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
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.