Saturday, April 13, 2013

Celtics Clown Magic

Here is my Magic Basketball Online recap of Boston just destroying Orlando 120-88 in a contest that had the Celtics ahead the entire evening. One more home game remains in this season for the now 20-60 Magic. Enjoy postgame locker room interviews from a frustrated group of young gentlemen.

Tobias Harris Should Be Go-To Star

Patience has been key for 20-year-old Tobias Harris. He’s been a member of the Magic for less than 2 months and his entire thought process from his Milwaukee days has been jolted in as positive a way as one could imagine. Every day in my eyes, Tobias is Carmelo Anthony but with better rebounding (8.8 rebounds per game) and defensive skills (1.4 bpg). Oh, and Harris doesn’t have bad character baggage which earns you extra points in Rich DeVos’ book. An extremely humble individual who earns respect and fan support. The Twitter universe is noticing too.

‘T12’ is a phenomenal prospect. He might be the best player on the Magic already, inactive or healthy. And he strives for continuous improvement. Harris had been the driving force in the Magic’s past 2 wins at home, with that slumping 5-game road trip smack dab in between. Harris has the attitude and the appropriate skills to be given the pressure to close out tight games in crunch time. See his 8-point fourth quarter against the Wizards on March 29th. Don’t forget the still fresh in our minds 13 points Tobias notched in the fourth period and overtime against his former franchise on Wednesday, that included the best Magic home moment this season.

I so badly want to believe this text conversation between a Bucks fan on RealGM’s message boards and Milwaukee General Manager John Hammond is true. Bucks fans’ anger towards their team’s incomprehension is hilarious and brutally sad at the same time to witness. They know a gem was handed over without being properly examined. All because Milwaukee was hellbent on reaching the playoffs at whatever cost. Well they have Redick…for now, along with a postseason meeting with the Miami Heat that will probably end in a sweep.

Tobias has tallied 9 double-doubles in Orlando, while only managing one in Milwaukee on April 25th of last season. Tobias posted 18 points in the first game of the ‘12-‘13 season, a win in Boston. Scott Skiles and Jim Boylan just refused to give the University of Tennessee product enough court time or touches. Skiles has been fired and his replacement Boylan may not be far behind.

We’re 3 games away from the season concluding. I don’t want to be deprived of the exhilarating Tobias. His style of play is so fluid that it’s impossible not to be entertained as you view his movements on each end of the basket. In 24 Magic games, Tobias has scored double digit points 21 times. He’s started 17 games and can score at either SF or PF positions.

Tobias will need to learn to adapt to beefier frontlines that clog the paint, but you can’t expect perfection out of an NBA sophomore. Currently he’s on an eleven consecutive 10+ points contest streak, finding his groove with all the parquet minutes Jacque is happily handing him. Seven times Tobias has gone over 20 points. There’s no reason to believe T12 can’t consistently be the Magic’s leading scorer next season.

16.9 points per game on 45.4 FG% is no laughing matter. Harris is accomplishing his impressive scoring feats by driving to the rim at will and being the outlier when it comes to free throw attempts on a FT anemic Magic squad. 3.5 attempts, and rising at a solid rate, on a Magic squad that averages 16 per outing. Refs respect this guy, and his charity stripe numbers will skyrocket in the near future. Defenses have to compensate for T12’s perimeter abilities as well and that leads to a ‘pick your poison’ dilemma.
Remember how angry Magic nation was when Tobias was being overshadowed in late game situations by Jameer and Afflalo? No need to scream or demand for Jacque’s head on a spike anymore. We in the media noticed it too.

Tobias is already great enough to be the #1 scoring option. It’s just kind of tough to tell Jameer and Afflalo that. Which is why the injuries to Nelson, Arron, and even Glen Davis are a hidden blessing. Tobias is not just showcasing his talent to the coaches, fans, and front office, but to his teammates as well. Experienced or not, they have eyes. It’s about them having the selflessness now to divert touches to a much younger player.

If ego gets in the way of the veterans preventing the handing of over of the franchise car keys to Tobias, Harkless, Vucevic, and whatever other young stud(s), then it’s up to Rob Hennigan to ship them off. Something tells me ‘Henny’ won’t be shy either way to clear cap room. There are other playoff and championship caliber teams who would love to have Jameer, Glen, and Arron come off their benches.
As frustrating as it was for Tobias to not receive the ball in crunch time in his first month with this team, it was important to keep things in perspective. He was not only playing meaningful minutes in Orlando, but starting and filling the Bucks organization with growing regret every game he plays.

Now Harris is reaping the full rewards of opportunity created from injuries. It’ll only get better next season if Tobias continues improving all facets of his game this summer. Jacque won’t have a choice but to continue handing him huge minutes. The new #12 in Orlando is on a stellar pace already to surpass the previous one. We will continue watching, in great anticipation.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Nicholson off the Bench a Permanent Solution?

Andrew Nicholson, just like plenty of players on this current Magic squad, has a major flaw this season. Defense.Orlando as a team is ranked 25th in the league in defensive efficiency. But ineptitude in guarding even on a mediocre level has been extra evident with Andrew. The problem for Andrew is that Harkless and Harris actually guard quite well and that's a main reason why Jacque favors Maurice and Tobias over 'Drew. Even O'Quinn is receiving more burn. Nicholson has played in the majority of his games so far this rookie season, even starting 27 of them going into this Cleveland game on Sunday, but Andrew doesn't exactly scream 'starting PF' in anyone's mind. Nicholson has displayed more blocking potency than I could ever imagine, but swatting a few shots won't prevent you from getting lit up on a nightly basis. 

According to SynergySports, Nicholson is giving up 0.97 points per possession and 1.27 points per possession when defending post-ups. Synergy's numbers do not look at help side defense or team defensive numbers, but in the other area of one-on-one defense post players need to be good at, Nicholson struggles too. He gives up 1.12 points per possession when guarding the roll man in pick and rolls.

The Canadian has been buried on Jacque Vaughn's bench over the past few months, sometimes not getting up from it during a game because of a lack of defensive ability. Afflalo going down for the remainder of the season has given Andrew a massive boost in playing time, starting the past few contests as Coach Vaughn is experimenting with Harkless playing shooting guard and Tobias manning the small forward spot. Nicholson's extra on-court time is out of necessity instead of want. Orlando is basically utilizing an 8-man rotation as they limp to the finish line. 

The good news for the man out of St. Bonaventure's is that there's no shame in potentially being the first big man off the bench next season. Well what about Al Harrington and Glen Davis? Better news for Nicholson, because it's quite apparent (to me anyway) that both Al and Big Baby will be dealt away this summer or by next year's trade deadline. So while we know Andrew may never have the athleticism or foot speed to be a starter, it's encouraging that Coach Vaughn has praised Nicholson for making lengthy strides in progressing his one-on-one defense. Andrew has a place in Orlando now and in the future if he can continue shooting over fifty percent from the field and 80% at the free throw line.

It's beyond obvious that GM Rob Hennigan is clearing as much cap space as possible for the 2014 offseason. The way to ensure that is dumping the contracts of Glen and Al. Both those guys are solid locker room presences and in-game contributors. They'll be hot commodities for championship competing squads to acquire on the market in exchange for an expiring contract of a worthless player and maybe a draft pick in return. It's a formula that in my eyes is definitely potent for success. So far, no reasonable being has had a single substantial negative critique for what Hennigan is planning. 

For now though, Andrew needs to utilize the summertime to continue developing his already pristine post-up game, gain consistency on his jumper, improve his footwork, grow his defensive IQ, and work on on-court communication. Filmwork research and repetition goes a long way. His defensive help instincts are surprisingly solid, but can be better if he just talked more with his teammates. Nicholson is a legitimate NBA professional and a steal from last year's draft. Selected 19th overall yet constantly touted as a top 5 rookie. Always efficient in the post against unknowns and hall-of-famers. Andrew just doesn't have the ceiling or overall versatility that Harkless and Harris already have. There's no shame in that. There's no shame in being the first big off the bench that provides instant offense.