Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 7

Oct 21

Nikola Vucevic gets 4-year, $53M extension

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

The Orlando Magic and the representatives for center Nik Vucevic are finalizing a contract extension that will add four years to his current deal and will run through the 2018-19 NBA season, industry sources told the Orlando Sentinel.

The deal will pay Vucevic a total of $53 million over four seasons, and the extension will not include an opt-out clause that would enable Vucevic to become a free agent before the summer of 2019.

Oct 21

Tuesday’s Mini-Magic Word

  • Andrew Nicholson, after spending too much time on the perimeter last season, is getting back to being the low post savant he was in his rookie year.
  • Magic players are eager for the regular season to begin.
  • Bill Simmons of Grantland on the Magic: “I like these dudes. I like watching Harris, Oladipo and Nicholson. Vucevic plays hard. I’m excited to watch Aaron Gordon run around like he just drank a 48-ounce coffee, and I’m excited for his 20 Set-YouTube-Ablaze dunks. Most of all, I’m excited for my 2015 Rookie of the Year pick, Elfrid Payton, who’s going to haunt the Sixers, Hornets and (especially) Kings while making Gordon’s career 287.3 percent more fun. I’m all in on Elfrid. All in. Bought a few of his Panini rookie cards and everything.”
  • One of the most cliche headlines you’ll read this season: “Magic Want to Play at Faster Pace This Season.”
  • After a few years of being away, the “Dante and Galante” show makes its return on Oct. 22.

Oct 21

Fox Sports Florida, Magic announce TV schedule

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Via Fox Sports Florida press release:

FOX Sports Florida and the Orlando Magic jointly announced today the team’s 2014-15 NBA regular season television broadcast schedule, featuring all 82 games broadcast exclusively on the network.

FOX Sports Florida will start the season on the road as the Magic travel to New Orleans to take on the Pelicans. Coverage will start at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 28 for viewers throughout North / Central Florida. Magic LIVE, FOX Sports Florida’s pre-and postgame show for home and away games, will provide viewers with an in-depth look at the team and storylines surrounding the squad before and after they hit the hardwood versus their opponents. The home opener on Thursday, Oct. 30 vs. the Washington Wizards will feature a special, one-hour edition of the Magic LIVE pregame show originating from Church Street.

Play-by-play announcer David Steele returns, alongside former Magic player Jeff Turner as color analyst, to provide viewers with expert commentary throughout the season. Paul Kennedy and Dante Marchitelli also return as hosts of Magic LIVE, while former Magic Head Coach Brian Hill and former Magic players Nick Anderson and Tony Battie round out the group of on-air analysts during pregame, postgame and halftime.

FOX Sports Florida’s Magic broadcasts this season will feature an exciting new addition for viewers. Kelly Nash will join the broadcast team this season as in-game reporter, as well as host of select “Inside the Magic” episodes. The popular “Inside the Magic” series returns and will feature player profiles and episodes offering behind-the-scenes access to other aspects of the team and its operations — all designed to bring the fans closer to their favorite team. There are six new episodes tentatively scheduled to air throughout the upcoming season.

Oct 20

Player Profile: Dewayne Dedmon

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Frankel’s 2014-15 per 36 projections

PPG RPG APG TS% PER ASPM
9.3 11.8 0.6 .494 10.9 -2.2

The 7-foot Dewayne Dedmon, who went undrafted in the 2013 NBA Draft, spent his rookie year bouncing between three teams, eventually landing with the Magic at the end of the 2013-14 season.

Dedmon is old for a player entering his second year, turning 25 in August. He spent one season at Antelope Valley College before transferring to USC and playing two years in the Pac-12 for the Trojans. He’s so raw and his age so advanced, at least in comparison to his peers, it’s hard to envision him ever becoming a regular starter.

If he’s going to catch on as a third- or second-string center (there’s no way he’s getting many minutes at power forward behind the newly-signed Channing Frye), it has to be on the defensive side of the ball. He’s doesn’t have a consistent midrange jump shot and his post presence is non-existent.

It’s an incredibly small sample size of games to judge, but he had a tendency to drift and ball-watch defensively in his 16 appearances with Orlando last season. Dedmon got tied up on high screens, even when it was a smaller guard that was setting the pick. In the contemporary NBA, the inability of your bigs to get around screens or cut off the ballhandler (some bigs will actually bump into them — anything to knock them off their rhythm coming around the corner) represents a huge negative when you have guys like Kevin Love setting that screen, or slipping it altogether for a dash at the rim or a step-back jumper.

Dedmon struggled with very basic pick-and-roll coverages near the 3-point arc, so it’s something he’ll have to work on if he wants to take advantage of his athleticism and foot speed. He isn’t just repeatedly getting entangled in a screen, though. Watching film on him, you see he’s routinely caught out-of-position, where he’s either scrambling to get to his man, or he’s come over to help too hard, leaving his man open for an easy bucket.

He’s also got to tone down his tendency to jump at the first ball-fake. Al Jefferson — one of the best post players in the game, mind you — repeatedly abused Dedmon on the low block during their April 4 meeting last season.

Offensively, Dedmon has decent footwork on pull-up jumpers, but that’s not his game. He’s a slasher disguised as center, able to flash to the rim for alley-oops or backdoor cuts — like a longer, less-schooled Maurice Harkless.

Dedmon is long and spry, but his physical gifts haven’t been refined for the NBA yet. He only started playing organized basketball five-and-a-half years before entering the league, so the growing pains are to be expected.

Still, his footwork as the roll man on high screens is pretty decent. Opponents have to basically foul him before he can get off the floor. Once he catches that pocket pass and sets his feet anywhere near the lane, it’s just one long step for him and usually a dunk.

My guess, if he makes the regular season roster, is a spot as the 14th man behind the much-more polished games of Nikola Vucevic and the energetic Kyle O’Quinn.

Oct 17

Player Profile: Kyle O’Quinn

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Frankel’s 2014-15 per 36 projections

PPG RPG APG TS% PER ASPM
13.6 11.1 2.5 .529 17.0 -2.6

Kyle O’Quinn was a terrific surprise for Magic fans last season, breaking out of his shell with an excellent sophomore campaign. I covered his development fairly extensively towards the end of last season, but to recap: O’Quinn took huge strides as the 2013-14 season progressed, providing a big spark of energy for the Magic when he took to the floor while having more faith in his own abilities.

O’Quinn was quietly one of the best in the league at protecting the basket. He also displayed a handy array of features on the offensive end, including an ability to throw terrific outlet passes and make excellent reads from the high post. O’Quinn went on to start in the Magic’s last 18 games of the season and with his increased role came increased production, as there was a noticeable rise in his numbers across the board. He clearly gained the trust of coach Jacque Vaughn, who chose to slot him at the power forward position alongside Nikola Vucevic in the starting lineup.

Despite the versatility he displayed in playing both frontcourt positions, it was still at center where O’Quinn was most productive, with Orlando having a positive net rating with him at center (+1.1) compared to a negative net rating (-5.3) with him at power forward, per 82games.com. This seems to suggest that for this season, O’Quinn may be most suited to an identical role that he had in this past one — backing up Vucevic at center and bringing high levels of energy off the bench, while still being getting minutes at power forward in spurts.

Ideally for the Magic, O’Quinn should also continue to be an above-average jump shooter from midrange — while he struggled at the top of the key last season, shooting 32 percent, he was terrific from the left elbow (50 percent) and right baseline (55 percent). He also finished well at the rim, shooting 66 percent. Despite the small sample size, these are impressive shooting numbers and if O’Quinn can continue to improve his midrange jumper in particular, it will be huge for his long-term growth.

O’Quinn’s rim protection will also be pivotal. Last season, of those who faced over 4.0 field goal attempts at the rim per game and played at least 50 games, O’Quinn held his opponents to the 9th-lowest percentage at the rim (46.2 percent), per SportVU. His tendency to rotate from the weak-side and hustle to help out teammates was superb, as he was an obvious defensive presence with his big frame and athletic ability. As his awareness continues to increase defensively, his impact on that end of the floor will too.

If the Magic fan base sees anything close to the development they saw last season from O’Quinn carry over to the 2014-15 season, it will give them a whole lot to be excited about.

Oct 17

The cloudy futures of Vucevic and Harris

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Photo by Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA’s new 9-year, $24 billion TV deal, set to kick in for the 2016-17 season, is going to change the landscape of the league in the coming years. The current deal, signed in 2007, raked in $930 million annually for the NBA from ESPN and Turner Sports. With the new deal, that number is set to increase to nearly $2.7 billion per year.

Because the salary cap is directly correlated to BRI (basketball related income), it will greatly increase under the new deal. Naturally, contracts will spike as a result, and players are well aware of that.

It’s the reason LeBron James only signed a two-year deal (the second year is a player option) with the Cleveland Cavaliers this offseason. It gives him an out if everything goes pear-shaped in Cleveland, sure, but seeing as he’s said time and again that he won’t be leaving in the summer of 2016, his contract gives him an opportunity to sign a new max deal once the lucrative TV deal kicks in. And based on how much that jump is expected to be, it could bump the maximum contract in the league by $9 million per year. LeBron could, therefore, be looking at a $31.1 million starting salary that could increase by $2.3 million every year, giving him the opportunity to sign a max contract of four years, $138 million with the Cavaliers, per Business Insider.

Some believe the cap will skyrocket right off the bat, while others remain cautious. According to Deadspin, the NBA will engage in negotiations with the NBPA in the hope that both sides can come to an agreement of slowly increasing the cap rather than taking a $20-or-so million increase right from the get-go. A quantum leap in cap room would give, essentially, every team in the NBA a clean slate. For all their blunders, it would give the Brooklyn Nets an opportunity to lure high-profile free agents and turn their fortunes on their head. That doesn’t seem to make sense.

Naturally, not everyone will be in agreement with that, which is why we could be gearing towards another lockout.

What that means for the immediate future, though, is that a lot is still up in the air for teams and players alike. In the case of the Orlando Magic, they have three players (Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, and Kyle O’Quinn) whose contracts will expire following the 2015-16 season. Technically speaking, Ben Gordon’s contract also expires in 2015-16 but given that the second year of his contract is fully unguaranteed, the expectation is that the Magic will waive him after this season. Out of the three, Vucevic and Harris are set to make the most, and thanks to the new TV deal, the Magic have a number of ways to go about retaining them.

Read the rest of this entry »

Oct 16

Player Profile: Nikola Vucevic

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Frankel’s 2014-15 per 36 projections

PPG RPG APG TS% PER ASPM
16.5 11.8 2.1 .540 18.9 +0.9

After being traded from the Sixers to the Magic in the blockbuster Dwight Howard deal, Nikola Vucevic had a breakout season as a sophomore in his 2012-13 campaign. He went on to carry this momentum into the 2013-14 season, showing a bump in his scoring average (from 13.1 PPG in 2012-13 to 14.2 PPG in 2013-14) while maintaining the same hyper-productive rebounding we had seen the previous year.

Statistically, Vucevic either improved or stayed the same in just about all of the right areas. He lifted his Player Efficiency Rating from an already above-average 17.8 up to 18.8. His rebounding rate stayed at a similar level to the previous season, posting a tremendous total rebound percentage of 19.5 percent, alongside respectable steal and block rates of 1.7 percent and 2.0 percent respectively.

However, it was the leap in free-throw percentage which was the most notable of these improvements, as Vucevic lifted his free-throw percentage up to 76.6 percent on the year, miles ahead of the sub-par 68.3 percent he posted in the season before (and far and beyond the 52.9 percent he put up in the season before that — albeit on just 34 free-throw attempts). Despite this, he didn’t get to the free-throw line too often, taking only 2.4 free-throws a game for a relatively small — yet up from previous years — .197 free-throw rate. Roy Hibbert, for instance, had a .357 free-throw rate last season.

In regards to Vucevic’s future with the Magic, it’s worth noting that this coming season is his last under contract with the team, unless he chooses to accept the $3.8 million qualifying offer at the end of the season (almost unheard of for a player of his caliber). The only scenario in which he is likely to do so is if Vucevic is desperate to leave the team as soon as possible, as this would allow him to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2015-16 season, seemingly quite an unlikely outcome.

Instead, he’ll probably decline the qualifying offer and head into restricted free agency, where Orlando has the power to match all offers — hat’s assuming the Magic don’t reach an agreement with Vuvevic on a contract extension before October 31. With a bunch of guys on rookie contracts and only $16.2 million currently on the books for 2015-16, it seems likely that the Magic will lock Vucevic up to a big deal as soon as they can.

As for this season, we can expect to see a lot of Vucevic featured in the Magic’s offense. Having Channing Frye on the roster will help Vucevic immensely, opening up the paint and giving him room to operate in the post — an area on the floor where he’s steadily getting better. There’s also the potential for Vucevic to continue developing his ever-improving pick-and-roll game, which I covered quite thoroughly last season.

His development might have slowed down a little, but there is no question Vucevic has a chance to continue to improve and make his mark as a great young talent in the league.

Oct 15

Grades: Orlando Magic 106, Flamengo 88

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

 

Orlando Magic 106 Final
Recap | Box Score
88 Flamengo

Nikola Vucevic
8-12 FG | 4-5 FT | 3 BLK | 11 REB | 20 PTS | +10

Vucevic notched his first double-double of the preseason and had an easy time doing it against an overmatched Flamengo frontline that could not match his size — the tallest big man on the roster was 6-foot-10 Cristiano Felicio. Vucevic encountered little resistance on the low block, in pick-and-rolls, and from the perimeter. His primary matchup (Jerome Meyinsse) did get the better of him at times on the other end, though.

Aaron Gordon
7-13 FG | 2-2 3P | 9 REB | 3 AST | 15 PTS | +13

Out of all the Magic players, Gordon got the most minutes in the second half and took advantage of the extended playing time. The rookie showcased his athleticism, which seemed to overwhelm Flamengo at times. This was no more evident than late in the fourth quarter when Gordon got on his imaginary pogo stick and threw down a monstrous two-handed dunk — woah.

Tobias Harris
5-9 FG | 3-6 FT | 2 STL | 5 REB | 14 PTS | +10

Not enough can be said about how good Harris has looked in preseason so far — especially on offense. He and Vucevic have been the two best players in the Magic’s four exhibition games. It’s no secret that they’re each eligible for contract extensions, and you have to wonder if that’s what’s motivating them both to play at a high level.

Luke Ridnour
3-4 FG | 4-4 FT | 0 REB | 5 AST | 11 PTS | +7

It was a near-flawless performance from Ridnour, His jump shot was falling and he displayed nice chemistry with the Magic big men in pick-and-roll sets. You couldn’t ask for more from Ridnour. Given rookie Elfrid Payton’s up-and-down play in preseason, it’ll be interesting to see if coach Jacque Vaughn opts to start the veteran Ridnour on opening night. We’ll see.

Flamengo

In front of a rabid Brazilian fan base at Amway Center, who were particularly loud at the start of the game, Flamengo performed admirably. The first half was much closer than the Magic probably expected, as Marcelinho Machado’s 3-point shooting (15 points on 5-for-9 shooting in the first half) kept Flamengo within striking distance. But eventually, Orlando’s superior talent overwhelmed Flamengo.

Oct 15

Preview: Flamengo at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Flamengo at Orlando Magic
  • Date: October 15, 2014
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Flamengo: N/A
  • Magic: 23-59

Probable starters

Flamengo:

  • Nicolas Laprovittola
  • Marcelinho Machado
  • Marcus Vinicius
  • Walter Herrmann
  • Jerome Meyinsse

Magic:

  • Elfrid Payton
  • Willie Green
  • Tobias Harris
  • Andrew Nicholson
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Flamengo:

  • Pace: N/A
  • Offensive Rating: N/A
  • Defensive Rating: N/A

Magic:

  • Pace: 93.6 (15th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.7 (29th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.4 (17th of 30)

Oct 15

Player Profile: Andrew Nicholson

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Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

Frankel’s 2014-15 per 36 projections

PPG RPG APG TS% PER ASPM
13.7 7.9 0.9 .499 11.0 -2.6

Andrew Nicholson’s sophomore campaign with the Orlando Magic got off to a roaring start. In the team’s season opener against the Indiana Pacers, the 24-year-old forward scored 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting in 19 minutes off the bench. Then, following that performance, Nicholson did much of the same against the Minnesota Timberwolves, pouring in 13 points in 19 minutes. Five days later, he put up his first double-double of the season, to the tune of 17 points and 11 rebounds.

Just like that, Nicholson appeared to be on the brink of a breakout season. However, after that short string of success, it all came crashing down for him.

Over the proceeding 78 games, Nicholson averaged 5.3 points in 15.0 minutes per contest. He recorded only one more double-double by the season’s end, and he went 42 straight games without scoring in double-figures (including 12 games in which he failed to score a single point).

In comparison to his rookie year, nearly all of Nicholson’s advanced stats fell of a cliff. His Player Efficiency Rating went from 15.1 to 9.9, his True Shooting percentage from .527 percent to .489, his Offensive Rating from 103 to 95, and his Win Shares from 1.7 to 0.6. He saw both his minutes and shot opportunities drop on a game-to-game basis, too. All in all, Nicholson averaged 13.3 points per 36 minutes (down from 16.9 per 36 as a rookie) and converted on only 42.9 percent of his shots — nearly 10 percentage points lower from the season before.

Now, heading into his third year with the Magic, Nicholson has a lot to prove. His contract for the 2015-16 season — worth $2.3 million — is a team option, so the team could part ways with him next offseason if he fails to improve. And with the Magic having to make some decisions in the next 12 months that may shape their team for years to come, it remains to be seen if Nicholson truly fits in with their vision.

Nikola Vucevic is up for an extension this season, as is Tobias Harris, who shares time both at the three and Nicholson’s primary position at the four. The team also signed Channing Frye to a long-term contract during the offseason, and rookie Aaron Gordon, although still raw, is expected to be an integral part of the team moving forward. There’s also small forward Maurice Harkless and power forward/center Kyle O’Quinn in the mix. All of which is leading to a packed frontcourt for the Magic.

For Nicholson to secure a spot in the team’s rebuild moving forward, he’ll have to be a more consistent player on both ends of the court — especially on defense, where he has struggled.

The good news for Nicholson is that there is room for his skill-set to fit in with the team. After attempting zero 3s as a rookie, Nicholson connected on 31.5 percent of them last season (28-for-89). He’s also a good rebounder, averaging 7.6 per 36 minutes over his young career. Both of those are assets the Magic value tremendously, and based on the moves they made this offseason, Nicholson can bring something to the table that few players on the roster can.

If he’s able to piece those skills together to become a more refined and consistent role player, there leaves room to believe that Nicholson could be a complementary piece for the team moving forward. He has, after all, shown the ability during his rookie year to be a difference maker. If he doesn’t recapture that form, however, this may be his final season donning the Magic’s pinstripes.

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