Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 70

Jan 18

Preview: Charlotte Bobcats at Orlando Magic

Essentials

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

Records

  • Bobcats: 9-30
  • Magic: 14-24

Probable starters

Bobcats:

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

Magic:

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

Advanced stats

Bobcats:

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

Magic:

  • 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?

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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 NBA.com. 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:

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And here’s his chart from this season:

vuccimane2

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 NBA.com. 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 OrlandoMagic.com: “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

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

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.

X-Factor

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.

Jan 16

Preview: Indiana Pacers at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Indiana Pacers at Orlando Magic
  • Date: January 16, 2013
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Pacers: 24-15
  • Magic: 13-24

Probable starters

Pacers:

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

Magic:

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

Advanced stats

Pacers:

  • Pace: 89.6 (27th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.1 (29th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 98.5 (1st of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.5 (15th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.9 (25th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 106.8 (21st of 30)

Read about the Pacers

8 Points, 9 Seconds

Jan 16

Wednesday’s Magic Word

  • Ben Golliver of The Point Forward on the Orlando Magic’s rebuilding efforts: “While it takes a little work to get excited about Orlando’s pieces, there’s no questioning the general culture that’s been instilled under Vaughn. That goes a long way in keeping a team out of the “awful” category for multiple years. Like Cho, Magic GM Rob Hennigan has a stint with the Thunder on his résumé, so his approach to a multiyear rebuild is likely to be sensible. And, like Gilbert, Magic ownership has shown a willingness to spend in the past.”
  • The Magic have been shooting less three-pointers this season and their offense has suffered as a result.
  • As Orlando prepares to face off against the Indiana Pacers in tonight’s game for the first time since their first round series in the 2012 NBA Playoffs, Glen Davis looks back at the playoff matchup.
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Glen Davis and E’Twaun Moore said today they felt no lingering ill-effects from their first games back from injuries, and they will be available tonight for the Orlando Magic against the Indiana Pacers at Amway Center.”
  • The Magic will be facing off against the NBA’s best defensive team later tonight. The Pacers rank first in Defensive Rating, allowing just 98.5 points per 100 possessions.
  • Should Davis return to the starting lineup so soon after coming back from an injury?

Jan 15

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • Ish Smith had one of the most amazing plays you’ll see all season. In last night’s game against the Washington Wizards, Smith jumped over John Wall after biting on his pump fake, then recovered to block his shot.
  • The Orlando Magic have lost 11 of their past 12 games.
  • This headline says it all: “Jameer Nelson plays a perfect seven seconds, steals a ‘Walk the Dog’ attempt.”
  • On Wednesday, the Magic will face off against the Indiana Pacers for the first time since both teams met in the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs.
  • Orlando’s offense is better without Glen Davis, but their defense is better with him. That’s quite a conundrum. Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk tries to offer up a solution.
  • The Washington Wizards blew the Magic out at Verizon Center yesterday.

Jan 15

The clock is ticking on J.J. Redick

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

At one point, it was pretty difficult, almost impossible, to imagine the Magic running out of the tunnel without Dwight Howard. Now, just months after his departure, things have normalized, at least in a sense, in Orlando.

While the few veterans left on the roster continue to chip away at what was supposed to be an agonizing season, players like Andrew Nicholson, Nikola Vucevic, and Maurice Harkless have become familiar, if not by now household names.

Maybe now, while we still have our wits in tact, we should get used to the idea that J.J. Redick, a man who has never in his professional career worn a jersey that didn’t say “Orlando” or “Magic” on it, might not be in Orlando for much longer.

Rumors have been reported, pundits have predicted, promulgated, and all but publicized the fact that J.J. Redick is probably the highest-valued trade asset on the Magic’s roster, and is in all likelihood squarely in the crosshairs of several contenders.

And why wouldn’t he be? For years, Redick has been referred to as a cerebral player, a high IQ guy, a smart defender, and obviously a great shooter. Now he’s enhanced his passing game and shown his ability to confidently get to the paint.

Put differently, Redick has expanded his skill-set, increased his production, and now you’ll need more than two hands to count the number of teams that would salivate at the prospect of having him come off their bench.

Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 14

Recap: Washington Wizards 120, Orlando Magic 91

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Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

BOX SCORE

Heading into tonight’s game, the Washington Wizards ranked dead last in the league in Offensive Rating — averaging 95.7 points per 100 possessions. To put that number in perspective, when the Charlotte Bobcats finished with the worst winning percentage in NBA history last season, they averaged 95.2 points per 100 possessions.

In other words, the Wizards’ offense had reached historic levels of futility.

But none of that mattered against the Orlando Magic, as Washington scored 120 points in 94 possessions for a whopping 128.3 Offensive Rating. The Wizards did it by running roughshod over the Magic. Literally. Washington outscored Orlando 29-4 in fast break points, which proved to be the difference in the ballgame.

And John Wall was one of the catalysts of the Wizards’ transition offense. The moment Wall stepped on the floor, he pushed the tempo every chance he got. This was evident with his first basket of the game, which was a fast break layup late in the first quarter.

The sequence began when Kevin Seraphin blocked Arron Afflalo’s layup attempt. Emeka Okafor caught the loose ball, then made an outlet pass to Wall, who immediately darted down the court. Jameer Nelson was the first man back on defense for the Magic but it didn’t matter, as Wall zipped right past him for a layup in transition.

It’s no secret that Wall’s biggest strength is his speed, particularly in the open floor, and he put it on display against Orlando throughout the game. But Wall made the best use of his speed in the half-court in the play of the game.

With the third quarter winding down, Wall beat Ish Smith off the dribble and broke his ankles with a devastating behind-the-back crossover that finished with an assist to a wide open Seraphin along the baseline for a dunk. It was Wall moving at the speed of light that doomed Smith.

This coming after Smith jumped over Wall and blocked his shot in the first half. It’s safe to say that Wall got his revenge.

A.J. Price and Garrett Temple also deserve kudos for pushing the pace and putting the Magic’s defense on their heels all night long. Price and Temple, alongside Wall, picked apart Orlando’s defense with their relentless attacking and it reflected in the discrepancy in fast break points.

Considering the caliber of opponent, this may take the cake as the worst loss of the season for the Magic.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

This was a team win in every sense of the word for the Wizards. Six players finished the game scoring in double figures. Emeka Okafor stood out from the pack with a double-double (19 points and 11 rebounds).

That Was … a Welcomed Sight

Despite the blowout loss, the good news for Orlando is that Glen Davis and E’Twaun Moore played after sitting out with injuries. Davis, in particular, looked sharp, finishing with 13 points on 6-for-8 shooting in 18 minutes and playing solid defense.

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