Tuesday, December 25, 2012

First Trimester Magic Player Grades

Twenty-seven divided by 82 games is 32.9%, and that's close enough to one-third for me to start doing some evaluations of this 12-15 squad. Plus, what better way to celebrate Christmas than to distribute gifts and coal to Orlando Magic players. Keep in mind, this is a team that many predicted would only win 13 or 16 games. So the 'overachieving' must be taken into effect when assigning grades. The problem with exceeding expectations now is that many people believe this Magic team can make the playoffs. Will pressure set in? 

Arron Afflalo: B
27 Games; 27 Starts; 35.7 mpg; 45.1 FG%; 36.0 3PT%; 16.5 ppg; 3.9 rpg; 2.7 apg

I think most Magic fans were expecting more from the man who was dubbed the main attraction of what the Magic were getting in return from the Dwight deal. Afflalo won't admit it, but the ice packs speak otherwise, the man is hurt. Whether it's his right knee that he's buckled a few times, or his left shoulder that's been clobbered on rare occasion, Afflalo is a tough guy who will play through the normal bumps and bruisings on the parquet court. That still doesn't abolish him from proper criticism of terrible turnovers.

Arron needs to work on his dribbling because he's bouncing balls off his foot at least once a game. Also, Afflalo needs to stop pulling a Keith Bogans and get his feet behind the 3-point line. His one-man fastbreak is both a blessing and a burden depending solely on the result. Jacque isn't hating on it, so I won't either. The 27-year-old did earn extra fan points for posting his season-high of 30 points against the Lakers

Glen Davis: B+
25 Games; 25 Starts; 33.0 mpg; 44.9 FG%; 16.0 ppg; 7.9 rpg; 1.0 spg

It'd be a perfect rating for Big Baby if we were just judging him based off of epic quotes and interviews. I may bitch and moan about Glen being a blackhole and how he stagnates offensive flow, but it's been apparent the team is missing him these past 2 games. Orlando has for the first time lost games in which they shot 50% from the field, versus Utah and Toronto, and it's perplexing as to why. Glen is the only real explanation since he's not out on the court. Big Baby was the team's leading scorer before going down, and he was also a main closer down the stretch. 

Maybe those weird dives on the floor or into the stands provide a spark for Glen's teammates. Maybe Big Baby's goofiness is a catalyst for keeping the rest of the roster loose. All I know is he's missed by teammates and coaches. It's all about surviving and hoping that left shoulder sprain heals swiftly. 

JJ Redick: A-
26 Games; 4 Starts; 30.9 mpg; 44.6 FG%; 35.4 3PT%; 14.0 ppg; 2.3 rpg; 4.9 apg 

He's an A+ individual off the court as JJ has been fantastic with his charity work and fan interaction this season. Coach Vaughn hasn't designated JJ as a 'captain', but he's more than represented himself as a leader. There really isn't much to negatively critique about when it comes to Redick. Does he have his bad shooting nights? Most definitely. But low shooting percentages can be ignored when you look at JJ's assist numbers. Victories can cure just about anything when you so how much of the offensive flow is depended on JJ making correct decisions.

'Redickulous' may be averaging a career-low from 3-point range, but he's still drilling his clutch attempts. He's making his 6th Man of the Year candidacy known with superb bench performance after another. The 28-year-old has taken on a closing role without flinching, and there's still room for improvement.

Jameer Nelson: B+
20 Games; 20 Starts; 33.9 mpg; 39.3 FG%; 29.8 3PT%; 12.2 ppg; 4.2 rpg; 6.7 apg

When I predicted the Magic would finish this season 39-43, I had envisioned 'Mighty Mite' carrying a much larger scoring load than Jameer initially has up to this point. Then you look at his career-highs in assists, rebounding, and steals (1.3 per game) and you see Jameer as a more rounded contributor.

Nelson absolutely savored getting his Dwight revenge. Jameer is 30 years young and is in best physical shape he's been in since his All-Star campaign. Orlando's floor general is crossing up and embarrassing opponents at an astounding rate these first few months. The Magic are 11-9 when Nelson is starting, and so there's no debate how necessary it is for Jameer to maintain good health.

Nikola Vucevic: A
27 Games; 27 Starts; 30.0 mpg; 50.2 FG%; 10.4 ppg; 9.9 rpg; 1.1 bpg 

'Vucci Mane' is currently the best center out of that Dwight-Bynum trade and Rob Hennigan deserves enough high-fives and fist bumps that he'll be begging to ice his hand down. Vucevic is a walking double-double threat every game. Nik has racked up 12 double-doubles this season, five of which have come in the past six contests. 'Vooch' is finding his groove and is learning well from past in-game mistakes. As a sophomore, Vucci Mane should be a shoe-in to receive an All-Star Weekend invite to participate in the Rising Stars exhibition. 

The 7-footer won't get you a bunch of assists, but his unselfishness and constant crashing of the glass opens up the court enough to where Dwight isn't nearly as missed on offense as it was initially assumed. The Montenegrin is not a 'soft' player. He may get caught flat-footed or off-guard sometimes, but don't question his tenacity and drive to get better. Nik is slowly realizing he should finish plays with dunks instead of lay-ups. Vooch is also finding out he can be a rim protector

E'Twaun Moore: C+
27 Games; 7 Starts; 23.5 mpg; 44.0 FG%; 39.0 3PT%; 9.2 ppg; 2.3 rpg; 3.0 apg  

E'Twaun really is this decade's Keyon Dooling. Still can't figure out his identity between shooting guard and point guard just yet. He's much better than Chris Duhon (which doesn't say too much), but Moore still scares me when he's trying to bring the ball up the court. Moore can't consistently fill Jameer's starting shoes and that's a main reason why Orlando had suffered a 5-game losing streak in November.

3'Twaun is only effective when he's knocking down his perimeter looks and his signature floater. Moore is known for his defense, but I haven't seen much lockdown defending. He's a bargain of a contract, and his youth along with talent and decent athleticism will keep him on this team and in the NBA, but E'Twaun shouldn't feel completely comfortable in his backup PG role just yet. 

Andrew Nicholson: B+
26 Games; 1 Start; 14.7 mpg; 52.3 FG%; 7.4 ppg; 3.1 rpg

We're at the point now with Uncle 'Drew that he is definitely a steal as a 19th NBA Draft selection, but nobody is ready to settle yet considering his unlimited potential. For a guy who has taken a large amount of jumpers, Nicholson's superb field goal percentage is a testament to his efficiency as a post player. 'Drew can score wherever and whenever he wants in the paint with either hand of choice. I can't recall the last Magic player who had as fantastic a post-up game as Nicholson does. Maybe Rony Seikaly? Dwight's never been that dominant in the post.

His weakness coming out of training camp was defense. While Andrew is still a little sluggish on switches and pick-and-rolls, his knack for learning how to adjust quickly is paying off. Personality wise, we're all waiting for Nicholson to show as much excitement and enthusiasm as he did the night he got drafted by Orlando. It's weird that his two worst performances probably in Toronto. Even the most calmest of me like 'Drew can get overanxious to want to play well in front of family and friends. It would be wonderful if Nicholson was invited to Houston for the Rising Stars Challenge, but then he'd have to deal with even more media guys. 

Hedo Turkoglu: Incomplete
1 Game; 1 Start; 17.0 mpg; 75.0 FG%; 6.0 ppg; 2.0 rpg; 2.0 spg   

I'll tell you what, Turkey Dance in preseason and that first regular season game looked to be in great shape, was actively moving about on offense, and seemed to give a damn on defense. Hedo is mighty close to returning to the floor after suffering that left broken hand injury. Jacque Vaughn's offense might fit Hedo's ball-dominating style like a glove.

If Hedo does come back, would he start at power forward or small forward? Or does he contribute off the bench? A lot to contemplate when it comes to Turk. From what I've witnessed, the 33-year-old is determined to become a vital part of this franchise's unlikely push towards an improbable playoff berth.

Maurice Harkless: C
24 Games; 17 Starts; 17.4 mpg; 47.2 FG%; 4.0 ppg; 3.7 rpg; 0.9 bpg; 0.7 spg

I think we have rightfully come to expect a little more from Maurice. The 19-year-old has a fair amount of starts under his belt and still seems hesitant to contribute on offense. Harkless appeared more aggressive back when he was still fresh off sports hernia surgery. A lot of it is that Coach Vaughn doesn't run plays for Harkless. The only way Maurice can score is if he instigates the situation whether that's picking off an opponent's pass, crashing the offensive glass, or constantly cutting to the rim.

Maurice clearly needed another season or two at St. John's, but can we criticize a guy who was indeed chosen as a 1st Rounder? Harkless has become the team's defensive specialist and hasn't really been torched by anyone he's guarded as of yet. I just wish Maurice would take advantage of scoring chances presented to him as a result of lazy defending by his opponents who don't view Maurice as any legitimate scoring threat. 

Gustavo Ayon: C+
26 Games; 1 Start; 13.3 mpg; 52.2 FG%; 3.5 ppg; 3.9 rpg; 1.5 apg

Goose is slowly getting there. He's finally healthy after that sprained left thumb made him regress terribly after a promising preseason. He's coming off season-highs in points and rebounds these last few games, and it's paramount that he continue improving in the absence of Big Baby. Goose might be the best passing big man in basketball. If he were playing on ice, Ayon would be earning a lot of hockey assists with his phenomenal unselfishness. 

I'm still amazed at how well Goose moves about the paint, helping out on defense while tactically avoiding getting tagged with 3-second violations. Now if the coaching staff can just help Gustavo with his finishing at the basket. Ayon has that patented baseline reverse lay-up that is beginning to drop for him finally. Also, I could swear Goose has botched up an inbound play almost every game he's played in this season and that's why his grade isn't better. 

Josh McRoberts: C
21 Games; 2 Starts; 14.6 mpg; 44.4 FG%; 33.3 3PT%; 3.3 ppg; 3.4 rpg; 1.2 apg

For a guy who I thought should have been bought out once the Dwight deal occurred, 'McBob' has done okay for himself. Josh hasn't been seeing much court time as Nicholson and Ayon have eaten away at his minutes. Josh went from a huge small forward contributor to being utilized as a bench spark. When you can dunk like he can, and can prove to be a wonderful passer, you're always going to be useful for any coach. 

Kyle O'Quinn: B-
13 Games; 0 Starts; 5.5 mpg; 41.2 FG%; 2.0 ppg; 2.0 rpg; 0.5 apg; 0.6 bpg

Kyle might be Orlando's best shot-blocker. He's done a fantastic job staying optimistic and energetic despite a lack of court time. Kyle is fearless and is willing to do anything he can to contribute for Coach Vaughn, even if that means being the best cheerleader on the team

DeQuan Jones: C
16 Games; 3 Starts; 7.6 mpg; 36.4 FG%; 1.8 ppg; 1.4 rpg

We all can benefit from Mr. Jones providing solid help defense like that. I think DeQuan deserves to slide for now because he was hampered with a hip/thigh injury he sustained from the last preseason game for so long that it really hindered his abilities to get to the rim and elevate like we know he's capable of. He's still a hell of a journeyman story. Undrafted out of Miami, starting a few games, and rightfully earning a place on this roster, Jones appears healthy now and we'll see how Jacque divvies out playing time going forward. 

We all know the man can soar and should be an All-Star Weekend dunk contest participant if he gets an offer, but for Jones to have a lengthy professional career he must develop some go-to scoring moves. 

Ish Smith: D+
13 Games; 0 Starts; 10.0 mpg; 16.7 FG%; 0.8 ppg; 1.3 rpg; 1.4 apg

I almost wanted to put 'incomplete' here because Ish missed all of training camp recovering from shoulder surgery. But he's been healthy for 2 months now, and Smith isn't nearly as effective as he appeared last season. Then again, he was competing against Chris Duhon. That 16.7 FG% is an inexcusable shooting percentage. Mr. Smith is suitable as a 3rd point guard at this time, but Ish needs to get back to his bread and butter of weaving through the paint and processing his options from there because his 'new' jump shot isn't a good one. 

Al Harrington: Incomplete
0 Games; 0 Starts

For obvious reasons. 

If you agree or disagree with my grades, please feel free to comment. 

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