Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 81

Nov 20

Beginning to consider the 2013 NBA draft lottery

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

There have been no shortage of conspiracy theories surrounding the NBA Draft lottery since its inception in 1985, but I have an only-half-joking hunch that the Magic are going to end up with the top overall pick in 2013. This doesn’t mean they’ll finish with the worst record in the league, although anything is possible.

Over the last three years, an unprecedented number of top-tier players have changed teams, leaving their old clubs temporarily without direction. The teams that lost the biggest stars have been paid back in the form of the prize of that particular year’s draft class.

LeBron James spurned Cleveland for Miami in 2010 and the Cavs ended up with Kyrie Irving the following year. Then, last offseason, Chris Paul navigated his way to the Clippers from the Hornets, who were rewarded with Anthony Davis in June. If the pattern holds, it would stand to reason that everything the Magic have had to deal with over the past 18 months with Dwight Howard would land them at the top of the lottery.

Half-baked conspiracy theories aside, it’s become clear that this Magic team isn’t good and they have a solid shot of finishing the season in range of one of the top few selections. This is a surprise to no one.

College basketball is underway and three weeks into the NBA season, it’s safe to say that we have an idea of what Orlando can do this year. Which is why now is as good a time as any to begin diving into the pool of prospects.

Unfortunately, the early analysis of the 2013 draft class is that it’s a weaker one than the much-lauded 2012 crop. The general consensus is that there are three players favored to be the top picks in some order: UCLA guard Shabazz Muhammad, Kentucky center Nerlens Noel, and Indiana center Cody Zeller.

After a controversial NCAA investigation into his eligibility that delayed the start of his college career, Muhammad finally made his UCLA debut on Monday to mixed reviews. He scored 15 points and shot 2-for-3 from three-point range, but it was clear that the 19-year-old’s game is still a work in progress. Noel has been similarly inconsistent thus far, putting up solid numbers and displaying flashes of his phenomenal physical ability, but still showcasing a raw set of skills. Zeller is the most polished of the three, but has perhaps the least long-term upside. There’s no clear number one like Davis or Blake Griffin and not even these three players can be considered sure things. 

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports had one particularly telling quote from an executive:

As one Western Conference executive was leaving Barclays on Monday night, he knew he’d have to see Shabazz Muhammad over and over this season. After watching Zeller and Muhammad, he did have a suspicion about this spring’s draft. “I think you’re going to see a team who gets that first overall pick who will seriously think about trading down and moving out of it.”

All of this is to say, Hennigan will have plenty of options in June. Even though the Magic stand a good chance of having one of the top picks, there’s no telling what Hennigan will do with it.

This roster is still very much in flux. Through the early season, a few youngsters (Moe Harkless, Nikola Vucevic, and E’Twaun Moore) have impressed, but there is nobody on the team who could be considered “untouchable” in a trade of any kind. And depending on how the rest of the college basketball season shakes out, a pick near the top of the 2013 lottery may turn out to be similarly movable.

Nov 20

Recap: Atlanta Hawks 81, Orlando Magic 72

AP Photo/David Goldman

BOX SCORE

Entering Monday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks, head coach Jacque Vaughn had let it be known that he wanted to see the Orlando Magic get off to a better start in the first quarter. In seven of the Magic’s nine games this season, they trailed by at least eight points in the opening period. Not coincidentally, Orlando lost seven of those nine games.

After the Magic led 23-21 after the first quarter against the Hawks, it was clear that the players heeded Vaughn’s message. The problem was that Orlando didn’t build off of their (relatively) strong start to the game.

Instead, Atlanta turned a close game in the first half into a blowout in the third quarter before the Magic’s bench went on an 18-3 run in garbage time during the fourth quarter to make the final score look respectable. The reason Atlanta turned the game into a laugher was because of Orlando’s inability to score.

The Magic struggled all game long to create quality looks for themselves, particularly in half-court sets, which is a problem that has consistently popped up for them in the early stages of the regular season. For the most part, Orlando was attempting shots that were usually contested. When the Magic did get a clean look, they typically didn’t convert.

It wasn’t as if the Hawks blew the doors off offensively against Orlando, either. Atlanta scored 81 points on 95 possessions. The Magic were just worse, scoring 72 points on the same number of possessions.

It didn’t help that Glen Davis, sporting the highest usage rate on Orlando’s roster (26.9 percent), continues to be a black hole on offense. Davis’ True Shooting percentage entering Monday was an anemic 45.1 percent. Following a dreadful 11-point performance (5-for-13 from the floor and 1-for-3 from the free-throw line), that percentage won’t get better.

It also didn’t help that Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick played sick. Nelson and Redick deserve credit for gutting it out and trying to play under the weather, but it didn’t work out for either of them. They combined to score 10 points on 4-for-15 shooting and struggled to play with energy.

To sum it up, nearly everyone didn’t play well for Orlando. Not only did Davis, Nelson, and Redick play poorly, but players like Arron Afflalo (six points on 3-for-10 shooting) and E’Twaun Moore (eight points on 4-for-12 shooting and seven turnovers) struggled as well.

If there’s a silver lining to this game for the Magic, it’s that — as Stan Van Gundy used to say — it counts as just one loss.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Al Horford (15 points and nine rebounds) was one of the few standout performers in an otherwise ugly game. Considering how poorly some other players performed, like Josh Smith, Horford looked like a world-beater at times.

Defining Moment

Leading 41-37 at halftime, the Hawks used a 17-2 run during the third quarter to break the game wide open. Their double-digit lead ballooned to as many as 24 points in the final period.

Nov 19

Preview: Orlando Magic at Atlanta Hawks

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Atlanta Hawks
  • Date: November 19, 2012
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: NBA TV
  • Arena: Phillips Arena

Records

  • Magic: 3-6
  • Pistons: 4-4

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • J.J. Redick
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Glen Davis
  • Nikola Vucevic

Hawks:

  • Jeff Teague
  • Devin Harris
  • Kyle Korver
  • Josh Smith
  • Al Horford

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.6 (18th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 98.5 (26th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 104.7 (17th of 30)

Hawks:

  • Pace: 92.1 (16th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.5 (20th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 101.7 (8th of 30)

Read about the Hawks

HawksHoop

Nov 19

Monday’s Magic Word

  • In Kurt Helin’s latest power rankings at ProBasketballTalk, the Orlando Magic came in at No. 25: “If you want some bright spots, Jameer Nelson is back and the ball movement looks better. Plus there was the dramatic fourth-quarter comeback against Detroit. It’s not much but at least their losing streak has ended.”
  • Meanwhile, the Magic rank No. 26 in ESPN.com’s Marc Stein’s power rankings with an important tidbit: “[Their] case for finding a third team in the Dwight Howard deal so the Magic wouldn’t have to take back Andrew Bynum has never been stronger.”
  • For those that don’t know, it’s been reported that Bynum suffered a setback in his rehab by injuring his left knee while bowing.
  • A recap of Orlando’s loss against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday.
  • The Magic will be facing off against their nemesis tonight.
  • Should Orlando re-sign J.J. Redick? He’s in the last year of his contract.
  • Redick, who missed Sunday’s game against the Raptors due to an illness, is a game-time decision tonight against the Atlanta Hawks.
  • Head coach Jacque Vaughn wants to see the Magic get off to a better start in first quarters.
  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “The top priority tonight for the Magic (3-6) against the Hawks (4-4) is to get off to a better start so that they are not fighting from behind all game. That has been a trend most of this season as Orlando has trailed by at least eight points in the first quarter of seven of nine games so far.”
  • John Schumann of NBA.com with this statistical nugget: “Somehow, Glen Davis has taken 148 shots from the field and has only 19 free throw attempts. He’s had his shot blocked more times (21) than he’s been to the line.”

Nov 18

Recap: Toronto Raptors 97, Orlando Magic 86

AP Photo/THE CANADIAN PRESS, Frank Gunn

BOX SCORE

Nothing like a little dejavu. Sort of.

Against the Detroit Pistons on Friday, the Orlando Magic came back from a 13-point deficit to escape with a win.

Against the Toronto Raptors, the Magic came back from a 13-point deficit and led 74-73 with 8:29 left in the game. That’s where things took a turn for the worse for Orlando, however.

The Raptors proceeded to go on a 19-4 run and came away with an 11-point victory, all thanks to Jose Calderon’s precision passing. Calderon systematically picked apart the Magic’s defense, assisting on 15 of Toronto’s 19 points during the run.

Calderon started things off with a drive-and-kick pass to Linas Kleiza for a three-pointer from the right wing. Then on the ensuing possession, Amir Johnson took a handoff pass from Calderon and drilled a three-point shot from the right corner. A few minutes later, Calderon executed a 1/5 pick-and-roll with Andrea Bargnani, with Bargnani making an 8-foot jumper in the paint. Then on the next play down, Bargnani made a 15-foot jumper alongside the right baseline on a feed from Calderon — Johnson did a nice job of setting a pin-down screen for Bargnani, freeing him up for the shot.

At this point, the score was 87-78 in favor of Toronto and Orlando was reeling. That’s when Calderon finished the Magic off and put them out of their misery. First, he found DeMar DeRozan for an alley-oop dunk in transition following a steal from Bargnani. Then Calderon executed a 1/4 pick-and-roll with Johnson on the left side of the court and made a skip pass to Kleiza for a three-pointer in the right corner.

Ballgame.

It’s rare that a player dominates a game with his passing, unless you’re name is Rajon Rondo (who does it regularly), but that’s what Calderon did against Orlando. Consider this: Calderon, by himself, had as many assists (18) as the Magic had as a team. In the decisive fourth quarter, Calderon had 10 assists and accounted for 23 of the Raptors’ 30 points in the period without scoring a single point. Those are mind-blowing numbers.

While Orlando was struggling to create shots for themselves offensively (especially with J.J. Redick unable to play due to an illness), Calderon was doing it effortlessly for Toronto and it’s why they won.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Starting at point guard for an injured Kyle Lowry (bone bruise), Calderon picked apart the Magic’s defense with his passing all afternoon. Stat of the day? Calderon: 18 assists (including 10 in the fourth quarter alone). Orlando: 18 assists.

X-Factor

Amir Johnson (15 points) and Linas Kleiza (12 points) gave the Raptors a huge lift off the bench, particularly in the fourth quarter, where they combined to score 24 of Toronto’s 30 points in the period.

Defining Moment

After coughing up a 13-point lead and trailing 74-73 early in the fourth quarter, the Raptors responded by going on a 19-4 run that allowed them to regain control of the game. Calderon’s passing wizardry mystified the Magic during the run.

Nov 18

Preview: Orlando Magic at Toronto Raptors

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Toronto Raptors
  • Date: November 18, 2012
  • Time: 1:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Air Canada Centre

Records

  • Magic: 3-5
  • Pistons: 2-7

Probable starters

Magic:

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

Raptors:

  • Jose Calderon
  • DeMar DeRozan
  • Dominic McGuire
  • Andrea Bargnani
  • Jonas Valanciunas

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.7 (20th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 99.0 (26th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 104.4 (18th of 30)

Raptors:

  • Pace: 90.9 (24th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.1 (21st of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.7 (26th of 30)

Read about the Raptors

Raptors Republic

Nov 17

Recap: Orlando Magic 110, Detroit Pistons 106

Photo by Dan Lippitt/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

After missing the last five games with a strained groin and hamstring, Jameer Nelson made his return from injury against the Detroit Pistons on Friday. And even though Nelson finished with 13 points and 10 assists, he made his impact with his words more so than his play.

During a full timeout late in the third quarter with the Pistons leading 75-65, Nelson lit into his teammates and called them out in the huddle. The Magic responded by going on an 8-0 run, cutting their deficit to two during the opening minute of the fourth quarter.

Before Nelson’s outburst, which changed the complexion of the game, Greg Monroe was shredding Orlando’s defense in pick-and-rolls while Tayshaun Prince seemingly couldn’t miss a shot from midrange. Other players for the Pistons were making a positive impact as well, but Monroe and Prince were the driving force behind Detroit building a double-digit lead that ballooned to as much as 13 points in the third quarter.

However, everything changed in the final period.

With 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter and the Magic down by six with the score 83-77 in favor of the Pistons, head coach Jacque Vaughn — probably sensing that Orlando’s bench was losing their grip on the game — put the starting lineup back on the floor against Detroit’s second unit. The move worked, as the Magic went on a 12-3 run to take a three-point lead at 89-86 midway through the period.

From the 7:11 mark in the fourth quarter up until the final minute of the game, there were eight lead changes as both teams went back-and-forth. In that final minute, Orlando’s late-game execution — which had been an achilles heel in previous games — shined through.

After Kyle Singler made two free-throws with 47.7 seconds left to put the Pistons up 102-101, the Magic ran an excellent sideline out-of-bounds play on the ensuing possession for Redick following a timeout that gave them the lead for good.

Redick inbounded the ball to Nikola Vucevic on the left block, then faked going to the top of the arc before cutting back towards the left corner. While all this was happening, Glen Davis set a screen for Redick’s defender (Singler). Redick’s stutter step, in combination with Davis setting an excellent screen from the left wing at the three-point line, was all the space Redick needed to receive the handoff pass from Vucevic, get a clean look from behind the three-point line in the left corner, and make the shot to give Orlando the lead at 104-102.

Hoping to respond with a basket of their own, Detroit ran a nice sideline out-of-bounds play of their own on the next possession. Prince inbounded the basketball to Monroe at the left elbow, then Monroe faked the handoff pass to Prince, which forced Arron Afflalo to switch onto Monroe while Vucevic switched onto Prince. Monroe isolated Afflalo on the left block but Afflalo made a great defensive stand, holding his ground, and forcing Monroe to take an awkward lefty hook that completely missed the rim.

From there, Redick and Afflalo made their free-throws to ice the game and allow the Magic to escape with a four-point win.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Not only did Redick score 12 points in the fourth quarter, but he nailed a three-pointer that proved to be the game-winner for Orlando. Redick finished the game with 23 points on 13 shots — another efficient outing for him offensively.

X-Factor

After teaming up to score 37 points through three quarters, Monroe and Prince combined to score only four points in the final period. That forced the Pistons to rely on other players to step up in crunch time.

Defining Moment

After trailing for most of the evening, Redick’s three-pointer with 42.8 seconds left in regulation was the game-defining play that allowed the Magic to leave Detroit with a come-from-behind victory.

Nov 16

Preview: Orlando Magic at Detroit Pistons

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Detroit Pistons
  • Date: November 16, 2012
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: The Palace at Auburn Hills

Records

  • Magic: 2-5
  • Pistons: 1-8

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • J.J. Redick
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Glen Davis
  • Nikola Vucevic

Pistons:

  • Brandon Knight
  • Kyle Singler
  • Tayshaun Prince
  • Jason Maxiell
  • Greg Monroe

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.2 (26th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 96.5 (26th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 103.4 (18th of 30)

Pistons:

  • Pace: 91.7 (22nd of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 99.9 (23rd of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.6 (27th of 30)

Read about the Pistons

Piston Powered

Nov 16

Friday’s Magic Word

  • Matt Dollinger of Sports Illustrated ranks the Orlando Magic at No. 26 in his latest power rankings: “After a feel-good 2-0 start, the Magic have lost five straight and are in desperate need of an offensive boost. Orlando ranks 26th in points scored per possession and is averaging just 79.8 points on its current slide — all without starters Jameer Nelson (hamstring, groin) and Hedo Turkoglu (hand), who have both been sidelined since the opener, and veteran forward Al Harrington, who has yet to play this season while recovering from knee surgery.”
  • If the Magic trade Josh McRoberts, whose $3.1 million salary is expiring, they shouldn’t expect much for him in return unless he’s included in a larger package.
  • Orlando looks to snap their five-game losing streak against the Detroit Pistons in tonight’s game.
  • Jameer Nelson, who has sat the last six games with a strained groin and hamstring, is a game-time decision against the Pistons.
  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “Nelson said it’s been frustrating to have to sit and watch while the Magic have struggled offensively and struggled to close out games. Nelson wanted to play on Tuesday night against the Knicks, but the training staff and head coach Jacque Vaughn held him out so as to not risk aggravation of the injury that would linger for weeks.”

Nov 16

#ORLrank 8: Rashard Lewis

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

 

G MP PER VORP WARP WS/82
2008-2009 79 2859 16.8 4.03 11.0 9.6
Rashard Lewis’ best season with the Magic

 
Rashard Lewis’ time with the Magic is probably best remembered for how it started and how it ended.

Things kicked off with that insane max contract, and unfair as it was to judge Rashard for accepting a deal offered by a general manager bidding against himself that will set his family for life, it never left the public conscious. Being overpaid is a horrible curse in professional sports, especially those with a salary cap. By being such, you’re willingly hurting your team to improve your own off-court life and even though that’s a decision 100 percent of people would make, nuance is somehow lost when it comes to punditry.

And Lewis’ Magic tenure ended, of course, with the Arenas trade -– that horrible, horrible Arenas trade. In proving that no NBA contract is untradable, Lewis was afforded the faint praise of being slightly less destructive to a team than a former All-Star with no knees and a history of bringing firearms into the locker room. And by fairly openly checking out on the Washington Wizards after the trade, Lewis did his part to support the notion that he was collecting checks just so he can calmly settle into his over-the-hill lodgings.

All of this is a damn shame, because Rashard Lewis was an excellent basketball player when he was on the Orlando Magic. And the great thing was, he was excellent in such a manner that almost every single team in today’s NBA is trying to duplicate.

Lewis wasn’t the first perimeter-oriented NBA big man. In fact, initially, he wasn’t even an NBA big man, playing the wing almost exclusively in Seattle. Statistically, these years were his peak. Ideologically, he was just another very good athletic wing who could shoot. In fact, he wasn’t even the best shooter on his team (hello Ray Allen).

In Orlando, though, Lewis played power forward and basically defined the modern “stretch four.” Guys like Dirk Nowitzki or Mehmet Okur were already deep into their careers at this point and “traditional” power forwards such as Tim Duncan or Kevin Garnett were no slouches from mid-range either, but they were big men who happened to shoot. Lewis moved to power forward because he could shoot.

The Seven Seconds or Less Suns also had four guys who could shoot at all times, but it was almost position-less once you established that Steve Nash was the point guard. Rashard Lewis was the power forward and he could shoot. Not as part of a four-sniper ensemble, but in his own right.

These days, when the power forward position is dominated by guys like Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge, shooting is almost a requirement to play the 4. Rashard Lewis, by Stan Van Gundy’s command, brought that to the public eye by showing how much success can be manufactured from such a constellation.

It would be wrong to pin the Magic’s Finals run exclusively on the matchup problems Lewis created, but re-watch that Cavs series and see Anderson Varejao and Ben Wallace try to both close out on his shot, seal off his penetration, and fail every time. The effect was so profound that the Cavs spent the next eight months desperately looking for a stretch four to combat Lewis, eventually settling on Antawn Jamison (and failing miserably, but that’s neither here nor there).

Rashard Lewis didn’t play his best basketball with the Magic. The All-Star appearance was probably a result of the team’s record more than his own play. There was that bizarre DHEA suspension that came right after he went to the Finals and right before he stopped being great, which leads to more questions than we might want to admit. And he was overpaid throughout. There is a lot not to like about Rashard Lewis, Orlando Magic basketball player.

But Rashard Lewis, Orlando Magic power forward has his imprint all around the NBA.

Voter breakdown for Rashard Lewis

Drexler Highkin Rivera Schiller Scribbins
Scale (1-to-10) 7 9 7 9 8
Average rank: 8.0

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.

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