Tuesday, December 31, 2013

25 Magical New Year's Resolutions

This is the 2014 non-tanking version of 25 things (hey, the number matches the anniversary) we want members of the Orlando Magic to better themselves at, because I’m not cynical enough to beg for defeat and a higher lottery seed. I’ll leave that satirical list to another blogger or writer who is funnier than me.

1. Arron Afflalo - Find Health

It seems like every other game Afflalo picks up an injury or is forced to deal with some hobbling. The man's feet are wrecked and I'm almost half-expecting a really bad leg injury to come. Thankfully, he's hanging in there and putting up career-best numbers in every category but blocks it seems like. He's getting comparison to 1986 Larry Bird and is showing more efficiency than any wing in the league. 'AA' will get into the All-Star Game via the coaching votes. He just needs to be physically fit and he'll be on that court in New Orleans in February. 

2. Jameer Nelson - Better Shot Selection

He's been better of late, averaging 45.2 FG% the last 6 games. However, he's still at 40.1 FG% for the season. There are still moments where Jameer will hoist up ill-advised shots that absolutely kill rhythm. Nelson has been better defensively of late (which doesn't state too much), but he's dished over 7 assists over the past 3 contests as Nelson is starting to recognize that he's more valuable shooting less and distributing more.

3. Glen Davis - Stay Out of Trouble

Seriously, because Big Baby is having a fairly solid season on the court by his standards. Even with the keyboard incident, Glen is starting to drill his jump shot again is rebounding at a much higher clip. Davis has posted over 46 FG% in four of the last 5 contests. Playoff teams may start paying attention if they need another backup big man. Glen's contract is affordable and his presence really can benefit locker rooms when he's on his best behavior. 

4. Victor Oladipo - Don't Chuck Jumpers Like Gilbert Arenas

Agent Zero was a basketball hero for the D.C.-growing Oladipo. You can see that influence every time Victor pulls up for a top-of-the-key jump shot. Victor needs to continue focusing on attacking the rim and destroying it. More importantly, Victor needs to keep displaying the 3:1 assist-to-turnover he's producing over the past 2 weeks. His turnover average has decreased emphatically from the mid-4s to a currently respectable 3.3 turnovers per contest. He's looking like a point guard. More importantly, when Victor is in constant motion, he's been an energy spark coming off the bench.

5. FOX Sports - Mix Up Your Assistant Coach Interviews

The cool thing about the Stan Van Gundy era was we got to hear from staffers Bob Beyer, Steve Clifford, Malone, Ewing right before every 3rd quarter. Since the inception of the Jacque Vaughn coaching era, we've only seen James Borrego. We all love Borrego, he's a great man and is calm with a microphone in his face. But how about some Unseld, Gunning, and Stuckey too? Plus, you end up doing all of these assistants a favor if they ever want to progress to a higher position. 

6. Andrew Nicholson - Stay the Course

It doesn't seem like it of late, but Andrew Nicholson is having a better season than his rookie campaign. He's scrounging for minutes but is losing time to Big Baby and Jason Maxiell. Last season the problem was defense. Not currently. His rebounding numbers are up. Help and man defense are very respectable. The Canadian is a 3-point option while still retaining his 2-point efficiency. The 24-year-old just needs to stay positive, not lose his temper too much, and hopefully the coaching staff hands him more minutes in the 2nd half of the season. Andrew has made a good case that he can be a starter.

7. Solomon Jones - Challenge Those in Front

He somehow avoided knee surgery to still remain a very productive teammate. He's still more valuable at practice challenging the other big men, but he's a seasoned 29-year-old veteran who is continuously receiving praise from Coach Vaughn. We really couldn't ask for much more from a reserve center. 'Solo' is happy to be playing for his home franchise and he's always ready when he does see court minutes.

8. Magic PR - Stop With the Bad ‘Legends’ Paintings

No seriously. 

Not kidding. You do want these guys back again in the future, right? 

We know you mean well, but…

9. E'Twaun Moore - Find Consistency

I'm getting worn out by Moore's bipolar nature. E'Twaun hasn't lived up to his Boston days where he was a pure pest on both ends of the court as a combo guard. We've seen small glimpses, but his ball-handling is pedestrian and a liability. When Moore's 3-pointer or floater are not dropping, it's really tough to warrant keeping him out on the court. 

10. Ronnie Price - Keeping Being Darrell Armstrong-Lite

We can't expect many points out of the 30-year-old, but fullcourt pressing, high-flying dunks, and general hustle are what keep you active in this league. Coaches love him, fans love him (most of the time). Do we want the younger guys to get more minutes? Sure. But Ronnie has earned every second and more that he's played this season. Price has been a fantastic signing.

11. Maurice Harkless - Make the Leap

We saw it in Summer League and in preseason. What happened to all of that progress? 3-point shooting (believe or not) is better, but that's about it. The 51 FT% is flat out bad. Maurice still isn't getting foul calls, but he needs to finish at a better rate near the rim even with two or three guys draped over him. That's what putting on muscle was for. He's always the 5th option on the floor because his jump shot isn't being respected. Too many defensive lapses are why Jacque is treating his minute logs like a roller coaster ride. I still believe he can be a Paul George-Tracy McGrady hybrid. He's putting in the work. It's about confidence and not being fearful of putting the ball on the ground.

12. Tobias Harris - Be a Better Carmelo

He's played 9 games heading into the Golden State NYE matchup. His ankle has robbed him of a chance to really make his own All-Star push. Tobias has started just 5, all consecutive and recent. Tobias in those 5 starts: 16.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 46 FG%. He's getting there. The rust is coming off and T12 is beginning to drill his 3-pointers and off-the-dribble jumpers at a higher rate.

13. Kyle O'Quinn - Improve Man Defense

He can shoot jumpers and has outstanding passing vision. His soft touch around the basket compensates for his lack of vertical leap. What really is lacking in order for KOQ to see more parquet floor time is Kyle having trouble keeping his opponent from bursting past him for shooting jumpers over him. O'Quinn could use some interior scoring sharpening too (D-League, yes?), but we know Jacque values defense more. Kyle just needs more reps, but there are too many bigs on this roster for that to happen right now. 

14. Jason Maxiell - Put on the Horace Grant Goggles

Isn't it about time? Maybe he can master some mid-'90s magic? Seriously, Jason has been a consummate professional when it comes to his minutes. He's still a decent rim protector and his fantastic post-up offense has been a revelation. Coaching is in his future and Maxiell has truly been a mentor in the locker room. 

15. Nikola Vucevic - Demand for the Ball

I don't care if he has to ruffle some veteran feathers. Vucevic cuts to the basket are the most efficient form of offense for this Magic team. Period. When the ball isn't in Afflalo's hands, it needs to go to Vooch. The Montenegrin is drawing double teams and he has enough passing prowess to make the appropriate decision. The man is shooting 52 FG% and is still a top 5 rebounder despite everyone fearing Big Baby would take his rebound. He should have been an All-Star this season, but lack of touches are his downfall right now. He's a 23-year-old constantly improving and on the rise. The leaps he's made on help and man defense are remarkable. Foes are becoming more hesitant to challenge him.

16. Equipment Managers - Can I Have Retro Jerseys Please?

We shouldn't have to beg for them. Ever. 

17. Rob Hennigan - Use the D-League

Can’t find time for a guy like Kyle O’Quinn? Send him down there and let him try to develop his offensive game. Get Doron Lamb some confidence and if Maurice Harkless can't build some offensive consistency then send him down for some extra touches and time as well. 

18. FOX Sports - More Inside the Magic Shows and Magic Classics

Bigger is better. Current productions are good. Considering how ESPN's 30 for 30 series does things, it can be better. Give me a coaches' oral history round table between Guokas, B-Hill, Adubato, Doc, SVG, and Jacque. It can be done in the offseason, everyone lives here. Show me more late night classics of the past. Go deep into the tape collection. So much potential for more when you have all of the rights to footage in your basement. 

19. Jacque Vaughn - Don't Forget the Youth

This is more for later this season. I know there are veterans on this team that need minutes, and some of them will be gone by the time we wrap back around to October, but evaluations will need to be made on guys like Harkless, Nicholson, Moore, Doron, and O'Quinn. Right now a proper full analysis can't be done on any of these guys, and it won't be unfair to cut ties with any of them this summer should those decisions need to be made. If the Magic fall back far enough in the postseason race (whether that happens in 3 weeks or 3 months), then it'll be time to unleash the bench youth. 

20. Magic Management - Think About Playoff Hunting in 2014-2015

Considering how weak the Eastern Conference is right now, once Orlando is done having another awesome 2014 Draft, the Magic should focus on competing immediately after this upcoming June. There are high-quality free agents and players that can be had via trade where the Magic can immediately become a top 4 East team. The cap space will be there, and I don't think this fan base can survive a 3rd straight season of tanking. This roster is a lot closer to competing than outsiders believe.

21. Hedo Turkoglu - Think of a Respectable Way of Saying Goodbye

He's either going to be waived or traded within the next 7 days. The PED scandal is why he hasn't been able to even sniff Amway or the Magic locker room. We are all grateful for his franchise contributions, and now it's time to figure out a way to exit with grace. Whether that's a simple statement, an Orlando Sentinel dedication page, or even a press conference. We all want to remember the good about Turk.

22. Magic Arena Entertainment - Don't Let the Cheerleaders Speak

We know you can't get Megan Clementi back, but please hire anyone else to do in-arena promotions instead of utilizing your cheerleaders for cheap labor. They're dancers, they're not expected to be fantastic informing fans about sales or special events. Just hire someone who specializes in this sort of field.

23. Victor Oladipo - Vouch for All-Star Weekend Events

We know he'll be in the Rising Stars Game, but Victor should strive for more image-increasing events. Oladipo should be in the dunk contest and the skills competition. He's young, in great shape, healthy, and can leap around New Orleans for the entire weekend and still not get all that fatigued. This is an opportunity for Mr. Feathery to build his brand and expand it outside of the massive Indiana Hoosier nation. 

24. Doron Lamb - Burn Your Socks

It’s not quite bra burning, but create your own sense of player freedom by burning your unique sock collection and instead trading that hobby away for burning sneaker soles on the hardwood. I’m not saying Lamb doesn’t work hard in practice. I’m sure he does. But clearly he’s not blowing anyone's mind away. The solution is doing something eye-catching that’s a smokescreen for supposedly re-committing to the team.

25. Magic Fans - Find Patience and Accept the Path

As of this posting, the Magic have the 8th worst record in the NBA currently. But guess what? They're only 2.5 games out of the Eastern Conference's 8th seed. Will January's schedule and a trade or two evaporate any chance at a playoff seed? Probably. Just let the guys play, enjoy whichever Magic men get to attend All-Star Weekend (It'll be multiple), and see the youth develop. We all know Amway Center attendance is suffering. We're in Year 2 of a re-build. But you can still support the franchise you love from home and not be too cynical about any tanking tactics. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

It's Always an Orlando Magic Christmas

Always. Even when the franchise doesn't play on December 25th, David Stern knows how much the Magic have helped make this holiday a joy for the viewing public to behold over the years. In victory or defeat, this little franchise has made its mark on numerous Christmas Day contests.

1993 - First Christmas appearance

Clutch Kukoc, plus you have BOTH Phil Jackson and Brian Hill in Christmas themed ties. Great final play idea by Skiles, too bad Nick needed another split second to send that game to overtime.

1995 - Penny's Rockets Finals revenge and first Magic Christmas Day win

Shaq's terrible defense on Mark Bryant almost gave that game up. Thankfully, Mr. Hardaway was on a great streak of making game-winners. That victory put Orlando at 15-0 at the O-Rena that season.

2000 - Kicking Off the McGrady Era

Click for Part 2 footage.

2002 - McGrady Gives Us a Pistons Playoff Preview

Let's just ignore G-Hill's 3-of-17 from the field.

2003 - McGrady versus LeBron

The present star against the future one. Then overtime comes and Juwan Howard stole the show from everyone. Bill Walton is masterful calling play-by-play of this contest. This contest proves that win-loss records don't mean anything on this special platform. All thundersticks should only be made to look like candy canes. It just makes sense.

2008 - Hornets Destruction

Talk about a preview of a Magic team that would reach the NBA Finals, wow. This was an obliteration.

2009 & 2010 - Defensive Battles Against Boston

Full highlights of the 2009 highlights are here.

2009 found Boston exhibiting some playoff revenge. In 2010, Jameer and Redick displaying their Christmas clutch abilities. Both contests were duels against top Eastern Conference squads. That 2010 game also ended Boston's streak of 14 straight victories on Christmas.

2011 - Christmas Kicked Off 1st Day of Season

Remember that NBA Lockout? Remember how the first day of the 2011-2012 regular season was on Christmas? Just a really harsh situation for all teams involved on that day. The Magic would have a tumultuous season, but some regular season games under their belts would've helped before heading to OKC. It's the most recent time the Magic have played on December 25th.

Merry Christmas and always enjoy the great memories while seeking to create new ones.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Analyzing Offensive & Defensive Efficiency

I'm not going to lie, you won't see me fork over cash for any type of basketball analysis service. You also won't see me get overtly crazy by creating spreadsheets or charts in regards to any type of statistical realm of thought. But I do like numbers of any type. I'm a finance guy after all. I also have zero problem giving credit to individuals or groups of people who put in hard work and effort to provide the numbers that are behind what our naked eye observes.

So I'd like to thank RealGM poster doct3r dr3 for utilizing Synergy Sports' often rare and complex data to break down some very informative Orlando Magic data. Keep in mind, everything shown is as of December 20th as your 8-18 Orlando franchise seeks to get better against a dangerous Sacramento squad. Below are the top 20 best and worst plays on a per play scoring basis that the Magic have run so far this season. Notice the importance of the 1 minimum play per game portion.

Top 20 Effective Plays (Points Per Play) (minimum 1 play per game)
    1.52 - N. Vucevic - Cut
    1.29 - A. Afflalo - Spot-Up
    1.29 - A. Afflalo - Transition
    1.25 - G. Davis - Cut
    1.21 - J. Maxiell - Post-Up
    1.21 - E. Moore - Transition
    1.16 - G. Davis - Spot-Up
    1.13 - A. Nicholson - P&R Roll Man
    1.11 - T. Harris - Post-Up
    1.10 - J. Nelson - Transition
    1.10 - N. Vucevic - Offensive Rebound
    1.10 - J. Maxiell - Cut
    1.04 - A. Afflalo - Isolation
    1.00 - T. Harris - P&R Ball Handler
    0.99 - A. Afflalo - Post-Up
    0.97 - N. Vucevic - Spot-Up
    0.96 - J. Nelson - Spot-Up
    0.95 - V. Oladipo - Spot-Up
    0.92 - A. Nicholson - Spot-Up
    0.91 - N. Vucevic - Post-Up
    HM: A. Nicholson - Post-Up (0.89); J. Nelson - P&R Ball Handler (0.86); E. Moore - Spot-Up (0.86)

That's pretty staggering as far as what an in-motion Vucevic can do. For every cut Nik makes where he receives the ball, he scores 1.52 out of a possible 2 points. You win championships behind efficiency like what that figure is revealing. That also explains why in Saturday's shootaround I asked Nik about how he can re-visit cutting to the basket at the rate he was earlier this season. It doesn't take a genius to notice that Vucevic has been forced to settle for more jumpers and stationary post-up opportunities. You also don't need to be brainy to know that Arron Afflalo is playing like an All-Star. It just so happens that the numbers do indeed support that he's basically the best option at offense Orlando has. Also, Glen needs to cut to the hole more and Maxiell's sky-high post-ups are rather effective. This is 26 games of sample size, so I deem an adequate enough amount of data.

Now to the bad:

Bottom 20 Effective Plays (Points Per Play) (minimum 1 play per game)
    0.32 - N. Vucevic - "All Other Plays"
    0.32 - J. Nelson - "All Other Plays"
    0.37 - V. Oladipo - "All Other Plays"
    0.46 - T. Harris - Spot-Up
    0.50 - G. Davis - "All Other Plays"
    0.63 - G. Davis - Isolation
    0.68 - J. Nelson - Isolation
    0.71 - G. Davis - Post-Up
    0.75 - A. Afflalo - P&R Ball Handler
    0.76 - G. Davis - P&R Roll Man
    0.77 - V. Oladipo - P&R Ball Handler
    0.78 - N. Vucevic - P&R Roll Man
    0.78 - V. Oladipo - Transition
    0.78 - M. Harkless - Transition
    0.80 - T. Harris - Transition
    0.82 - A. Afflalo - Off Screen
    0.83 - M. Harkless - Spot-Up
    0.83 - T. Harris - Cut
    0.83 - J. Nelson - Hand Off
    0.84 - V. Oladipo - Isolation
    HM: E. Moore - Spot-Up (0.86); J. Nelson - P&R Ball Handler (0.86); A. Nicholson - Post-Up (0.89)

Let's ignore all the 'All Other Plays' portion of Synergy's data. What's being measured is 'cut', 'hand off', 'pick-and-roll ball handler', 'pick-and-roll man', 'post-up', 'isolation', 'spot-up', 'off screen', 'transition', and 'offensive rebound'.

What we're seeing is that Tobias Harris is very rusty still, and that Big Baby and Jameer need to stop chucking unwanted attempts at the bucket. Which most Magic fans complain about anyway when it comes to those veterans, but the complaining is warranted now. Basically Glen in anything other than cutting to the hole or a putback attempt will spell disaster. You also see in that RealGM post what plays have been used the most and least. Hint: Victor and Jameer have the ball in their hands a lot.

But what about the defensive side of the data? That's where we all expect Glen to make up for some questionable offensive decisions. Well...

I swear I don't have a vendetta against Glen, it's just that the numbers don't lie. Glen is 236th overall. Tip of the hat to RealGMer 'p0peye' for the defensive screen shots. Some other big men to compare against: Vucevic is 181st and Andrew Nicholson is 125th. Not a typo on the Canadian's part. 'Drew has really progressed as a defender. Glen's post-up defense is a respectable 41st. That's nothing. Check it out:

Nikola Vucevic is 8th in post-up defense, but ANDREW NICHOLSON IS THE 4TH BEST POST-UP DEFENDER IN THE NBA! That's bonkers! I don't care if 3-of-19 is a tiny sample size. 'Drew was getting absolutely abused and obliterated last season to the point where Jacque had to hold him out of some games because he was such a liability on the defensive end. NO MORE!

The Magic as a whole have the 18th overall best defense in the league:

2nd best in defending post-ups. 6th against hand off plays. The glaring hole is guarding the pick-and-roll man (49.4 FG% stings terribly) and spot-up defense (43.3 FG%). In both categories they're ranked 26th and it's what opponents have been targeting. Orlando's interior resistance is sturdy to say the least, but Orlando is paying for over-rotating on defense by coughing up a lot of open jump shots (see 41.1% from 3-pointers).

Of late, scoring has been the larger issue considering the Magic have a bad 8-18 record while showing off a mediocre (on the cusp of the playoffs) defense. The Magic are 22nd in points per game scoring average and 25th in offensive rating. Hopefully that can change beginning this evening against the 29th ranked defense that Sacramento brings to O-Town. This post is just the tip of the iceberg as far as the entire roster goes.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Orlando Magic Google Hangout Podcast

Click here for the video link. I joined in on a Google Hangout podcast with Orlando Magic Daily's own Philip Rossman-Reich and The Magic Wire's Colby Huggins to chat about Jacque Vaughn, Maurice Harkless, Arron Afflalo and more. Thanks to Phil for hosting the chat and looking forward to doing more of these blogosphere collaborations in the future. Hopefully the Magic will be playing better by then.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Best Postgame Home Quotes of November

Yeah, I'm a week late. This hasn't been an inspiring road trip.

11/1/13 - New Orleans Pelicans

Jacque Vaughn on an aggressive Harkless: "We want all our guys to be aggressive and I think overall his focus at the beginning of the game from the tip, from warm-ups, from his concentration in film. I think overall he was ready to play tonight and it showed. That's the mindset and the attitude that every player has to have each night.

Arron Afflalo: "To protect our home court is a big emphasis this year. Furthermore, we lost a tough game the last game; personally I had a horrible defensive mistake at the end of it. So to come out tonight and perform well as a team in front of our home court was really good."

Kyle O'Quinn: "Being early in the year two wins really doesn't define a team. We have to go out there and stand for something. Get in front of the fans, home fans and just protecting something. Protect the home court. I think that was the fuel tonight, the energy in the gym, all the 25th anniversary stuff. We just need that to carry on for the rest of the season."

Pelicans guard Eric Gordon: "It was tough. They just worked hard. They out-worked us and were knocking down shots. We just could never get into the flow throughout the game. There was no rhythm."

11/3/13 - Brooklyn Nets

Not yet fired Nets Head Coach Jason Kidd on Oladipo: "He's a talented rookie. He's everything that he's been built up to be, and his future is very bright."

Arron Afflalo: "The big part of having freedom offensively and having the offense ran through you a lot is to be a willing passer. The more I score, the more attention from the opposing team you'll get on certain nights, especially when you're playing well or you came off a pretty good game. Last year I found myself forcing the issue a little. This year my goal is to be efficient, pick my spots and use my teammates to elevate my games."

Jacque on Magic's improved 3-point shooting: "I think our guys have worked on their shots, I think we are doing things differently. I said before, I'll treat each year differently. Last year's team needed the offense that we had; this year's team needs this offense that we have. It's up to me to put our guys in position to succeed. The guys have put the work in, they're sharing the basketball, and I think our looks are a little more open."

Brooklyn Center Brook Lopez: "I think they played with more energy. They out-played us. They got to the 50-50 balls. We are definitely better than this team but we didn't show it tonight...it didn't look like it. They played well and you have to give them some credit."

11/6/13 - Los Angeles Clippers

Clippers Coach Doc Rivers: "I thought they dictated the pace tonight. I thought they dictated the physicality. I thought they were far more physical than us most of the night, and I thought they deserved to win the game, I really did."

Clippers guard Chris Paul: "I think a lot of credit goes to them. They executed on us. They made us guard and once again our defense failed us. At the end of the game we didn't get stops when we needed to. They made a lot of tough jump shots. The guards need to do a better job helping out our big men with all the rolls and the lay-ups. We have to execute too and we should have won that game."

CP3 on Oladipo: "Those guys play hard. Vic plays really hard and he is going to be really good. They have a lot of really good bigs, so with Jacque they are always going to play hard and execute."

Former Magic fan favorite and current Clippers guard JJ Redick: "I am very excited to be in L.A. and playing for Doc and with this group. I was very fortunate with how things worked out during free agency. It is always good to be home in Orlando. I love the fans here. I love the guys in the other locker room. I wanted to beat them tonight but just couldn't get it done."

Redick on Oladipo: "He is an energy guy. Right now he plays with a lot of energy and he plays in attack mode. His skill set is clearly developing but it is there. He will be a fantastic player."

Clippers big Blake Griffin on Oladipo: "He is tough. He plays hard. That is all you can ask for. Rookies come in and hit the ground running but when they play hard they kind of make up for their mistakes. He is going to be good. He will keep learning."

Coach Vaughn on Vucevic: "He was extremely determined from the first play of the game. His aggressiveness on both ends of the floor, I love it. He looked over at me and wanted me to call his number. That's a first in our time together and so it's great to see and great to be a part of. Just seeing his growth overall of looking forward to playing the game of basketball, competing every night, I love it."

Jacque on E'Twaun: He's a gamer for one. He loves playing the game of basketball and he loves competing. That gives him a good chance when he steps out on the floor. He's not afraid of the moment either. I don't know if it's his background and the fact that he's not afraid of the moment. Two big 3s by him tonight. We put him on Jamal Crawford, one of their better 1-on-1 players. Hopefully it shows the confidence that I have in him."

11/8/13 - Boston Celtics

Jacque on Arron's late 4th quarter shot: "It was good execution by our guys. The shot was for Arron; he ended up making it. If his feet were a little smaller we would be in better shape. Good look, good execution down the stretch."

Coach Vaughn on Nikola not being utilized properly: "I think that one thing with turnovers, that didn't help us initiate our offense and then secondly they did a good job of trying to deny him the basketball. You've got to give them credit for their defense."

Nikola Vucevic: "I thought we started the game really well. Built up a nice lead like the last game, they made a run and obviously we didn't respond the right way. It's frustrating because we should have responded."

11/16/13 - Dallas Mavericks

Victor Oladipo on playing the whole 4th quarter: "Now I just have to perform in those circumstances. It's just a moment where I have to learn. It was just a tough loss. It was a real close game and I have to learn to execute in those times. Make sure my team is in the right place and my teammates. And making sure we're going everything we need to do on defense. Most of it really is on me, the point guard. The point guard to be a leader out there so I got to do a better job."

11/20/13 - Miami Heat

Jameer Nelson: "They are a great team. When we make the mistakes that we made in terms of turning the ball over, giving them extra shots, offensive rebounds, kind of deflates you. We have to do a better job of winning the effort."

11/24/13 - Phoenix Suns

Suns guard Goran Dragic on Vucevic: "He is a great player. I know him from when he was in college with the Trojans and we have the same agent so I really, really respect him. He is a great big guy and he demonstrated that last year. He is a great rebounder and he is really skilled for a big guy. He can shoot. He has both side hooks and the more the he develops he will be amongst the top at his position."

Jacque on Magic being unable to take the lead: "You give them credit offensively. They have some shot makers out there; guys that get the ball in their hands and make plays and make shots for their team."

11/27/13 - Philadelphia 76ers

Jacque on Glen Davis: "I think he's still feeling his way. I think guys are getting a rhythm of playing with him. He'll get a rhythm of when a guy's going to cut, when he's not going to cut."

Vaughn on Afflalo: "We went to him. He demanded the basketball and he was good when he got it. He ended up getting to a point where they double-teamed him and then he served as a cog for us on the post. So, just another good night from him. Solid, professional, came to work and did his job tonight."

Andrew Nicholson: "We're starting to mesh together and we shared the ball pretty well which really helped on the offensive end and playing good defense."

Nikola Vucevic: " The main thing for us tonight was that we were really moving the ball a lot on the offensive end and we were really good at attacking the paint which was something that coach mentioned before the game that we had to do."

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Vucevic Destined to be an All-Star

I swear to God I was going to post this before his 30-point, 21-rebound beast of an outing against the Clippers. I don’t know when it will happen, but expect Nik Vucevic to be selected to participate in an NBA All-Star Game some time in the future. Hopefully it’ll be with him still a member of the Magic. Better yet, why not this season?

Based on Nik’s historical accomplishments during the 2012-2013, and his 17.8 ppg, 13.2 ppg, 1.2 spg, 1.2 bpg and 56.9 FG% through the first 5 games of this season, it’s just a matter of when and not if. Let me explain.

Nik Vucevic became just the 3rd NBA player in the last 25 years to record back-to-back 20+ point, 20+ rebound, and 5+ assist performances. He did it April 7th and 10th at Cleveland and against the Bucks. The other two players to do that? Hakeem Olajuwon and Charles Barkley. Also, since the beginning of the '12-'13 season Vucevic now has five 20-20 performances. The next closest? DeMarcus Cousins with two. 

Obstacles in Nik’s way to getting the Eastern Conference All-Star Game invite for New Orleans in 3 months will be how many touches he gets on offense - which have increased infinitely so far this season - and overcoming well known names like Roy Hibbert, Chris Bosh, Brook Lopez, and a struggling Joakim Noah in the East. Al Horford, Marcin Gortat and even Spencer Hawes are threats at the moment. Even though the conference as a whole is weak, the competition at the center position is steep. So how does the Montenegrin distinguish himself from all of those centers? 

Right now Vucevic is averaging 1.4 more rebounds per contest than the next highest Eastern Conference big man (Al Horford). Vucevic has the 3rd-highest East center Player Efficiency Rating (Behind Brook Lopez and the surprising Zaza Pachulia). He's 4th in scoring among East centers behind Brook Lopez, Chris Bosh, and Al Horford. Vucci Mane has the 2nd-highest defensive win shares (Roy Hibbert #1) and 2nd-highest offensive win shares (Zaza Pachulia #1?!) among East bigs which places him 1st in total win shares (7th place OVERALL). So you can see, he very well would get that All-Star Game invite which would be perfect timing for the 3rd year USC product as Nik is no longer eligible for the Rising Stars exhibition he played in against Andrew Nicholson last season. 

Again, it's extremely early and this post is following the best game of Vucevic's career. But he's a humble man who won't ever pump up his own name, so we the media need to do it for him and build the the well-deserved hype machine. 

I wasn't worried about Nik’s wasted Montenegrin EuroBasket experience in September, and if anything Nik is using that as motivational fuel. It’s not his fault the national team coach is incompetent and stubborn. Vucevic’s lack of playing time was not because of a flu or injury. Nor was it because he was not performing. Plus/minus is a stronger on-court measurement in international ball. Even when Nik wasn’t shooting lights out, his solid defending helped spark runs and confidence in teammates. That improved defense has carried over into Jacque Vaughn's blossoming system. 

When you have boatloads of European writers and even unbiased FIBA play-by-play announcers questioning why Nik wasn’t on the floor more at EuroBasket, you know the player isn’t in the wrong. But I view that frustration as a positive for Vooch in that he’s hungry to succeed even more in Orlando. It was evident at media day, training camp, preseason, and this present time. Vucevic's confidence is continuing to soar and he's not hesitating to demand the ball now. Especially when there were games last season that Orlando lost that they would've won if Vucevic received more touches. Feed your 23-year-old beast, Jacque. Especially when his worst habit is not choking at the free throw line, but being at times too unselfish. This is the ultimate team guy. Reward him. He's going to be an All-Star, let's make it sooner than later. 

Bottomline: Nikola Vucevic is the hero Orlando needs and deserves right now. He's the human mascot that embodies this shockingly decent 3-2 record to begin this '13-'14 campaign. It's all about health for Vooch and continuing to impress us with his expanded offensive game and active defensive and rebounding abilities. This Magic team being able to keep winning would be a massive boost as well. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Best Postgame Home Quotes of October

I always like going back and examining solid quotes from both Magic and opposing players and coaches and just keeping track over the course of a season what type of changes or transformations occur that are captured by words. I'll share some of the better ones. This may be a monthly trend.

10/11/13 - Cleveland Cavaliers

Nikola Vucevic: "I like moving around the floor. I need to play whatever Coach puts in and just run it. You've got to be active, you have to move around. As a big, you've got to set screens, then you have to roll, you just can't be standing on the court."

Kyle O'Quinn: "Nik's a more skilled big. Lefty, righty, lefty hook, right hook, that's what he does. I just do the dirty work, things he shouldn't have to do when he's that for the team."

E'Twaun Moore: "I spent most of the summer just trying to get my ball handling and point guard skills down. I'm used to playing off the ball a lot but now I'm with the ball. A lot of ball handling drills, passing, Steve Nash-type stuff."

Cavs guard Kyrie Irving on Oladipo: "He is going to be great. He is going to be great in this league. The size that he has at the PG position...and then he can move over to the 2. He can guard the 1 and 2. His potential is out the roof. When I was coming up with him because we are about the same age, he was known as just a defensive player. Now to see his offensive game develop it is just great to see. He has come into a league were the PG position is definitely front-loaded and there are going to be nights where guys come at him, but he is prepared for that."

10/18/13 - Memphis Grizzlies

Jacque on Victor's energy and maybe toning it down: "Tone him down, from diving on the floor and doing your job every night? I don't think I'm going to do that, I think I'm going to encourage that to play defense with the energy and effort every night to dive on the floor and get a possession for your team. Those things are important every single night. So I don't see me changing or diluting that instruction at all."

Coach Vaughn on Oladipo's knack for getting to the FT line: "Well that makes us better. Those are free points when you can get there and it puts pressure on the defense. Getting to the bonus enables you to get to the line and other people can benefit from his aggressiveness and getting to the line. It's tough to keep him in front of you, and so if he can put pressure on the defense the more the better for us as a team."

Victor on playing his first road trip: "It's lovely. No classes, no walking to class, no tutoring, no homework. We just play basketball. We've all been playing since we were little, we all have a love for the game. You can't forget that no matter what happens, it's a blessing. You've just got to keep working hard."

Vucevic on facing Dwight, Dirk, and Marc Gasol: "I like going against guys that are better than me. It gives me a chance to see where I'm at. I feel like I've done a pretty good job against those guys; going pretty hard and seeing where I'm at, especially comparing with last year to see if I improved and I feel like I did a better job against them than last year."

10/20/13 - Detroit Pistons

Jacque on adjustments against Detroit: "That's the part of the maturation right there, and it's seeing how the game is flowing. There's a little different pace to every game, whether fouls are called early or not, and so being able to adjust to the referees to the style of play, the physicality of play. That showed a lot by our group for sure."

Tobias Harris: "The way you practice is the way you play. So if we go out there and get physical in practice and push each other, I think it correlates to the game. I think it showed tonight. So that's a good sign for us."

Kyle O'Quinn on Oladipo: "He's one of a kind. He just comes in and does anything he has to do to fit in. Whatever Coach says to do, he does. Whatever the vets and even the second year players, you give him a tip and he runs with it. On top of his talent, it just makes it that much better out on the floor."

Oladipo on what he's learned up to now: "To stop going so fast. Sometimes I don't realize how fast I'm going. I missed a lay-up today and I was like, 'OK', but everybody was like running out and I was going so fast I didn't realize I missed it. So sometimes I have to slow down. Other than that, I think I'm doing pretty good. There are mistakes here and there but they're correctable mistakes so I'll keep growing as a player."

10/25/2013 - New Orleans Pelicans

Coach Vaughn on Oladipo's preseason growth: "Well, he barely has his feet wet. There's a lot that he's going to see this season and overall what I really love about him is his demeanor. I think guys really like playing with him. His effort level doesn't change and it's a positive things so whether he's making shots or not, getting to the free throw line or not, I think you'll see an effort level every night from him that will be contagious."

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Can Nicholson Make the Sophomore Jump?

You better believe he can as long as Andrew isn't shackled to the bench...which he sort of was on Tuesday and Wednesday nights respectively. I don't support Jacque's reasoning for keeping him on the bench the entire third quarter at Indiana, or getting no action late in regulation against the T-Wolves or in the overtime period. The term 'tanking' is already being brought up way too often and early because fans have a reason to question why the best healthy offensive weapon off the bench is only averaging 19 minutes per game. Especially when he's averaging 15.5 points and 5.5 rebounds on 63.6 FG% per contest. I'm over-evaluating a small sample size, but that's 29.4 ppg and 10.4 rpg per 36 minutes. 

Two contests in, has Andrew improved on that bottom-of-the-barrel defense? To the naked eye, I'd have to say yes actually. Uncle 'Drew has bulked up and it has improved his post-defense. We haven't seen Andrew be forced to rotate over much, and that's to his benefit. The less lateral movement Nicholson gets asked of to pull off, the better he looks. Although, Andrew looks a split second quicker in that aspect as well. Guy works hard even if he doesn't draw verbal attention to his improvement. 

Andrew can't grab a large chunk of court minutes if he's viewed as a liability on the defensive end. Especially when Tobias Harris, Jason Maxiell, Solomon Jones, and a returning Glen Davis are all biting and clawing for playing time. Last season opposing coaches would have been wise to attack Andrew every time they were on offense. But Nicholson has held his own against West, Scola, Love, and Cunningham up to this point. If that persists, we're going to have a great PF minutes problem on our hands.

Kevin Love posted a 31-point (12-of-16 FTs), 17-rebound stat line, but when you look at the film it mostly comes against Maxiell and Solomon. I'm willing to trust Andrew more than the other two Magic men in having to defend anyone around the 3-point line. Is Andrew fouling a lot? Yes. He has 9 personal fouls, but I'll wait a few more games before I consider a bench player racking up fouls a truly major issue. I just wish he had at least 1 free throw attempt at this time. Just one...and a block.

Right now, it appears Andrew's limited to being an energy shot off the bench for 5 to 10-minute spans where you can feed him basically every time down since he's the best bench scoring option. Which honestly should make all parties happy: Andrew, management, coaching, fans, peer circles, etc. Nicholson can mix it up in the post, on the elbow, or now on the corner 3 to spread out paint-clogging defenses. Maxiell starting is okay for now, but the remaining starting lineup needs to get off to better starts instead of digging into early double digit deficits.

Looking at the tape from Tuesday, Nicholson actually scored SEVEN of his 18 first half points against West. So we're rejecting Jacque's explanation of burying the Canadian because of matchup worries. That drive and spin move finish isn't something you expect Andrew to plausibly succeed at athletically, but there he was showing off a new skill. The other 11 points did come versus Scola where two of those buckets were actually against a late rotating Hibbert. You know, that Hibbert guy who annihilated the Magic with 7 blocks and 16 rebounds. So...yeah. Either way, the man was 8-of-9 in the first half! You ride him until he misses consecutive shots. 

We're all elated by Andrew's addition of the 3-point shot to his arsenal during his FIBA Americas Canada duty that his been rather consistent through preseason and early in this 2013-2014 campaign. 'Drew didn't attempt a single 3-pointer last season, and he's 3-of-4 going into Friday's home opener. Barring injury, the 23-year-old should be a shoe-in for a second consecutive (and obviously final) Rising Stars All-Star Weekend invite. With the way the 19th overall 2012 draft selection is improving by huge increments, maybe the St. Bonaventure product's ceiling isn't as limited as we all initially thought. This is a supremely confident individual who doesn't deserve to be mentally stifled by any possible subtle tanking tactics. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Jacque Vaughn - Year 2

Players are not the only NBA professionals expected to make a 'leap' in their careers, so are head coaches. The training wheels are off for JV entering Year 2 of the A.D. (After-Dwight) time frame. There are NINE brand spanking new gentlemen at the helm of an NBA bench this season. That's unprecedented and goes to show a changing of the guard as far as how truly valued age and 'experience' are. Jacque went through the 2012-2013 season about as well as a Magic fan could hope for considering all the injuries that had to be dealt with as well as the perception that winning wasn't (and still isn't just yet) a main focus for this franchise no matter how adamant the front office may be in denouncing that notion. That changes in the summer of 2014.

But until then Jacque has to continue to properly motivate and groom his relatively young roster while simultaneously appeasing the veterans... oh, and throw in some subtle tanking to follow management's plan. So let's take a look at some things I'll be looking for out of Jacque this season as JV strives to improve on his 20-62 debut.

1. Offense Not the Problem

Look, last season Orlando's offense was anemic on numerous occasions last year and ranked 27th in the league. That came about due to those countless games lost to injury and tanking. A larger culprit is item #2 in this piece. When the ball is in motion and the players are cutting and rotating to create space, Orlando can score and it was exhibited in this 2-6 preseason. More shots inside 10 feet or behind the 3-point line and way less in that midrange dead zone. Orlando didn't win a single game last season when they didn't reach 90 points in a contest. Usually even terrible teams can fluke their way to a low scoring victory or two. 

That means we point our fingers toward the defense that was top 10 while Glen Davis was healthy during that 12-13 promising start last year, but coughed up the sixth most points by the end of the season. I'll be intrigued to see if Maxiell can provide any type of intimidation playing next to Vucevic. Orlando couldn't stop anyone in crunch time due to blown assignments, bad fouls, and warranted disrespect from refs. E'Twaun and Afflalo were supposed to be perimeter stalwarts yet were two of Orlando's worst defenders last season. Arron has improved in the preseason, but Moore continues to regress on what should be his bread and butter. Add another concern until I'm proven wrong, excessive fouls committed and coughing up a lot of free throws to opponents. Jacque demands defensive improvement (it's why Nicholson got buried on the bench at times last season), so it's up to Vaughn to stand by his guns and reward those who can actually keep a man in front of them. 

2. Utilize Your Free Throw Attempt Behemoths

That means getting Oladipo and Tobias constantly attacking the bucket. Thanks to his added bulk, expect Harkless to raise his 1.7 FTA average of his rookie campaign. Maurice averaged about double that in preseason thanks to his constant attacking and impeccable focus at the rim. Remember, Orlando broke an NBA record for fewest team free throw attempts per game in a season. Ever. An embarrassing 16.6 per contest. Based on preseason play, I think the Magic can average around 20 per contest. That'll win you a few extra ball games just in that improvement alone. 

3. Don’t Cool Off the Hot Hand

Now if you’re tankin, ignore this. I can't count on two hands the games last season that Orlando would’ve won had Jacque not been hellbent on sticking to a rotation and instead stuck it out with a hot shooting Magic man or two. *Insert Andrew Nicholson here* It's a pill I don't want to have to swallow if Tobias goes berserk on opposition. 

4. Pick Your Spots But We Want Some Anger

Yes, that includes if I ask a stupid question. Don't hold back. I'm not saying call out a player or throw anyone under the bus, but perception goes a long way in regards to reality. Again, you don't have to smash clipboards in a Brian Hill manner. We still want that positive attitude Coach Vaughn with that genuine smile, but we don't want it at the point where fans think it's a forced fake kind of deal (which I'm not insinuating, it's what I read on message boards). Don't be afraid to get thrown out by pissing off a ref, plus that adds to the tanking.

We all appreciate what Jameer's done for this franchise, but light into him when he's 'dogging it' on defense. Give Afflalo a stern look when he's hoisting up bad jumpers or committing unnecessary turnovers. Notice I'm picking on veterans who were shielded last season and who may not necessarily be here come the trade deadline. Feel free to unload bench sparkplugs if starters are sleepwalking. Always make sure this team is communicating on that parquet floor. Orlando committed at least one out of bounds entry pass turnover in seven of the eight preseason contests. I can't recall anyone on the Magic bench looking all that furious. I know it doesn't count, but that was an issue all of last season. I'm looking at you, O'Quinn. It's simple stuff like that that accumulates and determines if you win 20 or 30 contests. 

5. Don't Outsmart Yourself on Defensive Schemes

Again, this is one of those tanking moral dilemmas. Just because man defense is simple doesn't make it a bad thing. I've seen immense one-on-one defensive progress out of Vucevic and Nicholson during their FIBA tournaments and preseason showings so far. Especially with Nik, we saw the 3rd-year Montenegrin hold his own against guys like Dwight, Dirk, and Marc Gasol.

Last season was tough to deal with every time I saw over and over the repeated switches and unnecessary long rotation help recoveries from all the Magic men. Nicholson, Jameer, Afflalo, even Vucevic and others were not laterally quick enough handle those switches. If your Durants and LeBrons want to go off for 40, 50 points then that's fine because you can still win the game when no one else is in a scoring rhythm. Harkless, Oladipo, Afflalo are grown men, they can find a way to deal with getting torched. It's a more suitable solution than gift wrapping open 3s and uncontested dunks/lay-ups. 

The 2nd year of the Jacque Vaughn regime offers a lot of hidden promise, but the players can't be the only ones who show necessary progress. I don't want to see Vaughn handle the brunt of the rebuilding work only to be cast aside when it comes time to legitimately compete. Then you end up on the Matty Guokas side of Orlando history. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

2013-2014 Magic Win-Loss Predictions

It's that time again. This is where I go out on a limb and look extra idiotic than usual. Time to make my predictions for this 2013-2014 Orlando Magic season. Last year's 39-win forecast was overly ambitious. Having experienced a full season under the control of Rob Hennigan and Jacque Vaughn I now will pull back on my optimism for victories. You can get 350-to-1 odds on the Magic winning the championship. Save your money. I will say to bet the over on the 23.5 regular season wins sportsbook predictions. Let's see by how much though when I break down the schedule.

The 2012-2013 campaign looked quite promising with Orlando starting out 2-0 (REMEMBER THAT?!) in almost dominant fashion against the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns. This go around though we find Orlando on the road in a back-to-back at Indiana and Minnesota. Ouch. Also, the Magic's 2-6 preseason record is a bad omen as my analysis proves as last season's squad and the '89-'90 Magic an attest to. See, don't say the preseason doesn't matter. History says it does. But this roster is better than those 18-win and 20-win sides.

Here's what I envision will be the player depth chart come Opening Night Tuesday at Indiana:
C: Nikola Vucevic, Kyle O'Quinn, Solomon Jones
PF: Jason Maxiell, Andrew Nicholson
SF: Maurice Harkless, Tobias Harris
SG: Arron Afflalo, E'Twaun Moore, Doron Lamb
PG: Jameer Nelson, Victor Oladipo, Ronnie Price

Remember, we're waiting on a Hedo buyout, and Glen Davis is still out hurt and recovering. Also, in Jacque Vaughn's world, 'position' means little. With Tobias and even Victor, it's not if you start, it's all about being on the court late in crunch time to close out contests.

I'll go out on a limb and say that ONE MAGIC PLAYER WILL MAKE THE ALL-STAR GAME THIS SEASON. Yes, and I'm thinking it'll be one of Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic, or Vicor Oladipo. It's all about playing time in the case for Tobias and Victor. Nik just needs to improve at a marginal pace and I think he'll get a legitimate chance of getting chosen as a coaching staff pick. It'll also help those three young gentlemen when two of Jameer Nelson, Glen Davis, and/or Arron Afflalo get traded by February. It's all about who can and can't avoid the injury bug. Big Baby was having All-Star moments during last year's 12-13 surprise beginning to the season before Emeka Okafor ruined him.

So right, the schedule win-loss prediction breakdown. Due to the subtle tanking that will be occurring (as opposed to blatantly obvious tanking that the Sixers and Suns are exhibiting), I expect Orlando to finish with 31 victories. That also means 11th in the East (In front of Philadelphia, Boston, the Bobcats, and Toronto *Insert Milwaukee for Toronto if Raptors care about winning*) and just barely beating out Charlotte for 4th place in the Southeast as Miami will conquer the division, Washington will make the playoffs, and Atlanta will be a fringe playoff spot contender. Let's see where those 31 wins will come from:

Orlando @ Indiana              10/29/2013    Loss
Orlando @ Minnesota         10/30/2013    Loss
Orlando vs. New Orleans    11/01/2013    Win
Orlando vs. Brooklyn          11/03/2013    Loss
Orlando vs. LA Clippers     11/06/2013    Loss
Orlando vs. Boston             11/08/2013    Win
Orlando @ Atlanta              11/09/2013    Loss
Orlando @ Boston              11/11/2013    Win
Orlando vs. Milwaukee        11/13/2013    Win
Orlando vs. Dallas                11/16/2013    Loss
Orlando vs. Miami                11/20/2013    Win
Orlando @ Miami                 11/23/2013    Loss
Orlando vs. Phoenix              11/24/2013    Win
Orlando @ Atlanta                11/26/2013    Loss
Orlando vs. Philadelphia         11/27/2013   Win
Orlando vs. San Antonio         11/29/2013   Loss
Orlando @ Washington           12/2/2013     Loss
Orlando @ Philadelphia           12/3/2013    Win
Orlando @ New York            12/6/2013     Loss
Orlando @ Houston                12/8/2013     Loss
Orlando @ Memphis               12/9/2013     Loss
Orlando @ Charlotte               12/11/2013   Win
Orlando vs. Cleveland              12/13/2013   Win
Orlando @ Oklahoma City       12/15/2013   Loss
Orlando @ Chicago                 12/16/2013   Loss
Orlando vs. Utah                      12/18/2013   Win
Orlando vs. Sacramento            12/21/2013   Loss
Orlando vs. New York              12/23/2013   Win
Orlando vs. Detroit                    12/27/2013   Loss
Orlando vs. Atlanta                    12/29/2013   Win
Orlando vs. Golden State           12/31/2013   Loss
Orlando @ Cleveland                1/2/2014       Loss
Orlando vs. Miami                     1/4/2014       Win
Orlando @ LA Clippers             1/6/2014       Loss
Orlando @ Portland                   1/8/2014       Loss
Orlando @ Sacramento              1/10/2014     Win
Orlando @ Denver                     1/11/2014     Loss
Orlando @ Dallas                       1/13/2014     Loss
Orlando vs. Chicago                   1/15/2014     Loss
Orlando vs. Charlotte                  1/17/2014     Win
Orlando vs. Boston                     1/19/2014     Win
Orlando @ Brooklyn                  1/21/2014     Loss
Orlando vs. Atlanta                     1/22/2014     Win
Orlando vs. LA Lakers               1/24/2014     Win
Orlando @ New Orleans            1/26/2014     Loss
Orlando @ Detroit                      1/28/2014     Loss
Orlando @ Toronto                    1/29/2014     Loss
Orlando vs. Milwaukee               1/31/2014     Win
Orlando @ Boston                      2/2/2014       Win
Orlando @ Indiana                      2/3/2014       Loss
Orlando vs. Detroit                      2/5/2014       Win
Orlando vs. Oklahoma City          2/7/2014       Loss
Orlando vs. Indiana                      2/9/2014       Loss
Orlando vs. Memphis                   2/12/2014     Loss
Orlando @ Milwaukee                 2/18/2014     Loss
Orlando @ Cleveland                   2/19/2014     Loss
Orlando vs. New York                 2/21/2014     Win
Orlando @ Toronto                      2/23/2014     Loss
Orlando @ Washington                2/25/2014     Loss
Orlando @ Philadelphia                2/26/2014     Win
Orlando @ Miami                         3/1/2014       Loss
Orlando vs. Philadelphia                3/2/2014       Win
Orlando vs. Houston                      3/5/2014      Win
Orlando @ San Antonio                3/8/2014       Loss
Orlando @ Milwaukee                  3/10/2014     Loss
Orlando vs. Denver                       3/12/2014     Win
Orlando vs. Washington                3/14/2014      Loss
Orlando @ Golden State               3/18/2014      Loss
Orlando @ Phoenix                       3/19/2014     Win
Orlando @ Utah                            3/22/2014     Loss
Orlando @ LA Lakers                   3/23/2014     Loss
Orlando vs. Portland                      3/25/2014     Loss
Orlando vs. Charlotte                     3/28/2014     Win
Orlando vs. Toronto                       3/30/2014     Win
Orlando vs. Cleveland                    4/2/2014       Loss
Orlando @ Charlotte                      4/4/2014       Loss
Orlando vs. Minnesota                    4/5/2014       Loss
Orlando vs. Brooklyn                     4/9/2014       Loss
Orlando vs. Washington                  4/11/2014     Loss
Orlando @ Brooklyn                      4/13/2014     Loss
Orlando @ Chicago                        4/14/2014     Loss
Orlando vs. Indiana                         4/16/2014     Win

I really tried to be pessimistic with this team, and maybe we'll see a lengthy losing streak, but there are a lot of teams - could be as high as 9 - tanking and Orlando will get a few signature wins against the likes of Miami just because playoff teams will look past them and will bite the bullet. It just happens during an 82-game season. Also, this schedule isn't that scary. If Orlando even plays up to 75% of its potential and can avoid the injury 'bug', then they could sniff at snagging an eight seed just based on all the volatility from the middle and bottom East teams. For those Magic fans foaming at the mouth for the Wiggins and Randles out there, taper back your hopes and start examining guys like Exum and Smart as far as the 2014 Draft goes. Immediately following that draft, the journey back to the playoffs begins and we can stop talking about 'tanking'.