Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 73

Jan 04

#ORLrank 1: Dwight Howard

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Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

 

G MP PER VORP WARP WS/82
2010-2011 78 2935 26.0 6.55 20.5 15.1
Dwight Howard’s best season with the Magic

 
How can you quantify a man so loved and then so despised? Generally, it is exactly how most Magic fans have resigned themselves to the subject of Dwight Howard. He was great, now he’s gone, and there’s not much more to say than that.

Before his final season in Orlando last year, Dwight missed just seven regular season games in seven seasons (2005-2011). He averaged 36 minutes per game in his time in Orlando. He was fouled just short of a billion times. Most importantly, after three years where the Magic failed to reach the postseason, Dwight entered the scene and eventually turned Orlando not only into a playoff team but a championship contender once again. If ever there was a white-collar workhorse, Dwight was it.

For almost a decade, you could not mention Orlando without thinking about Dwight Howard. In a place and time where most assumed the pain of Shaq’s departure could never be forgotten, this is truly monumental. Dwight was a man who not only filled Shaq’s shoes, but in some ways outgrew them.

It’s hard to pick an angle on a guy who brought so much to the table. Points, rebounds, defense, swagger, polarization, gravity, kindness, humor, and scandal. When you add it all up, it’s a bit overwhelming. And to sit and think of a way to sum up Dwight’s tenure succinctly is a bit jarring. But isn’t that the beauty of it? How many players in our generation are this difficult to capture?

My tendency, at any rate, is to start with his defense, or at least his size and athleticism, which led to this intangible impact that Dwight had on the court. Players, though they rarely would admit it, feared the paint when Dwight was in the game.

It was a pilgrimage, of sorts, to guard Dwight as well. Players and teams alike threw out the playbook for the Magic. You just had to start from scratch.

It was this force that caused us to liken Dwight to a celestial object. It was this force that lifted the Magic into the primetime realm. It was this force that sold out games, influenced the construction of the sparkling Amway Center, and lit a fire in Orlando that hadn’t been seen since the days of Penny and Shaq. And it was this force that caused such turmoil when the man left.

So few players in the NBA today pack this punch.

Now glance over Dwight’s career achievements: six-time NBA All-Star, three-time Defensive Player of the Year (NBA record), five-time All-NBA first team selection, four-time All-Defensive first team selection, and MVP runner-up in 2011. The list goes on.

A word like legendary is perhaps too heady, but if you’re from Orlando, it probably could easily escape your mouth. This reason, to me, is the most important reason that Dwight is No. 1 in #ORLrank. He was the best player the Magic ever had, and though we hate that he is gone, we cannot help ourselves from basking in the memories of his dominant tenure in Orlando.

Voter breakdown for Dwight Howard

Drexler Highkin Rivera Schiller Scribbins
Scale (1-to-10) 1 1 3 3 1
Average rank: 1.8

What is #ORLrank?

Magic Basketball ranks the top 10 players in Magic franchise history. #ORLrank is the Twitter hashtag to use if you want to get involved in the discussion or just follow along.

You can also follow along here: @erivera7

How did we rank the players?

Five MBN writers ranked each player 1-to-10, in terms of the quality of each player.

Thanks to Daniel Myers, Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference, and Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus for contributing to the project.

Jan 03

Thursday’s Magic Word

  • Video of Glen Davis shooting baskets for the first time since suffering a sprained left shoulder on December 19 against the Washington Wizards.
  • Dan Savage of OrlandoMagic.com has more on Davis: “Orlando received some good news on Thursday when Davis stepped on the court following practice and went through a series of shooting, pick-and-pop and dribble-drive drills. [...] Although, there’s no exact timetable on his return, it’s expected that Davis is still a few weeks away from being back in the Magic’s lineup.”
  • Bradford Doolittle of ESPN Insider: “Guess who is the NBA’s newest rebounding superstar? It’s Nikola Vucevic, who entered the season as the second-best center named Nikola in the league. That’s probably still the case as Minnesota’s Nikola Pekovic is really good, but it’s Vucevic who led the NBA in total rebounds during December. Vucevic grabbed 29 boards against Miami on New Year’s Eve, which is five more than any other player has had in a game this season.”
  • Josh McRoberts continues to underachieve.
  • Will J.J. Redick be traded at the deadline? Will the Magic unload talent? These are some storylines to keep an eye on as February 21 looms closer.
  • Despite having a chance to tie or win the game on the final possession after trailing by as many as 18 points, Orlando came up just short against the Chicago Bulls in Wednesday’s game.

Jan 03

Recap: Chicago Bulls 96, Orlando Magic 94

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

We knew reality was going to settle in at some point. For all the much-deserved talk about how good a job Jacque Vaughn has done with this Magic roster, for the handful of games they probably shouldn’t have won that they did, for the fact that they aren’t quite as 2012-Bobcats-y as everyone thought they would be, this team isn’t very good and can’t be expected to beat better teams on a regular basis.

And as Orlando’s losing skid hit a season-high seven games, their longest losing streak since an eight-game slide in 2006, with a Wednesday loss to Chicago, that reality is starting to drive itself home.

Before the game, the Magic appeared to have caught a break when it was announced that Bulls center Joakim Noah was feeling under the weather and sitting out. With Nikola Vucevic coming off a career night against the Heat on New Year’s Eve, it seemed that one of the most notoriously tough frontcourts in the league was a little more vulnerable.

But Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson stepped up and, quite simply, outworked Orlando’s bigs on both ends of the floor. Vucevic looked good once again — he matched his career-high of 20 points and his 12 rebounds are disappointing only when they follow up a franchise-record 29. But Vucevic, Andrew Nicholson, and Gustavo Ayon were generally exposed by Gibson and Boozer, and the rest of the Magic’s players didn’t give them enough elsewhere to make up for the disparity.

The exception to that, of course, was Jameer Nelson, who had his most impressive performance of the season. All questions about his health after sitting out the last two games with a sore left hip were proven completely irrelevant. He put in, more or less, the ideal Jameer Nelson-circa-2009 performance: he scored inside and out, tying a career-high with 32 points on 11-for-20 shooting including 6-for-9 from three. He carried most of the scoring load, out of necessity, because other guys’ shots weren’t falling.

Arron Afflalo hit a three late to keep the game within reach for the Magic and had a solid game with 19 points. But J.J. Redick was mostly silent. The Magic got nothing out of Hedo Turkoglu.

Even despite this, the Magic were able to stay in the game until the end. That’s about all Magic fans can ask for from them at this point. The Bulls are just better and pulled out the win. A lot of teams are better than the Magic are currently. That’s reality and it’s to be expected.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Jameer Nelson had his best game of the season, scoring 32 points on an efficient 11-for-20 shooting and singlehandedly keeping the Magic in the game.

LVP (Least Valuable Player)

J.J. Redick was off all night. His shot wasn’t falling (he was 1-for-8 from three-point range) and didn’t do enough else to make up for his cold shooting performance.

That Was … Predictable

The Magic haven’t just been losing a lot lately. They’ve been losing in heartbreaking fashion by hanging in there until the end against superior teams and falling just short.

Jan 02

Preview: Chicago Bulls at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Chicago Bulls at Orlando Magic
  • Date: January 2, 2013
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Bulls: 16-13
  • Magic: 12-19

Probable starters

Bulls:

  • Kirk Hinrich
  • Richard Hamilton
  • Luol Deng
  • Carlos Boozer
  • Taj Gibson

Magic:

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

Advanced stats

Bulls:

  • Pace: 90.2 (25th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.9 (25th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 101.1 (5th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.6 (17th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.2 (29th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 104.4 (12th of 30)

Read about the Bulls

Bulls by the Horns

Jan 02

Wednesday’s Magic Word

  • Jameer Nelson, who sat out the Orlando Magic’s last two games because of a sore left hip, is expected to start in tonight’s game against the Chicago Bulls.
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel with this nugget of information on the eve of the Magic’s matchup against the Bulls: “The Magic will try to avoid their first seven-game losing streak since they lost eight consecutive games Feb. 6-22, 2006.”
  • Should Orlando trade for DeMarcus Cousins? Kevin Pelton of ESPN Insider comes up with a trade scenario. However, Robbins reports that the Magic are not interested in Cousins.
  • In a time where the corner three-pointer has emerged as the most important shot for a modern-day NBA offense, the Magic rank in the middle of pack among teams that shoot corner threes. Not coincidentally, Orlando is ranked 29th in Offensive Rating.
  • David Thorpe of NBA Insider ranks Nikola Vucevic sixth among a list of the top 20 second-year players in the league and sees him as a viable rotation player.

Jan 01

Recap: Miami Heat 112, Orlando Magic 110 (OT)

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AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

BOX SCORE

When Dwight Howard was dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers in a four-team trade during the offseason, the general consensus among NBA pundits was that the Orlando Magic did not receive equal value for Howard or close to it.

The mainstream media and blogosphere were shouting far and wide that the Magic were the losers of the trade because they didn’t get Andrew Bynum, widely accepted as the second-best center in the league, or even Andre Iguodala, an All-Star caliber player and one of the best defenders in the NBA.
No high draft picks. No nothing.

Instead, Orlando got Nikola Vucevic, Maurice Harkless, Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Christian Eyenga (waived by the Magic), Josh McRoberts, a future first round draft pick from the Philadelphia Sixers, a first round draft pick in 2014 from the Denver Nuggets, first round draft pick in 2017 from the Los Angeles Lakers, and two second round picks. An underwhelming haul for Howard.

Or was it?

Fast-forward to today and Bynum has yet to play a game for the Sixers due to his troubled knees and Iguodala has been a disappointment with the Nuggets so far this season. Meanwhile, players like Vucevic and Afflalo have been solid for the Magic.

This isn’t to suggest that Orlando got the last laugh in the Howard trade because it’s still too early to judge, but it’s safe to say — after the latest performances from Vucevic and Afflalo against the Miami Heat on Monday — the Magic are silencing their critics.

Even though Orlando lost 112-110 in overtime to the Heat, the defending champs, in a wildly entertaining game, Vucevic and Afflalo once again proved they can be key parts of the Magic’s rebuilding efforts.

Ironically enough, Vucevic channeled his inner-Howard by posting his first career 20-20 game with 20 points and 29 rebounds. Vucevic made his presence felt the most by dominating the paint with offensive rebounds putbacks. To say Vucevic cleaned the glass would be an understatement, as he nearly outrebounded Miami by himself (33-29).

It’s unlikely Vucevic will ever have this performance like this again in his career, but at the very least Orlando knows they have a double-double machine on their hands.

As for Afflalo, he showed again that he’s more than capable of being an efficient high-usage player for the Magic when he optimizes his shot selection. When Afflalo isn’t relying heavily on midrange jumpers and is aggressive in getting to the free-throw line and shooting three-pointers, scoring 28 points on 19 shots doesn’t seem like a daunting task.

Who knows what the future holds for Orlando. Life after Howard sounds scary for Magic fans, but games like these show that the future doesn’t look so bad.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Vucevic had the game of his life, finishing with 20 points and 29 rebounds (both career-highs) in the first 20-20 game of his career. His 29 rebounds set a Magic franchise record (the previous record-holder was Shaquille O’Neal, who had 28 rebounds in 1993).

Defining Moment

Trailing 108-106 with 17.7 seconds remaining in overtime, Orlando had possession with a chance to tie or take the lead. But J.J. Redick threw an errant pass that was intercepted by Dwyane Wade, which led to a dunk on the other end and effectively ended the game.

That Was … an Instant Classic

In front of an announced crowd of 19,311 at Amway Center, the largest crowd ever to see a Magic home game, the Magic and Heat engaged in a thrilling duel on New Year’s Eve that went down to the wire.

Dec 31

Preview: Miami Heat at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Miami Heat at Orlando Magic
  • Date: December 31, 2012
  • Time: 5:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Heat: 20-8
  • Magic: 12-18

Probable starters

Heat:

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

Magic:

  • Ish Smith
  • Arron Afflalo
  • DeQuan Jones
  • Andrew Nicholson
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Heat:

  • Pace: 92.3 (11th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 110.9 (4th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 105.6 (14th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.8 (15th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 100.7 (29th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 103.9 (11th of 30)

Read about the Heat

Heat Index

Dec 30

Recap: Toronto Raptors 123, Orlando Magic 88

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AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

BOX SCORE

There are two primary reasons why the Orlando Magic, before Saturday’s game against the Toronto Raptors, were a top 10 defensive team. Apart from being one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the NBA, the Magic had done a great job of contesting shots and not fouling.

Digging a little deeper into Orlando’s defense, one thing that stood out the most was that opponents were shooting poorly behind the three-point line. Heading into their game against the Raptors, the Magic had been holding opponents to 32.6 percent shooting from beyond the arc (second-best in the league at the time).

The problem is that studies have shown that three-point percentage is fairly defense-independent. In other words, a defense has little control over an opponent’s three-point percentage. Which is to say that there’s a good chance Orlando’s three-point defense is going to regress to the mean sooner or later.

Toronto got the ball rolling by shooting 15-for-27 from three-point range (55.6 percent) in a 123-88 win over the Magic on Saturday. As a result, Orlando no longer ranks in the top 10 defensively and their opponent three-point percentage has creeped up to 33.7 percent (seventh in the NBA).

Mickael Pietrus, a former three-point gunner for the Magic, kicked things off in the first quarter by making the Raptors’ first three three-pointers. From there, the floodgates opened and Toronto went on a tear in the first half — making nine of their first 10 three-point shots and building a 67-47 halftime lead.

Even though Toronto is a below-average three-point shooting team, with Jose Calderon as the only player shooting above 40 percent from three-point range, that didn’t stop them from making a season-high 15 three-pointers against Orlando and cruising to an easy victory.

If there was one bright spot for the Magic in their 35-point shellacking, it was Andrew Nicholson.

Getting the starting nod after playing just 5 minutes against the Washington Wizards on Friday, Nicholson finished with a career-high 22 points (10-for-14 shooting) and seven rebounds in 26 minutes. Nicholson was making hooks mainly from the right block, as well as midrange jumpers primarily from the elbows, and showing once again that he’s a gifted scorer despite being a rookie.

It’s performances like these from Nicholson that show he’s more than deserving of getting consistent playing time, whether as a starter or reserve. Which is why it’s a bit puzzling that, in recent weeks, head coach Jacque Vaughn hasn’t been playing Nicholson as much, despite Orlando’s obvious need (29th in Offensive Rating) for his scoring ability.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

The honors go to the Raptors as a whole. Toronto received production from nearly everyone on the roster. Once the Raptors started raining three-pointers, there was not much the Magic could do to stop the downpour.

That Was … Embarrassing

With no Jameer Nelson (sore left hip), no E’Twaun Moore (sprained left elbow), and no Glen Davis (sprained left shoulder), Orlando was outmanned and outgunned against the Toronto. The result was an embarrassing loss at home.

Dec 29

Preview: Toronto Raptors at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Toronto Raptors at Orlando Magic
  • Date: December 29, 2012
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Raptors: 10-20
  • Magic: 12-17

Probable starters

Raptors:

  • Jose Calderon
  • DeMar DeRozan
  • Mickael Pietrus
  • Ed Davis
  • Aaron Gray

Magic:

  • Ish Smith
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Andrew Nicholson
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Raptors:

  • Pace: 90.6 (23rd of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.6 (17th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 108.4 (27th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 92.0 (14th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 100.7 (29th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 102.7 (9th of 30)

Read about the Raptors

Raptors Republic

Dec 29

Recap: Washington Wizards 105, Orlando Magic 97

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AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

BOX SCORE

Even though Christmas is over, that hasn’t stopped the Orlando Magic from getting into the spirit of Christmas giving. On Wednesday, the New Orleans Hornets snapped their 11-game losing streak against the Magic.

Not to be outdone, Orlando helped the Washington Wizards — owners of the league’s worst record — snap their eight-game losing streak on Friday. And in the process, the Wizards ended the Magic’s NBA-best 12-game streak of holding opponents under 100 points.

The main reasons Orlando lost was because their defense faltered and they were unable to consistently generate offense.

Somehow, someway, Washington — despite having one of the worst offenses in league history — was able to score 105 points on 93 possessions on the Magic (one of the NBA’s top 10 defensive teams). The main culprit for Orlando’s defensive woes? The Magic were unable to contain dribble penetration and that allowed the Wizards to score in the paint seemingly at will.

It’d be one thing if John Wall was the one wreaking havoc at the rim. It’s another thing when Garrett Temple was the one doing the damage.

On the flipside, Orlando struggled to score, which has been a recurring theme all season long. Even though Washington is a truly awful team, their defense is above-average so they deserve some credit for limiting the Magic offensively.

That being said, this is where Glen Davis’ absence hurts Orlando. Even though Davis is a black hole on offense, his volume shooting has value in the sense that it generates scoring opportunities. Without Davis around to bail out the Magic offensively, players like J.J. Redick, Arron Afflalo, and Jameer Nelson have been forced to pick up the slack. The problem is that it hasn’t been enough.

Nelson got off to a fast start against the Wizards, making five of his first six field goals and scoring 14 points in the first quarter. Just like the Hornets game, Nelson was deadly in pick-and-rolls, pulling up for three-pointers primarily from the right wing and making Washington pay for going under the screens. Unfortunately for Nelson, he only scored two points the rest of the way.

Afflalo and Redick had relatively efficient outings on offense, but with Nelson going cold after the first quarter, points were hard to come by for Orlando. Head coach Jacque Vaughn used every available Magic player in the hopes of finding a spark, but nothing worked.

The Magic can only hope that Hedo Turkoglu’s return to action in Saturday’s game against the Toronto Raptors will serve as the spark they’re searching for offensively.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

You know you’re in for a long night when Jordan Crawford, a proud member of the “All-Chucker Team,” scores 27 points on 16 shots. Crawford and efficient normally don’t go in the same sentence, but they did on Friday.

That Was … Impressive

Orlando went on a 23-4 run in the first quarter against the Wizards and led by as many as 15 points in the period. Nobody would have blamed Washington for packing it in after a slow start, but they fought back and won.

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