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. 

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