Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 68

Jan 22

Tuesday’s Mini-Magic Word

  • Tom Haberstroh of ESPN Insider revisits the Dwight Howard blockbuster trade and provides an updated view on the Orlando Magic’s haul: “Largely overlooked in the trade, Vucevic, 22, has been a revelation at center for the Magic, and is averaging 11.7 points and 11.1 rebounds this season. Here’s the list of active players who have averaged 11-and-11 by age 22: Howard, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, Carlos Boozer, Elton Brand and Tim Duncan. [...] We just don’t see that level of production at this age. Whether the Magic knew exactly what they were getting in Vucevic, this is the kind of shrewd move that can turn a franchise around.”
  • The Magic face off against the Detroit Pistons in tonight’s game.
  • Limiting Greg Monroe is one of the keys to the game for Orlando against the Pistons.
  • With the Magic reaching the midway point of the regular season, John Denton of looks back at what’s transpired so far: “The Magic notched two of their biggest wins of the season in Los Angeles, beating the Lakers and Howard in early December and toppling the Clippers in early January to end a 10-game losing streak.”

Jan 22

Maurice Harkless: basketball Play-Doh

Screen Shot 2013-01-21 at 11.07.21 PM

Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

As the Magic’s impressive start to the season is left further in the past, this year becomes more and more of a trial run. There are a lot of different pieces on Orlando’s roster, many not a part of any reasonable long-term plan, but the only way to find out which ones are part of the future is baptism by fire. By letting the youngsters feel their way out, the braintrust atop the organization can figure out how they compute into the team’s long-term plans.

No one represents this philosophy as much as Moe Harkless. As fellow youngsters such as Nikola Vucevic and Andrew Nicholson show sustainable skills (rebounding and midrange shooting, respectively) that will, at the very least, make them viable NBA players for years to come, Harkless is like basketball Play-Doh. Stretchy, bouncy, and inherently fun, he’s completely lacking in shape and definition.

But while Play-Doh isn’t very effective in its initial, lumpy form, it can be molded into a variety of different shapes. The same can be said about Harkless — the Magic have been getting blown out with him on the court, mostly because the offense tanks when he’s playing. Though it’s worth noting that Orlando has been 3.8 points per 100 possessions better defensively with him on the floor, per

But all of that is basically irrelevant in comparison to what he can be a few years down the road. What is that exactly? Here are a few ideas.

Stay the course – Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
Harkless has a lot in common with Mbah a Moute. Both men are a slender, lengthy 6-foot-8 and are quick enough to guard much smaller players. Mbah a Moute has solidified his standing as a four-position defender in this league and the hope is that Harkless can be the same — already, his steals percentage of 2 percent ranks just a sliver under Mbah a Moute’s career-best 2.1 percent mark and he’s blocking more than twice as many shots per 36 minutes as Mbah a Moute ever had.

But though this version of Harkless would make his bread on the defensive end, I like the Mbah a Moute comparison the most offensively. This is where Harkless has shown his youth the most, making only six shots more than 5 feet away from the basket all season. Harkless’ main offensive value is his jaw-dropping athleticism, which leads to plays like this or this.

Harkless can do well to study Mbah a Moute here. The Cameroonian forward has similarly never developed a trustworthy outside shot, but he’s made a living from cutting off the ball and finishing at the rim. Mbah a Moute has averaged more than 1.2 points per possession off cuts since 2009-10, per Synergy. That makes him, if not an offensive asset, workable enough to keep him on the floor for his defense. If Harkless can be as effective as a one man, off-the-ball wrecking crew, he could have a long career.

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Jan 21

Recap: Dallas Mavericks 111, Orlando Magic 105


AP Photo/John Raoux


Despite starting off hot and jumping out to an 18-4 lead over the Mavericks, the Magic lost this game in the first quarter. Orlando owned the first half of the opening period and it was looking as though they were headed for a morale-boosting blowout of a reasonably superior team. Glen Davis was getting in the paint and the long twos he was taking, while still not ideal, were at least falling.

But about halfway through the first quarter, after Rick Carlisle’s second desperation timeout, Orlando completely fell apart. They coughed up the ball four times in the final half of the quarter, their shots stopped falling, they were unable to stop anything Dallas tried to create on offense, and ultimately blew a 14-point lead in six minutes and ended the quarter trailing 26-24.

From there, the Magic were playing catch-up the rest of the way. They mostly hung around for the final three quarters, occasionally slipping into a double-digit deficit and occasionally cutting Dallas’ lead to a single possession. But after the blown early lead, the Mavericks controlled the game from there on out.

Dallas’ attack was led by their veterans — Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, and Elton Brand. Marion and Brand in particular were monstrously effective on both ends of the floor, as the Mavs overcame a relatively nondescript performance from Dirk Nowitzki to shut down the Magic.

The Magic got solid performances from J.J. Redick, Nikola Vucevic, and Big Baby, and Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo hit key shots as the Magic attempted to cut Dallas’ lead. But outside of Redick, they didn’t get much out of their bench, while Dallas’ entire starting lineup scored in double digits in addition to the contributions from Carter and Brand.

I didn’t even notice it while watching the game, but reflecting on it afterwards, Andrew Nicholson’s DNP-CD is a little puzzling given the circumstances. Big Baby and Vucevic played well, so there weren’t a lot of extra frontcourt minutes to go around. But in a game where the Magic needed scoring off the bench, it doesn’t make a lot of sense that Josh McRoberts played 16 minutes and Nicholson stayed in his warm-up suit.

But honestly, the specifics of the final three quarters don’t matter much. The Magic led by 14 halfway through the first quarter and were outscored by four through the last three.

The game was lost with Dallas’ first-quarter run when Orlando got turnover-happy and stopped making shots. If they had made just a few more shots during that stretch and turned the ball over just one fewer time during that quarter, they probably would have pulled away with the win.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Glen Davis. Big Baby was the Magic’s most consistent scorer, putting up 24 points on a surprisingly efficient (for him) 10-for-16 shooting from the floor.


Turnovers. The Magic coughed up 14 turnovers that led to 24 Mavericks points and were only able to force 8 from Dallas.

Defining Moment

The Mavs’ first-quarter run erased the Magic’s double-digit lead early in the period and permanently shifted the momentum of the game in their favor.

Jan 20

Preview: Dallas Mavericks at Orlando Magic


  • Teams: Dallas Mavericks at Orlando Magic
  • Date: January 18, 2013
  • Time: 6:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center


  • Mavericks: 17-24
  • Magic: 14-25

Probable starters


  • Darren Collison
  • O.J. Mayo
  • Shawn Marion
  • Dirk Nowitzki
  • Chris Kaman


  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • DeQuan Jones
  • Glen Davis
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats


  • Pace: 94.0 (6th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.7 (18th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 106.8 (22nd of 30)


  • Pace: 91.5 (16th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.1 (21st of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 106.7 (21st of 30)

Read about the Mavericks

The Two Man Game

Jan 19

Recap: Charlotte Bobcats 106, Orlando Magic 100

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images


In keeping with their schizophrenic nature this season, the Orlando Magic followed up a surprising win against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday with a loss to the lowly Charlotte Bobcats two days later.

It’s no secret that the Magic’s defense has regressed badly in recent weeks. After having a top 10 defense in the first month and a half of the season, Orlando is now a below-average defensive team.
The Bobcats helped continue the Magic’s defensive slide, posting a 116.8 Offensive Rating despite entering Friday’s game averaging just 101.9 points per 100 possessions (27th in the NBA).

Kemba Walker led the way for Charlotte with 25 points on 16 shots. He did whatever he wanted offensively, wreaking havoc in pick-and-rolls.

In the first quarter, Walker made his presence felt immediately by nailing several jumpers in pick-and-roll sets. His first basket of the game was a midrange jumpshot from the right elbow in a 1/4 pick-and-roll with Hakim Warrick.

Later in the period, Walker made two jumpshots in 1/3 pick-and-rolls with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The first was a midrange jumper from the right elbow. The second was a three-pointer from the right wing.
Both times, Jameer Nelson went under the screen and Walker made him pay.

As the game went along, Walker mixed things up in pick-and-roll sets. When he wasn’t nailing jumpers off the dribble, he was scoring at the rim.

One possession in particular stands out. Late in the second quarter, Walker ran a 1/4 pick-and-roll with Warrick. DeQuan Jones, defending Walker after he picked him up in transition, actually did a nice job of initially stopping him in the pick-and-roll set. But Walker eventually got the best of Jones, using a hesitation move to freeze him momentarily and create a driving lane for an uncontested layup.

When Walker wasn’t busy picking apart Orlando defensively in pick-and-rolls, he was drawing fouls and getting to the free-throw line.

The key to this game, apart from Walker’s standout performance, was the Bobcats going on a 10-0 run late in the second quarter and building a double-digit lead over the Magic heading into halftime. Charlotte used that scoring surge to build a cushion between themselves and Orlando. From there, the Bobcats were able to hold off the Magic in the second half.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Even though Charlotte is in the middle of another miserable season as they continue to rebuild, Walker has been one of the few bright spots on the roster and he showed why against Orlando.

Defining Moment

Entering Friday’s game, Vucevic had pulled down at least 12 rebounds in the last eight games, which was the second-longest streak in the league. That streak snapped, as Vucevic finished with only nine rebounds against the Bobcats.

Jan 18

Preview: Charlotte Bobcats at Orlando Magic


  • Teams: Charlotte Bobcats at Orlando Magic
  • Date: January 18, 2013
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center


  • Bobcats: 9-30
  • Magic: 14-24

Probable starters


  • Kemba Walker
  • Gerald Henderson
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
  • Hakim Warrick
  • Bismack Biyombo


  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • DeQuan Jones
  • Glen Davis
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats


  • Pace: 91.8 (14th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.9 (27th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 111.3 (29th of 30)


  • Pace: 91.5 (17th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.0 (21st of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 106.5 (20th of 30)

Read about the Bobcats

Queen City Hoops

Jan 18

What is Nikola Vucevic’s ceiling?


Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Nikola Vucevic has made headlines over the past few weeks for his rebounding prowess. He’s pulled down at least 12 boards in the last eight Magic games, which is the second-longest streak in the NBA (Anderson Varejao did it 12 straight times earlier this season). And Vucevic set a Magic franchise record by pulling down 29 rebounds against the Heat on December 31.

Because of the nature of fans and analysts to declare a “winner” in a blockbuster trade, his recent play has led many to compare him to the center he replaced — Dwight Howard. While those comparisons are absurd, it’s hard to deny the impact Vucevic is having or the improvements he’s made as an offensive player in his second season.

The Magic grab 51.3 percent of all available rebounds when Vucevic is on the court and 49.2 percent when he’s off, per That isn’t a big difference, but it’s the highest differential of any player on the Magic. Individually, Vucevic leads the Magic in rebounding rate on offense, defense, and overall. By wide margins, too.

Vucevic has made strides as a scorer this season as well. A glance at his numbers show a spike in efficiency — his True Shooting percentage is up from last year’s 46.2 percent to 51.9 percent. But beyond the numbers, he’s been finding his offense in a wider variety of ways. Not only has he become a better scorer in the paint, but he’s improved his efficiency from midrange in several areas of the court as well.

Here’s his 2011-12 shot chart from his rookie season in Philly:


And here’s his chart from this season:


In 38 games with the Magic, he’s already taken 100 more shots than he did in 51 games last year with the Sixers. This is largely a function of going from playing limited minutes on a playoff contender with other capable bigs to starting and playing 32 minutes per game on a lottery team. But it’s an encouraging sign that his efficiency, versatility, and confidence has gone up in addition to the greater workload.

Vucevic’s defense is, at this point, the main barrier to him reaching his full potential. The Magic are 5.3 points per 100 possessions worse defensively when he’s on the floor, per And opponents have had very little trouble scoring against Vucevic in the post, shooting 49.3 percent against him on post-ups (67-for-136), per Synergy.

Even though Vucevic’s isolation defense hasn’t been good either, his pick-and-roll defense has been excellent. However, he hasn’t accumulated enough possessions on either play type for a definitive assessment to be made at this time, so a small sample size disclaimer should be noted.

Even with his defensive concerns, however, there’s no denying that Vucevic has surpassed all expectations the team had for him when he was acquired as part of the Dwight Howard trade. His 17.0 Player Efficiency Rating is a career-high and he’s averaging a double-double.

It’s tough to peg Vucevic’s ceiling. He could develop into a solid starting center once the Magic are back in contention, but it’s far from a given. That being said, he’s become a rebounding machine and diverse scorer for a big man, and is a great piece for the Magic to rebuild around.

Jan 17

Thursday’s Magic Word

  • Watch Glen Davis wiggle.
  • The Orlando Magic beat the Indiana Pacers 97-86 in last night’s game. Arron Afflalo speaks afterwards to reporters.
  • Nikola Vucevic’s rebounding prowess continues to get noticed.
  • John Denton of “During his eight seasons in Orlando, Howard simultaneously became the game’s best defensive player and rebounder. Because of that fact, there was somewhat of a sky-is-falling attitude among some Magic fans when the franchise was forced to trade away Howard in August. But Vucevic – one of the pieces that GM Rob Hennigan deftly acquired in the four-team-12 player blockbuster deal – has helped soften the blow for the Magic. Think of him, in some ways at least, as Dwight Lite. If Howard was all thunder and lightning, Vucevic is a steady rain that just keeps coming and never seems to ease up.”
  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk tells you all you need to know about the Magic’s win against the Pacers yesterday: “On the season, the Pacers allow teams to score 95.6 points per 100 possessions, the best defense in the NBA. The Magic scored 105.2 per 100.”

Jan 17

The good and bad of Arron Afflalo

Heading into the season, the scouting report on Arron Afflalo from his final year with the Denver Nuggets was that his defense had regressed, in part because he worked on expanding his offensive repertoire.

Once known as a good defender, Afflalo poured his efforts into becoming more than just a spot-up shooter and it worked last season. He showed the ability to create his own shot, while also being more aggressive in attacking the rim and drawing fouls.

When it was all said and done, after being a low usage, high efficiency player in 2010-11, Afflalo posted a then-career-high usage rate of 19.1 percent without sacrificing too much efficiency in 2011-12. His True Shooting percentage dipped from 62 percent in 2011 to 58.4 percent in 2012.

Knowing he would be taking on a bigger role offensively this season after being traded to the Orlando Magic in the Dwight Howard blockbuster trade, it was expected that Afflalo’s usage rate would continue to increase and it has. His usage rate of 22.9 percent is a new career-high.

The issue is that Afflalo’s efficiency has continued to decline — his True Shooting percentage is 54.4 percent. The tradeoff between usage and efficiency is a common belief in the analytics community, which is why what Kevin Durant is currently accomplishing this season borderlines on the absurd (a True Shooting percentage of 65.3 percent with a usage rate of 29.3 percent).

The maddening thing about Afflalo is that when he optimizes his shot selection, he’s proven that he can be a medium usage, high efficiency player. That means more shots at the rim and behind the three-point line (especially from the corners), and fewer midrange jumpers. It also means getting to the free-throw line more often.

When Afflalo does that, he’s deadly. When he doesn’t, he’s just an ordinary player.

Jan 16

Recap: Orlando Magic 97, Indiana Pacers 86


Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images


Steals, points off turnovers, transition buckets, a ridiculously high three-point field goal percentage, getting a former All-Star into foul trouble. These are things that have been highly irregular for the Magic this season, but were key elements to their win against the Pacers.

It all started with Nikola Vucevic and Glen Davis in the post. Both big men were on point and set the tone early on after Indiana jumped out to an early lead.

The Pacers got off to a nice start behind Paul George. That start was magnified a bit by a sluggish Magic team that did not look ready to play. But Orlando tightened up defensively, forcing six Pacer turnovers in the first quarter. Glen Davis’ nine points on 4-for-6 shooting in the period helped the cause and the Magic cruised into the second quarter up five.

Orlando immediately pushed their lead in the second quarter to nine on back-to-back three-pointers by Josh McRoberts and J.J. Redick. Ultimately, the Magic would go up by as much as 17, catching fire from three-point land. Defensively, the Magic kept Indiana out of the paint and forced a ton of jumpshots. Indiana shot 40 percent in the first half and only shot 1-for-7 from three-point range. Magic led by 16 at the half.

Vucevic finished the first half with a double-double (10 points and 10 rebounds) and his quality performance kept the fire lit for the Magic all night.

Things broke open a bit in the third quarter. Indiana struggled to close the gap, Hibbert picked up his fourth foul, and the Magic kept hitting from deep. The Magic took their biggest lead of the game at 70-49, as Nelson, Afflalo, and McRoberts hit three-pointers on consecutive possessions late in the period. But the Pacers cut the deficit to 13 by the end of the quarter.

Orlando did not slow down at all in the fourth quarter. In fact, they kept pouring in three-pointers, eclipsing their season-high mark and holding the lead close to 20 for most of the period.

For the Pacers, this meant going through the motions with their starters on the bench. For the Magic, it meant closing out a win against a very good Pacers team.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Vucevic dominated the paint and took Roy Hibbert completely out of the game. He all but neutralized the former All-Star center, holding him to 11 points and 7 rebounds while putting up 16 points and 15 rebounds himself.


The Magic were scorching from deep, shooting a season-high 12-for-21 from three-point range. Indiana shot just 2-for-15 from beyond the arc, meaning that Orlando had a 36-6 edge in three-point shooting.

That Was … Run and Gun and a Lot of Fun

Orlando forced 15 turnovers and scored on almost every one of them. They got out in transition and absolutely abused the Pacers from deep. It was a night full of confidence and swagger for the Magic.

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