Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 9

Jun 27

3-on-3: Reactions and fallout from the Afflalo trade

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Photos by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images

According to Yahoo! Sports, the Magic have traded Arron Afflalo to the Nuggets in exchange for Evan Fournier and the 56th pick in the draft (Devyn Marble). Our writers weigh in on the aftermath of the trade.

1. Good deal for the Magic?

Scott Rafferty: It’s hard to believe that the best the Magic could get in a trade for Arron Afflalo is a bench player and a late second-round pick, but they did clear cap space in doing so. Also, seeing as Afflalo is likely going to decline his player option next summer, it’s good that the Magic got at least some return on him.

Eddy Rivera: I’m surprised that the Magic weren’t able to get something more for Afflalo, especially when it was rumored that teams (namely the Hornets and Bulls) were willing to give up a first round pick for him. Technically, Fournier is a former first round pick, but you would have liked to see GM Rob Hennigan get a better return for Afflalo.

Tim Sartori: It’s not a fantastic deal. Evan Fournier is nowhere near the player that Arron Afflalo is, but the Magic have been shopping Afflalo for a while now so if they think that this is the best they can get for him (Hennigan does his due diligence), then perhaps it is.

2. Good deal for Arron Afflalo?

Rafferty: There were some rumors floating around before the trade that the Chicago Bulls and Charlotte Hornets were interested in Afflalo, and both those situations would’ve suited him better. Nevertheless, he should be a nice fit alongside Ty Lawson. It’s not the championship contender he wanted but, at the very least, he’s in a good place to flaunt his stuff before he expects to make a splash in free agency.

Rivera: It’s good for Afflalo, in the sense that he’ll be playing on a more competitive team in Denver that should contend for a playoff spot next season. But it would have been fun to see him with the Bulls. He would have been a perfect fit there, given that he’s the type of secondary wing scorer that Chicago desperately needs.

Sartori: Afflalo supposedly wanted to join a contender, and obviously Denver isn’t exactly that right now. However, he only has two years left on his contract with a player option coming after this season, so he’ll be able to head into free agency after a season with a team that will allow him to showcase his whole offensive game.

3. Which Magic player benefits the most from Afflalo’s absence?

Rafferty: A big reason why Tobias Harris was more efficient and effective off the bench last season was because he had a lot more freedom offensively. Seeing as Afflalo was practically their engine offensively, someone is going to have to step up and replace his production. Some of that will come from Victor Oladipo and Nikola Vucevic, obviously, but a big chunk should come from Harris.

Rivera: Victor Oladipo. With the Afflalo trade and the acquisition of point guard Elfrid Payton in the draft, the Magic have made it abundantly clear that they see Oladipo as the franchise’s two-guard of the future. The point guard experiment is over and now Oladipo can start full-time at his natural position.

Sartori: The biggest benefactor will probably be somebody who wasn’t even a Magic player less than 24 hours ago: Aaron Gordon. It hasn’t yet been determined which forward position Gordon will spend most of his time at in the NBA, but moving Afflalo gives the Magic the ability to slide Gordon into the 3 for periods when Afflalo likely would’ve been playing there.

Jun 27

Examining the Arron Afflalo trade

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Since the season ended for the Orlando Magic in the middle of April, there has been a lot of talk about Arron Afflalo’s future with the team. The 28-year-old was stuck in limbo, putting up big numbers in the prime of his career for a franchise that is in the midst of a major rebuild in the aftermath of Dwight Howard’s departure.

The timing couldn’t have been better for the Magic, either. Following a year in which Afflalo flirted with an All-Star appearance, posting career-high averages across the board, his trade value was as high as it has ever been. Not only that, his contract was an easy sell — $7.5 million per season over two more years (the last being a player option) for one of the better two-guards in the Association.

After weeks of rumors, the Magic finally found a suitor for Afflalo in the hours leading up to the 2014 NBA Draft. According to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, they have agreed to send him back to his old stomping grounds, Denver, for Evan Fournier and the 56th pick in the 2014 draft (which turned out to be Devyn Marble).

For the Magic, the biggest takeaway from the trade is cap relief. By parting ways with Afflalo, they now have less than $35 million committed to their roster for the 2014-15 season, and that can be trimmed down further if they decline the options on Kyle O’Quinn, Doron Lamb, Jason Maxiell and Jameer Nelson’s contract.

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Jun 26

Magic trade Arron Afflalo to Nuggets

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Via Orlando Magic press release:

The Orlando Magic have acquired guard/forward Evan Fournier (forn-yay) and the draft rights to guard Roy Devyn Marble (56th overall pick) in exchange for guard Arron Afflalo, general manager Rob Hennigan announced tonight.

“We’re excited to welcome Evan (Fournier) and his family to Orlando,” said Hennigan. “We believe Evan’s intriguing blend of talent and skill will be a benefit to our backcourt and to the continued growth and development of our team. Roy had an outstanding collegiate career and we look forward to adding him to our team.”

“We’d like to thank Arron (Afflalo) for his two seasons here in Orlando,” continued Hennigan. “Arron is a consummate professional and competitor, and we certainly wish him all the best.”

Fournier (6’7”, 204, 10/29/92) played in 76 games last season with the Nuggets, averaging 8.4 ppg., 2.7 rpg. and 1.5 apg. in 19.8 mpg., while shooting .376 (89-237) from three-point range. He led (or tied) the team in scoring six times and in assists twice. Fournier scored in double figures 27 times and had 20+ points four times, including a career-high 27 points on Feb. 23 vs. Sacramento.

Originally selected by Denver in the first round (20th overall) of the 2012 NBA Draft, Fournier has appeared in 114 career NBA regular season games, all with the Nuggets, averaging 7.4 ppg., 2.1 rpg. and 1.4 apg. in 16.9 mpg., while shooting .381 (111-291) from three-point range. He also played in four career playoff outings, averaging 4.8 ppg. and 1.0 apg. in 13.3 mpg.

Marble (6’6”, 200, 9/21/92) played in 136 career games during four years at the University of Iowa, averaging 12.5 ppg., 3.4 rpg., 2.9 apg. and 1.29 spg. in 27.6 mpg. He ranks second on the school’s all-time games played list with 136. Marble also ranks in Hawkeyes’ history in scoring (fifth, 1,694 points), assists (sixth, 397) and steals (seventh, 176).

As a senior (2013-14), Marble played and started in 33 games, averaging 17.0 ppg., 3.6 apg., 3.2 rpg. and 1.82 spg. in 30.2 mpg. He was named First Team All-Big Ten after leading the team in scoring and ranked second in assists. Marble scored in double figures 27 times.

During his junior campaign (2012-13), Marble played and started in 37 games, averaging 15.0 ppg., 4.0 rpg., 3.0 apg. and 1.14 spg. in 30.5 mpg. He led the Hawkeyes in scoring and assists, and was named Third Team All-Big Ten.

Marble is the son of Roy Marble, a former NBA player and the all-time leading scorer in Iowa history.

Jun 26

Magic acquire draft rights to Elfrid Payton

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Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Via Orlando Magic press release:

The Orlando Magic have acquired the draft rights to guard Elfrid Payton (10th overall pick) from Philadelphia in exchange for the draft rights to Dario Saric (12th overall pick), a second round pick in 2015 and a future first round pick (the pick that was acquired by Orlando from Philadelphia in the Dwight Howard trade), general manager Rob Hennigan announced tonight.

Payton (6’3”, 190, 2/22/94) played in 100 career games during three years at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, averaging 14.3 ppg., 5.1 rpg., 4.9 apg. and 1.97 spg. in 31.6 mpg. He is the school’s all-time leader in steals with 197.

As a junior (2013-14), Payton played and started all 35 games, averaging a team-high 19.2 ppg., 6.0 rpg., 5.9 apg. and 2.29 spg. in 35.9 mpg., while shooting .509 (237-466) from the floor. He led the Ragin’ Cajuns to a 23-12 record and their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2005. Payton was named the 2013-14 Lefty Driesell National Defensive Player of the Year and a Lou Henson All-American. He earned First Team All-Sun Belt Conference honors for the second straight season and was the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Payton led the conference in steals for the second straight year with 80. He scored 20+ points 14 times, had 30-or-more points four times and attempted a school-record 302 free throws (second in the nation). Payton was also one of only ten NCAA Division I players to record a triple-double with 34 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists on Jan. 4 vs. Lousiana-Monroe.

During his sophomore season (2012-13), Payton played and started all 33 games, averaging a team-high 15.9 ppg., 5.6 rpg., 5.5 apg. and 2.42 spg. in 35.5 mpg., earning First Team All-Sun Belt Conference honors. He was the only player in NCAA Division I to average 15.0 ppg., 5.0 rpg., 5.0 apg. and 2.00 spg. Payton led the Sun Belt Conference in assists and steals, ranked second in minutes played, third in scoring, fifth in assists-to-turnover ratio (1.60) and ninth in field goal percentage (.475).

As a freshman (2011-12), Payton played in all 32 games (11 starts), averaging 7.2 ppg., 3.6 rpg., 3.0 apg. and 1.16 spg. in 22.7 mpg., leading the team in assists.

Jun 26

Magic draft Aaron Gordon with No. 4 pick

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Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Via Orlando Magic press release:

The Orlando Magic selected forward Aaron Gordon in the first round (fourth overall) of the 2014 NBA Draft.

Gordon (6’9”, 225, 9/16/95) played and started in all 38 games during his only season at the University of Arizona, averaging 12.4 ppg., 8.0 rpg., 2.0 apg. and 1.03 bpg. in 31.2 mpg. He helped the Wildcats to a 33-5 record, a Pac-12 regular season championship and an Elite Eight appearance in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Gordon led Arizona in rebounding (seventh in conference), while ranking second in both scoring and blocked shots (11th in conference).

Gordon was named First Team All-Pac-12 and the 2013-14 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. Gordon also earned Third Team All-American honors by The Sporting News and Honorable Mention by The Associated Press. He was one of six finalists for the Wayman Tisdale National Freshman of the Year Award.

Jun 25

Five scenarios for the Magic’s draft selections

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Photo by Sam Forencich/Getty Images

And here we are — our time has come. Le moment est venu, as the French say. (I think; that’s what Google says, anyway.) It’s draft time. For Magic fans, this is the one: future top five picks cannot be considered as “part of the plan.” The plan must germinate Thursday night, and the garden must beautify.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably as excited as I am for the draft. Therefore, I end my hype here. We need to talk about what’s actually going to happen.

Before the recent foot injury to Joel Embiid, there were only about two potential scenarios for how the Magic’s two lottery picks, or at least their first lottery pick, would shape up. As I see it, there are now five scenarios to consider. Of course, there are technically hundreds, but the probability is highest for these five — and just as with the draft lottery, the percentages always win out.

Oh, wait.

(CAVEAT: I have no idea who Orlando is selecting with the 12th pick; are you kidding me? These are just five guesses. The only real confidence I have is in how the first pick will play out. But if I nail the second one, I will graciously accept praise and admiration.)

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Jun 11

Investigating Nikola Vucevic’s path to greatness

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Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Over the past two seasons, Nikola Vucevic has shown us he has the ability to be a serviceable — if not great — big man for the Magic in the coming years. He has continued to refine his offensive game since coming into the league, shooting a touch over 50 percent from the floor this season, and improving his midrange jump shot to the point where he is able to provide some floor spacing, as well as showing off a solid low post game.

One area offensively that Vucevic struggled with this year was in the pick-and-roll, only converting on 42.8 percent (77-for-180) of his field goal attempts as the roll man in this situation. Granted, he spent most of his time with rookie Victor Oladipo playing point guard — a player who had spent minimal time at this position prior to this season — but a number that low, for somebody that size, is worthy of investigating.

Vucevic was often hesitant to attack the rim once he caught the ball on the roll, both in looking to put himself in a position to score, or to make a pass for a teammate to be in a position to do so. This was particularly evident against teams that would “trap” the pick-and-roll — a defensive method which is becoming increasingly outdated in the NBA.

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Jun 04

Determining Arron Afflalo’s future

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Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

There weren’t many bright spots for the Orlando Magic in the 2013-14 season, but one of them was certainly the emergence of Arron Afflalo.

Afflalo joined the team in the notorious Dwight Howard, 12-player trade, and as the primary option on a lottery-destined roster in 2012-13, he struggled out of the gates. Being the focal point of the team took some adjusting and questions began to arise about whether or not Afflalo could fulfill a bigger role than the 3-and-D one he had in Denver.

Nevertheless, he treated it as a learning experience, and in his second year with the team, any concerns about his ability to be a go-to scorer were quickly put to bed. He posted career numbers across the board, averaging 18.2 points per contest on 45.9 percent shooting from the floor and 42.7 percent from 3-point range. He finished the season as the Magic’s leading scorer, and heading into the All-Star break, he was a sleeper to represent the Eastern Conference as a reserve.

However, with two years remaining on his team-friendly contract ($7.5 million each year), the Magic are at a crossroads with what to do with him. As they look to turn the corner and add a final piece to their post-Dwight Howard-era puzzle, Afflalo sticks out like a sore thumb: A veteran in his prime on a rebuilding team. While the Magic are hoping to turn the corner next season and pull themselves out of the lottery, they’re still a few years removed from making any legitimate noise in the Eastern Conference — ones that extend beyond Afflalo’s prime.

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May 28

Maurice Harkless: 3-and-D player in the making?

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When the wild, unwelcome dust from the Dwight Howard tornado-trades eventually settled in the summer of 2012, a cast of no-names found themselves standing in Orlando. No one knew exactly who among them would stand time’s test and fill out the Magic’s future constitution. Some are already memories (Josh McRoberts, Al Harrington). But some are still here and appear to be central to the future of the team.

One of those former no-names is Maurice Harkless. Anytime you read about the bright outlook for the Magic or the successful pieces GM Rob Hennigan has accumulated, you almost always hear the names of Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Victor Oladipo, and Harkless, with the recent inclusion of Kyle O’Quinn for some.

The first three are no-brainers in that regard; if they don’t pan out, the whole rebuilding plan will undoubtedly collapse.

But the inclusion of Harkless always gets me thinking. Is he truly that vital? How significantly would the rebuild be derailed if he suddenly retired in order to stop people from hearing what the Herald Angels are singing?

Truthfully, if you compare his statistics from his most recent sophomore season to his first, his numbers are down in almost every category across the board. Not significantly, but the point is that the trend isn’t on the up. He scored, rebounded, and blocked less than in his rookie year. These aren’t areas you want to see regression in from a building block player.

And then your eye fixes on one single stat that changes your entire outlook on Harkless: his 3-point percentage. What an improvement we find there. This past season he jumped over a hundred percentage points in made 3-pointers, from a painful 27.4 percent to a very healthy 38.3 percent.

To put that stat in perspective, it’s among the top 50 in the league and only .1 percent behind a guy named Kevin Durant, who’s pretty good. That’s no fluke. Harkless has clearly worked very hard to expand his shooting arsenal.

Couple that improved shooting with his already-known defensive capabilities and you begin to see why there is so much promise to be found in the guy. He could be exactly the type of role player a winning team needs: a defensive stopper who specializes in the knocking down the most valuable shot in the game. What more could you really ask for?

Harkless’ game somewhat reminds me of a former Magic player: Trevor Ariza. Ironic, given that he was traded away by the Magic for his inability to shoot 3s before he eventually developed into a sharpshooter. I think it’s fair to say that if Harkless’ career ends up following Ariza’s path, Magic fans can consider that a win.

Ariza is a player who now is consistently averaging 1.5 to 2.0 steals per game, but it took him five seasons to even get above 1.0 per game. Harkless has been at that level right from the start. Ariza barely attempted 3s during his first five years; this past season, he finished among the league leaders in 3-pointer percentage at 40.7 percent. Yet he’d never reached Harkless’ 38.3 percent before last year.

So it’s just possibly possible that Maurice Harkless is a Trevor Ariza type, a 3-and-D player with a lengthy wingspan, but on a faster and more extensive progression. Or it’s at least exciting to think that way.

The point: there is absolutely more room for growth, and he’s only played two seasons in the league. The Magic are desperate for shooters, and seeing more improvement from the current players, and Harkless, may go just as far as bringing in outside help.

Let’s keep putting Harkless in the “Magic cornerstones” category for now. It’ll be exciting to see where the young man elevates his game to next.

May 23

In defense of Jacque Vaughn

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Photo by Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

When the Orlando Magic extended the contract of coach Jacque Vaughn (and GM Rob Hennigan) through the 2015-16 season, the general consensus among Magic fans was that Vaughn was not deserving of his extension. Their reasoning was simple: he has not proven to be a good head coach.

Even though Vaughn was the NBA’s youngest head coach at the time of his hiring (at age 37) in the summer of 2012, expectations within the Magic fan base were high since he was coming from the hallowed Gregg Popovich coaching tree, having spent two seasons on the sidelines as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs. Given that Popovich is undoubtedly the best head coach in the league, the thinking was that Vaughn would be an excellent head coach himself by symbiosis.

In the eyes of Magic fans, Vaughn hasn’t lived up to the hype. In two seasons with Vaughn at the helm, the Magic have gone 43-121 (.262) — the worst two-year stretch in franchise history.

Even though it’s common knowledge that the Magic have been purposely built, in the short term, to lose (or to tank in more blunt terms), the prevalent feeling in Orlando is that Vaughn has not done a good enough coaching job. In fact, there are those within the Magic fan base that feel Vaughn should have been fired already.

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