Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 78

Dec 28

Friday’s Mini-Magic Word

  • In an era where small-ball is king, the Orlando Magic rely on a traditional lineup right now. Kevin Arnovitz of TrueHoop has the breakdown: “The Magic are another one of those teams just trying to make it through the day, and their lineup combos are statements of necessity, not philosophy, especially with Glen Davis out indefinitely. For now, Orlando has settled on starting a traditional tandem of Gustavo Ayon and Nikola Vucevic.”
  • Hedo Turkoglu, still recovering from a broken left hand, hopes to play on Saturday against his former team — the Toronto Raptors.
  • Turkoglu has had a string of bad luck in 2012 with injuries.
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Most college basketball fans love to hate the Duke Blue Devils, and J.J. Redick still is reminded of that every time he plays NBA games in Charlotte, N.C., and here in the nation’s capital. Charlotte is North Carolina Tar Heels territory, and Washington is close to the University of Maryland. Maryland Terrapins fans often taunted Redick viciously during his four-year college career. Redick doesn’t quite understand it, as he showed when he was asked today which fan base boos him louder these days, Bobcats fans or Wizards fans.”

Dec 28

#ORLrank 2: Shaquille O’Neal

shaq_magic_gal_640

AP Photo/Steve Simoneau

 

G MP PER VORP WARP WS/82
1993-1994 81 3224 28.5 7.56 24.0 17.1
Shaquille O’Neal’s best season with the Magic

 
Talking about Shaquille O’Neal’s four seasons with the Magic, now that he’s retired after a 19-year career and generally considered one of the five greatest centers of all time, is like talking about The Beatles’ pre-Revolver output. It’s mostly completely brilliant on its own terms, and worthy of every bit of consideration and every accolade it gets, but it’s generally overshadowed by the even greater heights of what he did with the Lakers.

Like the other big man who tops him on this list (more on that next week), his departure from Orlando was decidedly ugly. But two decades after his entrance into the NBA, with time separating us from those feelings, what Shaq accomplished in his short time in Orlando is pretty undeniable.

The traditional big man is an increasingly optional facet of a good basketball team in today’s game, but when Shaq debuted for the Magic in 1992, having one was everything. And he was that guy right away. He ran away with Rookie of the Year honors, averaging 23.4 points, 13.2 rebounds, and an astounding 3.5 blocks per game in 1992-93, and immediately established himself as one of the premiere inside talents on both ends of the floor.

His rookie season was outstanding, but Shaq was only getting started. The following year saw the arrival of Penny Hardaway, whom I wrote about a few weeks ago. Shaq and Penny formed one of the most formidable duos in the game — Penny’s diverse offensive skillset and Shaq’s commanding physical presence in the paint were near-perfect compliments.

Shaq only got better and more refined as a player during his first two seasons with Penny. Consequently, his numbers continued to impress: he posted a PER above 28 in each of his second and third seasons and led the league in scoring in 1994-95.

From the outset of his NBA career, Shaq embraced the superstar role, for better and for worse. His outsized personality made him a natural fit for the spotlight of being a professional athlete and he parlayed his charisma into various film and music projects. His eventual departure for the Lakers seems inevitable in hindsight because there is arguably no athlete in the modern era better suited for Hollywood.

But while Shaq was in large part responsible for increasing the Magic’s popularity as they were still aiming for respectability as a recent expansion team, his diva personality was often a detriment. Following his rookie season, his displeasure with Magic head coach Matt Goukas was a strong factor in his exit. The team was coached for the next three years by Brian Hill, who also fell out of favor with the Big Diesel shortly before he signed with the Lakers.

When he signed a seven-year, $121 million contract with the Lakers shortly before playing with Team USA in the 1996 Summer Olympics, Shaq lashed out at the Orlando media. He loved the spotlight, but hated the privacy violations. And while some of his criticisms were warranted (an Orlando Sentinel readers’ poll famously highlighted the fanbase’s less-than-favorable opinion of him), he did himself no favors by speaking out so strongly against the team and the city he had just one year previously led to the franchise’s first Finals appearance.

Still, it’s difficult to argue with the on-court results. Shaq and Penny gave the Magic their first taste of relevance. In the mid-90s, they proved themselves capable of hanging with anybody in the East. Until Michael Jordan’s comeback and subsequent resuming of his dominance over the league, the Shaq-Penny Magic had as good a shot as anyone of picking up where Jordan and Pippen left off.

The Magic were swept by the Rockets in the 1995 Finals but, even with Shaq having been hurt for a large chunk of the following season, they were still a power. They won 60 games in 1996 and seemed poised for a repeat Finals appearance before running into the newly reconstituted Bulls, one of the greatest teams in NBA history.

It’s weird to focus so much on such a small section of Shaq’s career, particularly when he went on two have one of the greatest stretches of play of the modern era as a Laker and win four championships between L.A. and Miami. He’s on the shortlist of greatest centers in NBA history, alongside Wilt, Russell, Kareem, and Hakeem. He wouldn’t be there if he hadn’t done all that he did in Los Angeles.

But Shaq also wouldn’t have reached that point had he not been so spectacular in his early career in Orlando.

Voter breakdown for Shaquille O’Neal

Drexler Highkin Rivera Schiller Scribbins
Scale (1-to-10) 2 2 2 1 3
Average rank: 2.0

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.

Dec 27

Maximizing E’Twaun Moore’s skills on offense

Capture

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

E’Twaun Moore has been a pleasant surprise for the Magic all season. A waiver-wire pickup after a rocky rookie campaign in Boston, Moore has solidified himself as the team’s back-up point guard and is posting a very respectable 12.5 Player Efficiency Rating in 23.8 minutes per game. He’s nothing spectacular, but for a player on a two-year minimum deal on a team lacking in point guard depth, he’s been a revelation.

However, just because Moore beat out Ish Smith for the back-up point guard job doesn’t mean this is where he’s best suited to be. Moore has outperformed expectations, but watching him run an offense has been a trying experience. He struggles to balance looking for his own shot with setting up his teammates and he’s not particularly good at the latter when he tries. The numbers show a similar story. “E’Twaun Moore: back-up point guard” is a much worse basketball player than “E’Twaun Moore: scorer off the bench.”

Moore’s premier value as an NBA player is in his three-point shooting. He’s knocking down 39.1 percent of his threes on the season, building on the 37.8 percent he displayed in limited chances as a rookie with the Celtics. The vast majority of these three-pointers come when Moore is spotting up. Moore has taken 50 spot-up threes (out of 87 three-point attempts) and has made 23 of them (good for 46 percent), averaging 1.38 points per possession on those plays, per Synergy.

Moore has shot 47 percent on 34 spot-up two pointers as well, but those are naturally much less valuable shots.

And when Moore isn’t spotting up? That’s when the shooting equation tilts away from the efficiency scale. Moore has only taken 36 threes on 207 possessions that haven’t been spot-up opportunities and it shows, as he’s averaging only 0.86 points per possession overall on offense.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dec 27

Recap: New Orleans Hornets 97, Orlando Magic 94

Screen Shot 2012-12-26 at 11.20.01 PM

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

In Ryan Anderson’s first game back at Amway Center since being traded by the Orlando Magic before the season, it would not come as a shock if he did his usual damage behind the three-point line and on the offensive glass. Magic fans had grown accustomed to seeing that from Anderson over the years.

It would not come as a shock, either, if Anthony Davis — the New Orleans Hornets rookie and top overall draft pick — stuffed the stat sheet.

Davis and Anderson are the Hornets’ two best players and even though New Orleans came into tonight’s game with an 11-game losing streak, it wouldn’t have been unheard of for Davis and Anderson help snap a long losing skid against the Magic.

Instead, it was two unsung heroes for the Hornets that led the way — Robin Lopez and Greivis Vasquez.

Lopez is sneaky good and he showed off his skills against Orlando. Matched up primarily against Nikola Vucevic, Lopez got off to a scorching hot start, making all six of his field goal attempts and scoring 14 points in the first quarter. Lopez finished with 29 points on 12 shots.

Lopez scored on righty and lefty hooks, as well as midrange jumpers, and there was nothing Vucevic could do to slow him down. It’s rare to see Vucevic outclassed defensively, but that’s precisely what happened against Lopez.

As for Vasquez, he had a career-night, finishing with 27 points, eight assists, and six rebounds.

In a game where Jameer Nelson turned back the clock and delivered a vintage performance, Vasquez kept pace with him. Vasquez did most of his damage on offense in pick-and-rolls. All night long, the Magic had major trouble containing dribble penetration, which allowed Vasquez to pick apart Orlando’s defense with midrange jumpers, layups, and floaters.

So even though Davis and Anderson had pedestrian games for their standards, Lopez and Vasquez were able to pick up the slack and New Orleans came away with a surprising victory.

For the Magic, that’s rather unfortunate because Nelson’s best game of the season was wasted. Nelson, just like Vasquez did to Orlando defensively, flummoxed the Hornet’s defense with his pick-and-roll craftsmanship. Nelson was equally aggressive in taking the pull-up jumper as he was attacking the rim. Unfortunately for Nelson, it wasn’t enough.

Aside from Nelson, no one else for the Magic played marginally well. As a result, Orlando lost a very winnable game.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

There were several standout performances. Lopez had 29 points on 12 shots to go along with three blocks. Vasquez finished with a career-high 27 points, eight assists, and six rebounds. Nelson put up 28 points, 10 assists, and five rebounds.

Defining Moment

Vucevic missed a game-tying three-pointer from the right corner with 2.9 seconds left, after J.J. Redick couldn’t get a clean look beyond the arc, and the Hornets were able to escape with a 97-94 win over the Magic.

That Was … a Relief

It must come as a huge relief to New Orleans that they were able to snap their 11-game losing streak by finding a way to win a close game after coming up short in previous games.

Dec 26

Preview: New Orleans Hornets at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: New Orleans Hornets at Orlando Magic
  • Date: December 26, 2012
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Hornets: 5-22
  • Magic: 12-15

Probable starters

Hornets:

  • Greivis Vasquez
  • Austin Rivers
  • Lance Thomas
  • Anthony Davis
  • Robin Lopez

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Gustavo Ayon
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Hornets:

  • Pace: 88.0 (29th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.6 (24th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 110.0 (29th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 92.2 (12th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 100.2 (29th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 101.9 (7th of 30)

Read about the Hornets

Hornets247

Dec 24

Monday’s Magic Word

  • Marc Stein of ESPN.com: “Jacque Vaughn’s post-Dwight Magic were starting to generate comparisons to the 1999-2000 overachievers who went 41-41 under Doc Rivers with headliners like Ben Wallace and Darrell Armstrong. But they’ll have to be even grittier now after losing Big Baby Davis to a shoulder injury.”
  • David Aldridge of NBA.com is the latest scribe to pen a profile on the Orlando Magic’s surprising start.
  • In back-to-back losses to the Toronto Raptors and Utah Jazz, it’s become readily apparent that the Magic miss Glen Davis’ presence offensively.
  • Davis hopes to return from his sprained left shoulder sooner rather than later.
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel reports that Hedo Turkoglu, who hasn’t played since November 2 due to a broken left hand, “is nearing a return to game action.”
  • Turnovers proved costly in Orlando’s loss to the Utah Jazz in Sunday’s game.

Dec 24

J.J. Redick the playmaker

For years, J.J. Redick was known as just a shooter and for good reason. At Duke, Redick tortured opponents with his deadly marksmanship, setting an NCAA record for most three-point field goals made during his four-year tenure as a Blue Devil. When Redick took his talents to the NBA, he continued to show off his shooting prowess.

Then something funny happened. In between his rookie season with Brian Hill and his final season with Stan Van Gundy, the scouting report on Redick became outdated. “Redick the shooter” had evolved into “Redick the playmaker.”

In the early stages of his career in the league, Redick’s offense was generated mainly by him spotting up on the perimeter or coming off screens for catch-and-shoot opportunities. That’s how Redick made his living in his first few seasons with the Orlando Magic.

The problem was that Redick wasn’t really going anywhere in the NBA as strictly a shooter. Redick wasn’t getting much playing time under Hill and Van Gundy and people were openly wondering if he was going to go from being a lottery pick to a flameout. For Redick to survive, and ultimately thrive, in the NBA, he needed to expand his boundaries and become much more than just a shooter.

So Redick did.

Redick became well-versed in the art of the pick-and-roll, which fueled his breakout season in 2010. Redick began to understand the little nuances of NBA offenses — making dribble penetration a regular part of his offensive diet — and how they can be manipulated to his advantage. Redick showed remarkable improvement in his passing — he’s no Steve Nash, but watching Redick make pocket passes is a real treat.

In other words, Redick turned into a playmaker.

And this season for the Magic, under head coach Jacque Vaughn, Redick’s playmaking ability has been relied upon more than at any other point in his career. Case in point: Redick has the highest usage rate of his career right now (21.5 percent) and his assist numbers have gone way up compared to previous years — his assist percentage (25.8 percent) and assists per game (4.9) are both career-highs.

The following is a breakdown of Redick’s playmaking ability.

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Pocket passing

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On this possession, Orlando runs a staggered 2/4 pick-and-roll with Redick, Arron Afflalo, and Andrew Nicholson.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dec 24

Recap: Utah Jazz 97, Orlando Magic 93

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AP Photo/Scott Iskowitz

BOX SCORE

In a 93-90 loss against the Toronto Raptors on Friday, the Orlando Magic shot themselves in the foot by committing 18 turnovers. In a game decided by one possession, turnovers played a large role in the defeat.

You would think that Orlando had learned their lesson heading into Sunday’s game against the Utah Jazz, but apparently not. Like the Toronto game, the Magic outshot and outrebounded their opponent by a wide margin but they were doomed by turnovers — 19 to be exact.

Orlando raced out to an early 16-point lead thanks to a combination of crisp offensive execution and porous defense by the Jazz.

Arron Afflalo, in particular, was red hot offensively, making six of his first seven field goal attempts for 13 points. Afflalo was making jumpers all over the court — free-throw line extended, along the left baseline, and from the right wing. It’s safe to say that Kendrick Lamar, had he been watching the game (maybe he was), would have been jealous of Afflalo.

With Afflalo doing no wrong and the offense humming, the stage was set for the Magic to blow the game wide open. That didn’t happen. Instead, Afflalo and Orlando bogged down offensively in the second quarter. Afflalo missed all five of his shot attempts in the period, while the turnover bug bit the Magic.

Orlando committed seven turnovers in the second quarter (Utah committed one), which opened the door for the Jazz to get back in the game. Utah did just that. The Jazz’s second unit, led by Derrick Favors, erased a 16-point deficit in short order.

As a result, from the waning moments of the second quarter to the end of the game, the Magic found themselves in a dog fight. And ultimately, Utah won the fight with a little help from Orlando and Gustavo Ayon.

With the Magic trailing 95-93 with 2.4 seconds left, Ayon found himself at the free-throw line after he was fouled by Randy Foye. That came after Ayon found himself wide open under the basket, but was unable to get a clean look at a layup, as Orlando frantically tried to tie the game. Unfortunately for Ayon, he missed both free-throws, which allowed the Jazz to quell the comeback and seal the victory.

It’s easy to pin the blame for the Magic’s loss on Ayon’s missed free-throws. But the fact of the matter is that Orlando had a 16-point lead against Utah and blew it mainly because of 19 turnovers.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Gordon Hayward came off the bench and provided a big lift for the Jazz (17 points on 7-for-10 shooting). Hayward made a key block on Afflalo’s step-back jumper late in the game as Utah was clinging to a 92-90 lead. 

Defining Moment

After Paul Millsap made one of two free-throws to put the Jazz up 95-93, on the ensuing possession, Ayon was fouled after finding himself wide open under the basket. However, Ayon missed both free-throws and Utah held on to win. 

That Was … Late-Game Drama

After being down by as many as 16 points early in the second quarter, the Jazz escaped with a 97-93 victory in a tightly contested game. Crunch time consisted of clutch baskets, missed free-throws, and some ugly turnovers. 

Dec 23

Preview: Utah Jazz at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Utah Jazz at Orlando Magic
  • Date: December 23, 2012
  • Time: 6:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Jazz: 14-14
  • Magic: 12-14

Probable starters

Jazz:

  • Jamaal Tinsley
  • Randy Foye
  • Marvin Williams
  • Paul Millsap
  • Al Jefferson

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Gustavo Ayon
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Jazz:

  • Pace: 91.3 (20th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 106.8 (11th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.4 (24th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 92.3 (11th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 100.1 (29th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 101.7 (6th of 30)

Read about the Jazz

Salt City Hoops

Dec 22

Recap: Toronto Raptors 93, Orlando Magic 90

Screen Shot 2012-12-22 at 2.43.34 PM

AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jesse Johnston

BOX SCORE

For a good chunk of the game, the Toronto Raptors were in control against the Orlando Magic. As has been his custom during the Raptors’ winning streak, Jose Calderon quarterbacked the offense while Toronto got enough help from the supporting cast — including a surprising contribution from rookie Terrence Ross (13 points on 5-for-8 shooting from the floor including two thunderous dunks).

The Magic further helped the Raptors’ cause by not taking care of the basketball. Orlando committed 18 turnovers for the game. By comparison, Toronto had nine turnovers. So even though Orlando outshot and outrebounded the Raptors by a wide margin, turnovers proved to be their undoing.

The crazy part is that this game was there for the taking for the Magic despite the turnovers.

With 4:13 left in the game and Toronto leading 91-80, Orlando went on a 10-0 run to pull themselves within one.

Arron Afflalo, who had one of his best games of the season with a James Harden-esque 26 points on 11 shots, kicked things off by breaking down Alan Anderson off the dribble, making a layup plus drawing a foul, and converting a traditional three-point play.

A little bit later, Gustavo Ayon kept the run going by making an offensive rebound putback, then drawing a foul himself with the Magic in the bonus and making two free-throws.

Then with less than a minute to go, Jameer Nelson made a three-pointer at the top of the key with Calderon draped over him. Nelson can thank the jab-step he took, just before launching the three-point shot, for creating enough space for him to get a clean shot off.

After two Amir Johnson free-throws gave the Raptors a 93-90 lead with 42.6 seconds left, Orlando had a chance to cut their deficit to one or tie the game. But Ayon committed a turnover after he was unable to catch a difficult pass from Redick, who dribble penetrated and tried to make a dump-off pass to Ayon in traffic. Yet a foolish decision by DeMar DeRozan gave the Magic another chance.

Rather than run out the clock and leave Orlando with very little time left, DeRozan took an ill-advised contested jumper with 14.3 seconds left and seven seconds left on the shot clock.

Unfortunately for Orlando, they were unable to capitalize. Redick missed a long three-pointer from the right wing on a sideline out-of-bounds play with former Magic teammate Mickael Pietrus contesting the shot. Orlando was able to get the offensive rebound with about five seconds left, but Nelson committed a turnover before the Magic could get another shot off.

A fitting way to end the game for Orlando — their four-game winning streak snapped.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

A number of Magic players had solid performances. Afflalo was uber-efficient and Nikola Vucevic (16 points and 12 rebounds) and Ayon had double-doubles (12 points and 13 rebounds). But at the end of the night, it wasn’t enough.

X-Factor

In Orlando’s first game of the season decided by three points or less, 18 turnovers proved to be their downfall. It’s appropriate that, on the last two possessions of the game, the Magic ended both of them with turnovers.

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