive sign that the man in charge of putting together a roster that will hopefully put the Magic back into contention after the fall of the Dwight era is this committed to staying at the forefront of an ever-changing culture of team-building.

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