Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 9

Oct 06

Monday’s Magic Word

  • With Victor Oladipo suffering a sprained MCL, the door has opened for Elfrid Payton to get plenty of playing time in the Magic’s preseason opener against the Miami Heat on Tuesday.
  • Aaron Gordon has spent most of his time at small forward during training camp.
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Guard Willie Green, whom the Magic claimed off waivers over the summer, will not play against the Heat because he recently hyper-extended his left knee.”
  • How long is Oladipo’s recovering time? Dan Feldman of ProBasketballTalk provides an educated guess: “As discovered when researching Frye’s injury, four to six weeks is a rough guess for how much time Oladipo will miss.”
  • Gordon said he has “butterflies” when asked if he was excited for his first preseason game.
  • All three of the Magic’s rookies (Payton, Gordon, and Devyn Marble) are eager to play in their first NBA game.

Oct 06

Player Profile: Evan Fournier

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Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Frankel’s 2014-15 per 36 projections

PPG RPG APG TS% PER ASPM
16.1 4.8 2.9 .561 12.4 -2.5

After being drafted at the tail end of the first round in the 2012 NBA Draft, Evan Fournier showed some signs of life as a rookie with the Denver Nuggets. However, in his second year, when he was expected to emerge as a key contributor off the bench, he took a step back.

It was a learning lesson for everyone involved with the Nuggets. Following a number of injuries, players were forced into a bigger role than they expected to at the start of the 2013-14 NBA season and it led to varying results. Fournier was just one of those players.

With an uptick of minutes, Fournier was scoring at the same rate as his rookie year but his shooting numbers from the field took a turn for the worse, from 49.3 percent in 2012-13 down to 41.9 percent in 2013-14. He also saw his Player Efficiency Rating (13.8 as a rookie and 10.3 as a sophomore) and True Shooting percentage (.597 percent to .533 percent) on the season fall dramatically.

In his first 10 games, Fournier was given the opportunity he was yearning for, playing 15.6 minutes per game. Yet he was churning out only 6.4 points on 41.1 percent shooting from the floor. Soon after, he saw his minutes disappear, and it wasn’t until the start of January — almost two months after being relegated to the end of the bench — that he started to look like the confident guard the Nuggets saw the year before.

Although he was still up-and-down in the final 50 games of the season, Fournier stepped up to the plate when he logged starter’s minutes. In the 12 games in which he played between 30-39 minutes, he averaged 18.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game, sporting a .571 True Shooting percentage on a 22.4 usage rate. Fournier was a good spot-up shooter for the Nuggets, too, which accounted for 22.9 percent of his total offense to the tune of 1.13 points per possession, per Synergy Sports.

Now, after being traded for the Magic’s leading scorer (Arron Afflalo) during the offseason, Fournier will be looking to build on those spurts of brilliance in a new setting. But where he fits into the immediate picture is hazy. Fournier will, more than likely, come off the bench to start the season, and he will be up to fill a variety of roles. Although he’s a shooting guard by nature, he spent 37 percent of his minutes last season playing the three, per Basketball-Reference. And as a rookie, Fournier logged 32 percent of his minutes playing the point.

It’s unlikely that Fournier has learnt all his lessons from last season and there will still likely be a big learning curve before his taps into his potential, but that’s a risk the Magic are willing to take. In a reduced role, Fournier will be looked on to space the floor, something he proved he could do efficiently with the Nuggets. However, he will also be given an opportunity to shoulder a bigger load, and unlike last season, the Magic are hoping he can find his feet and prove to be more consistent.

Oct 06

Victor Oladipo sprains MCL in practice

Via John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com:

Injuries continue to pile up for the Orlando Magic in training camp with second-year guard Victor Oladipo suffering a sprained MCL in his right knee and Willie Green hyperextending his left knee.

Oladipo, who finished second in the NBA’s Rookie of the Year voting last season, suffered his injury when he landed awkwardly following a play at the rim in Friday night’s scrimmage. Oladipo was able to finish the scrimmage, but said that he woke up to pain and swelling on Saturday morning. A MRI on Saturday revealed the sprain. His return will be dependent on how his knee responds to treatment.

Oct 03

Player Profile: Victor Oladipo

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Frankel’s 2014-15 per 36 projections

PPG RPG APG TS% PER ASPM
17.4 5.1 4.9 .535 15.2 +0.0

Coming out of the worst draft class in recent memory, Victor Oladipo’s rookie campaign was relatively impressive. Expectations weren’t very high for a once-shooting guard being slotted into the point guard position for his first season in the league (and first time in his career), and Oladipo didn’t let the team down by any means. While his 42/33/78 shooting split was understandably tough to swallow, the flashes of ridiculous athleticism and strength gave Magic fans solid insight into the potential he possesses.

Nonetheless, the shooting was definitely an issue. It’s not uncommon for a rookie to put up poor shooting numbers, but a few aspects of Oladipo’s shot chart do stand out for the wrong reasons. Most notably, he shot just 54 percent at the rim, an area which accounted for almost half of his shots in 2013-14. With his size and speed, this is a percentage certainly expected to increase, and one which will be interesting to track this season. He also loved the midrange jump shot from the right elbow, particularly out of the pick-and-roll. Defenders would routinely go under the screen and dare him to shoot, and he would frequently oblige, despite making a sub-par 31 percent of his shots from the area.

The experience gained on the offensive end was terrific for Oladipo, but it was defensively where — as expected — he showed the most promise. Rookies tend to struggle mightily on defense, and to look passable is usually a good sign. For Oladipo, this was certainly the case. His rare blend of size and speed allows him useful versatility in defending both guard positions, and he displayed a knack for knowing the right times to jump into passing lanes. He also showed good tendencies with his effort in guarding shooters off the ball.

With the Magic having added two point guards this offseason by drafting Elfrid Payton and signing Luke Ridnour, Oladipo seems set to spend far more time back at shooting guard, his more natural position, in the 2014-15 season. The experience he was able to gain last season in running the floor at the point will likely prove valuable in coming seasons, but for now, it will be especially interesting to see if there is a noticeable rise in numbers and percentages with the increased time playing off the ball, and having the defense less focused on him.

The two-way potential is there, and a core involving himself, Payton, and Aaron Gordon is set to wreak havoc on defense for years. It’s the offense which needs work, particularly on a team which has been struggling to score points in recent years. Oladipo has always been said to have a terrific work ethic. Improvements are expected to come, and once they begin to, the rest of his game should take care of itself.

Oct 03

Channing Frye sprains MCL in practice

Via John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com:

Having never suffered a major knee injury in his basketball career, Channing Frye initially feared for the worst when his leg collided with Ben Gordon’s on Thursday and his knee was bent back awkwardly.

When a MRI showed no structural damage and the Orlando Magic training staff was able to aggressively treat the knee to limit the swelling, Frye was able to breathe a big sigh of relief on Friday.

Frye, Orlando’s prized free-agent acquisition in the offseason, suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee in Thursday’s practice. He was up and walking on the leg on Friday and wearing on a light sleeve over the knee.

Frye felt so good that he was planning to get in a weight-lifting session while his Magic teammates practiced. His return will be based largely on the knee’s response to treatment, but Frye said he is encouraged by there is no major damage to his knee.

Oct 02

Thursday’s Magic Word

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Asked to provide a list of things he worked on, Harkless responded with a long list. He said he focused on his shooting, ball-handling, agility and his finishing around the rim. He also said he emphasized being more consistent on the court.”
  • During the summer, Tobias Harris altered his eating habits — cutting out breads, pastas, and sweets while eating more fruits and vegetables — so that he could he become leaner, quicker, and more explosive.
  • Ben Gordon is looking to revitalize his career with the Magic.
  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com on Evan Fournier adjusting to his new team: “Fournier feels as if he’s ended up in a perfect storm of sorts in Orlando. With a young and athletic roster in Orlando, the 21-year-old and 6-foot-6 Fournier should blend in perfectly. He’s in a spot where the franchise covets his versatility and creativity – something that wasn’t always the case with the Nuggets. And he’s on a team where he’ll be given the ball and asked to make plays out of pick-and-roll sets – as he’s already done time and again in training camp with the 7-foot Vucevic.”
  • Coach Jacque Vaughn came away impressed with his players after the team’s first scrimmage in training camp, which took place on Wednesday night.
  • ProBasketballTalk’s 2014-15 preview of the Orlando Magic.

Oct 02

Magic single-game tickets on sale October 10

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Via Orlando Magic press release:

Single-game tickets for games through January 3, 2015 of the 2014-15 Orlando Magic season will go on sale October 10 to the general public. The Magic will open the regular season in the Amway Center when they host the Washington Wizards on Thursday, October 30. Tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m.

Tickets will be available for purchase:

- Online at www.orlandomagic.com

- At the Amway Center box office (located on Church St.)

- At all TicketMaster outlets

- By calling 1-800-4NBA-TIX

- MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover accepted at all purchase points

The Magic also announce the return of the Sunday, Wednesday, Friday ticket packages for Florida residents: Sunday Family Magic, Mid-Week Magic and Friday Night Magic.

Sunday Family Magic presented by Papa John’s is offered for every Sunday home game and includes four tickets, four Papa John’s pizzas and four Pepsi soft drinks (or two Pepsi soft drinks and two beers) and front-of-the-line access to layups on the court after the game, starting at $99 for four. Mid-Week Magic is offered for every Wednesday home game and includes one ticket plus choice of hot dog or pretzel and one Pepsi or beer, or two Coronaritas along with Happy Hour at ‘Rona & ‘Ritas, starting at $20. Friday Night Magic is offered for every Friday home game and includes two options: option one – one ticket plus the choice of food and soda or beer at Amway Center concessions starting at $25 or option two – one ticket plus a Magic Grill menu item and one Pepsi or beer, starting at $70.

All three ticket packages are only available for purchase through OrlandoMagic.com. Ticket highlights for the Magic’s 2014-15 season in the Amway Center, named SportsBusiness Journal’s 2012 Sports Facility of the Year, include: 2,500 seats priced $20 or less, 8,000 seats priced $40 or less and 9,000 seats priced $50 or under.

Oct 02

Player Profile: Elfrid Payton

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Frankel’s 2014-15 per 36 projections

PPG RPG APG TS% PER ASPM
N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A

After not taking one of the expected choices — Dante Exum or Marcus Smart — with the No. 4 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, it became clear the Magic were targeting late-rising point guard Elfrid Payton with their second lottery pick. The Oladipo-as-a-point guard experiment was nice, and probably helped his development, but there was a consensus that Orlando needed a permanent solution at the point.

Payton hung around the 20s on draft boards for most of the college basketball season, but his stock started rising around March Madness and the NBA Draft Combine, and eventually mock drafts projected him as a lottery pick. There are a few players like this in each draft (Damian Lillard comes to mind) and it’s interesting to look at why they rise and what makes them appealing that wasn’t evident earlier in the season.

A lot of it with Payton probably comes down to him going to a mid-major school (Louisiana-Lafayette). Scouts gained a better appreciation of his skills once they spent more time watching him after his season was over.

Payton’s skill-set also fits into the type of team the Magic are trying to build. Most of the Magic’s recent player acquisitions have been focused on defense, and that’s Payton’s most NBA-ready skill. He’s tall for a point guard at 6-foot-4, and long-armed as well, posting a 3.5 percent steal rate in college. While he lacks the strength of Smart or the dexterity of other smaller guards, Payton’s a complete, if not spectacular package on the defensive end. He also rebounded at a very high rate on both the offensive and defensive ends in school. That could just be him dominating lesser competition, but there’s no way it’s a bad thing.

On the offensive end, Payton played a huge role in college. He used 25.2 percent of his team’s possession while on the floor and had a 33.1 assist rate. He’s not a single-faceted “pure” point guard or scoring point guard — he melds both skills well. He’ll probably create less in the NBA, with better players on his team, and pass more than he did in college. His aforementioned height comes in handy there, in seeing over defenders and picking out the right passes.

Payton’s scoring game was largely drive-based at ULL, and he shares the trait of poor shooting with draft classmate Aaron Gordon. He’s not abnormally athletic either, instead using his length to finish around the rim. How well he’ll be able to score while surrounded by NBA athletes is still a big question mark for him.

Payton is younger than his junior standing at Louisiana-Lafayette may suggest: he’s still only 20 (two years younger than Victor Oladipo). All in all, it’s clear that he’s the heir apparent to the Orlando point guard position and will have plenty of time to grow into that role.

Oct 01

Fox Sports Florida to televise Magic vs. Flamengo

Via Fox Sports Florida press release:

FOX Sports Florida, the regional television home of the Orlando Magic, announced today the network will televise the Magic’s preseason home opener on Wednesday, Oct. 15 at 7:00 p.m., versus Brazil’s Flamengo. David Steele will handle play-by-play duties, alongside color analyst Jeff Turner, with Dante Marchitelli reporting from the sidelines.

The broadcast will provide Magic fans with their first look at the 2014-15 edition of the Orlando Magic, a young, versatile, athletic squad which features 10 players under the age of 25. Said head coach Jacque Vaughn, “From a coaching standpoint and organizational standpoint, we’re extremely excited about the depth and talent on this roster. These guys started playing basketball because they love competition. We’re keeping things simple: We want them to love the game of basketball and compete as hard as they can every single day.”

Winners of the Brazilian National League Title, the FIBA Americas League Continental Title, and their 40th ‘State’ championship, Rio de Janeiro Flamengo will be the first South American squad to face a NBA opponent as part of a preseason exhibition this season.

Oct 01

Player Profile: Luke Ridnour

Orlando Magic sign free agent Luke Ridnour

Photo by Stephen M. Dowell via Getty Images

Frankel’s 2014-15 per 36 projections

PPG RPG APG TS% PER ASPM
9.2 3.6 5.1 44.0 8.2 -3.9

Luke Ridnour played just 36 games in Milwaukee during the 2013-14 season (starting 12 of them) before being shipped off to Charlotte in a deal at the trade deadline involving Gary Neal, Ramon Sessions, and Jeff Adrien. It was a tough year for Ridnour, who played the least amount of minutes and games (not including the lockout season) since his rookie year back in 2004. He started just 14 of his 61 games, and averaged a little under 19 minutes a night.

Ridnour’s .452 True Shooting percentage wasn’t pretty, but his 327 field goal attempts weren’t exactly an adequate sample size, especially as that number sits below his career percentage (.519). His 9.0 PER wasn’t any better — it was below replacement-level and way under his career PER (14.0).

His 2012-13 campaign — Ridnour’s final year in Minnesota — would likely be a better representation of his abilities, and of what he can bring to Orlando this season. Quietly back then, Ridnour was one of the league’s most prolific midrange scorers — he shot 55.7 percent from 10-16 feet and 48.7 percent from 16-23 feet, while having one of the more intriguing shot charts in the league. He sported a healthy 13.0 PER and his .532 True Shooting percentage was right at the league average.

Passing was, and is, another notable strength of Ridnour’s — he averaged 4.5 assists per 36 minutes in 2012-13 despite playing a majority of his minutes at shooting guard alongside Ricky Rubio. He boasts a career average of 6.2 assists per 36, and put up passing numbers just under that last season (5.6 assists per 36) despite his inconsistent play.

It will certainly be interesting to see what the Magic get out of Luke Ridnour next season. He’s 33 years old, and unquestionably past his prime, but he provides a veteran presence that Orlando seemed to miss on the floor last year, particularly in late-game situations.

It’s tough to estimate what sort of minutes he will play, but the Magic have shown that while they’re clearly all-in on the development of their younger guys, they’re still going to play the vets, as was seen with a 31-year-old Jameer Nelson starting in every game he appeared in.

There’s also the possibility of Ridnour’s addition pushing Victor Oladipo to shooting guard full-time. With Ridnour’s signing coinciding with drafting Elfrid Payton, we could see an end to the point guard experiment that Oladipo went through last season, especially if Ridnour’s minutes per game get back to normal (he averages 26.7 minutes per game for his career).

Whatever happens, not too much can go wrong with the Ridnour signing. He’s a proven player on a two-year, $5.5 million deal with only one year guaranteed, who — as GM Rob Hennigan said — “is well-respected as a teammate and competitor.” Even if this season doesn’t pan out for him, adding an NBA veteran to a roster with 10 players under the age of 24 is a good move, and can hopefully help oversee the growth of some of the younger guys.

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