Sunday, February 23, 2014

Luol Deng a 2014 Magic Signing?

On a day where Glen 'Big Baby' Davis has finally found a new home in the Los Angeles Clippers - stay happy and out of trouble, Glen - a new and growing Orlando Magic news story is as a result of a bullet point from a lengthy New York story:

We’re surprised the Cavs did not move Luol Deng. He’ll be gone on July 1, no later than a minute past midnight, and despite an Achilles injury that prevents him from practicing on most days, he’ll be high on everyone’s free-agent list. The Mavs, Lakers, Celtics, Magic and Charlotte are all interested. Why not stay in Cleveland? Kyrie Irving doesn’t make players around him better and Dion Waiters is a me-first player.

Wait, the Magic are supposed to be tanking again in '14-'15. Why are they looking at an All-Star small forward? Might the front office be taking my advice and realizing that the fan base can't handle a 3rd season of being bad? I like Luol Deng. 45.8 FG%, 77.3 FT%, 16.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.5 apg for his career. Can be a defensive main cog for a championship contender. Rookie Victor Oladipo was touted as a small Luol Deng when the Hoosier was being evaluated last summer. Acquiring the real thing would be a step in the winning direction for certain.

The problem is, Deng is looking to get paid like a superstar for more than just 2-3 seasons. The Bulls reportedly dealt Luol to Cleveland after he rejected a 3-year, $30 million extension from Chicago. So obviously Luol is seeking more pocket change. Orlando has the salary cap space to throw an 8-figured amount at Luol if they so choose to. Deng has earned the right to get paid, I'm just surprised that the Magic are rumored to be a team willing to write him that check. You already have Tobias Harris, Maurice Harkless, and Arron Afflalo filling that SF position. At least one of those guys has to go if you bring in Deng, and especially if the Magic want to draft Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker.

The possibility of an Oladipo-Afflalo-Deng-Tobias-Vucevic starting lineup would make the Magic a lock to be a playoff team with still room to grow to become an East contender. But is that what Rob Hennigan and his front office staff want to do? No one knows except for Henny and his inner circle.

So here are some extra thoughts from me.

Is Luol an Old 29-Year-Old?

That'll be the Sudanese's age come the middle of April. The Duke University product is a Cavalier for the remainder of the '13-'14 season, but there's a high level of worry in regards to the amount of minutes Deng has played. The 10-season veteran has had injury issues throughout his career that give me Mickael Pietrus flashbacks. Combine that with the fact that Bulls Head Coach Tom Thibodeau has driven Deng into the ground with a huge minutes load for several seasons, and you can understand my hesitation to want to give Deng big money for 5+ years. I'd be all for a 3-year deal at $12 million per season, but there are other suitors out there who'd out bid those figures. Plus, Hennigan has to evaluate how much money he's going to shell out in order to retain Nik Vucevic and Tobias Harris.

Luol Deng led the entire NBA in minutes per game in the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 seasons. Both seasons coincidentally were also when Deng was selected for his only All-Star Game exhibitions in his career. Excluding international play and preseason contests, Deng has over 700 games on his body from regular season and playoff action. That's more than 32-year-old Jameer Nelson.

Luol Deng's Role?

Do you want the lengthy 6'8" forward to be one of your top scoring threat, or just a defensive guy who can knock down an open shot and get to the hole on occasion? If you're choosing the latter, then you pursue Luol. Deng can't be expected to create his own shot late. That's something Orlando lacks on a consistent basis. Can you find a go-to scorer in the draft? Possibly. Would you like to have a veteran added onto the team who can already do that? If so, then Deng isn't your guy. He'd be somewhere on par with Afflalo or Tobias at best in my opinion.

The Magic already have Tobias, Vucevic, Afflalo, Oladipo, and others to pick up the scoring load. Plus, Luol is only shooting 43.6 FG% this season and is a career 33.3% shooter from 3-point range. Deng is at 41.5 FG% in his first 20 games played with Cleveland. So nothing inspiring. The average perimeter shooting could be a problem in Jacque Vaughn's system considering how much he has Maurice Harkless and Andrew Nicholson developing 3-point shots.

What Does This All Even Mean?

It's a rumor, so most likely nothing. However, we're not even in March and I'm shocked that one of the more popular 2014 free agents is being connected to the Magic. We're several months away from signing season even beginning. I view it as Orlando indicating its desire to nabbing 1 great free agent, or 2 good ones and officially entering playoff hunting mode for the first time since Dwight Howard departed. I'm excited.

Take a look at the 2014 free agency pool. Assuming that the Magic are avoiding Miami Heat players, there isn't anyone as good on the court and off the court that would symbolize how the Orlando Magic want to represent themselves more than Luol Deng. He'd provide a valuable veteran presence of a man who carries himself properly while competing at above average rate. It's something to ponder and heavily examine once we know who the Magic acquire in the upcoming draft and if any deals will happen prior to the July 1st free agency window opening.

To conclude, Deng is a great player. But the Magic would have to overpay to acquire Luol's services most likely. It may not be wise for Orlando to do that unless they dump Jameer and Afflalo because the Magic have to focus on keeping Tobias and Vucevic long-term as well as possibly forking over money for 2 lottery draft picks this summer. In Henny We Trust.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

All-Star Weekend Skills Contest Clock Controversy

I am imploring Adam Silver, Taco Bell, and any other high authority NBA executive to address an All-Star Weekend clock operating scandal. Saturday the team of Portland's Damian Lillard and Utah's Trey Burke appeared to have pulled off an outstanding comeback victory in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge as they edged  the Magic's out Victor Oladipo and Philadelphia's Michael Carter-Williams 42.3 seconds to 42.2 seconds. A measly 0.1 in what was by far the closest finale in the competition's 11-year history.

The coolest thing about all of these Saturday night festivities is the money that goes to charity. The West winning the skills challenge meant that $100,000 was donated to the Teach for America and Wounded Warrior Project charities. The East, as runner-up, snagged $25,000 for their charities. So at this point I'm thinking about how nice of a job Oladipo did despite MCW being the worst of the two, and I was going to immediately focus my attention on Arron Afflalo and the upcoming 3-point contest.

And then this screen cap image appeared across my Twitter timeline:

I'm not mad, but now we went from harmless fun into me questioning the competency level of the clock operators. TNT HAS ALL OF THOSE CAMERAS! UTILIZE THE REPLAY SYSTEM! Then I'm going into conspiracy mode about how Adam Silver will take over David Stern's tradition of secretly screwing over the Magic. After witnessing Afflalo struggled in the 3-point contest (awesome job proving the doubters wrong, Marco Belinelli), and then watching the worst dunk contest of all-time, I then realized that the skills competition needed to be revisited.

The evidence above proves that at MINIMUM, we're looking at a 45.0 seconds run for each West and East side which signifies that the competition was at worse a draw, if not in fact a possible win for the East depending on when you believe the clocks should have stop. I'm taking the super conservative approach by deeming that a draw should've occurred and that a tiebreaker should have been instilled. Victor Oladipo was wrongfully punished by the shot clock operator for double clutching on his dunk. Now, obviously this happened Saturday night. There's no way the NBA would ever restart this competition. But this is a grave injustice. It's not just a meaningless case of highway robbery. Why?

Forget Victor getting jobbed, or about the trophy, or any of that. What about the scholarship money that was up for grabs? I'm not saying take the $30,000 scholarship away from Anna-Maria Spears, the young woman who benefited from Burke and Lillard winning. That'd be beyond heartbreaking for the girl who was awarded the funds. However, a wrong needs to be righted. Did the other 3 kids each get $10,000 - including Raeshawn Henderson who was represented by Oladipo and MCW - scholarships just for being there? Yes. Did Taco Bell also donate $60,000 donations in the names of Trey Burke and Damian Lillard to the Boys & Girls Clubs? Yes. That's fantastic. Good on you guys and that's why you've been in my fast food restaurant rotation for most of my life. But why should Raeshawn Henderson wrongfully only get $10,000 when it very well should have been $30,000? Those East charities could've used $100,000 instead of $25,000 as well.

The easiest and appropriate solution? Give Anna-Maria and Raeshawn each a $30,000 scholarship. College isn't cheap after all. Let the West have that $100,000 that went to Teach for America and Wounded Warriors Project, but also hand over an extra $75,000 to the East's charities. I'm sure the NBA or Taco Bell can dig around in their pockets and piece together an extra $100,000. Hell, throw in another $60,000 donation to the Boys & Girls Clubs in the name of Victor Oladipo and Michael Carter-Williams too. The NBA is all about caring. So do something to correct a massive error. Plus, it'll shine a bright light on an evening overshadowed by a horrendous dunk contest.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Best Postgame Home Quotes of January

01/04/14 - Miami Heat

Tobias Harris: "It's for us to learn, when a team goes on a run, how we will respond? Tonight, we didn't respond very well."

01/15/14 - Chicago Bulls

Jacque Vaughn on the triple overtime loss: "Well we talked about validation and winning and losing. You feel for the guys, you want them to get a victory underneath them but we got better tonight."

Jameer Nelson on Victor Oladipo: "One thing about Vic, he's faster than a hiccup, man. Did you see how fast he got to that basket? As soon as you blink, he's gone. He just takes advantage of the seams and he's doing a better job of recognizing what's going on, how teams are playing him."

01/17/14 - Charlotte Bobcats

Tobias Harris on Charlotte's 19-2 start: "We came back, so there's no excuse. Once you come back, you're right there. It was a slow start, but we got it going, but we didn't finish it out."

Victor Oladipo on the 19-2 Bobcats start: "I think we just came out rusty really. Everybody's legs might have been a little heavy...We've just got to continue to just keep going. I don't think that anyone in here wants to lose and nobody is satisfied with losing."

01/19/14 - Boston Celtics

Arron Afflalo on 7-man rotation: "We probably wanted to disrupt whatever rhythm we had because whatever rhythm we had wasn't working. Right now the emphasis is on competing for wins and tonight I thought we did that because I could feel no personal agendas, I could feel nothing but 5 guys who were on the court and then 2 guys off the bench relaly looking for a way to get a victory tonight."

Jacque Vaughn: "I think it was just great to see us kind of grind out that game from beginning to end, and be able to answer out of timeouts, execution, having winning plays at the end of the game, diving on the floor, giving us opportunities to get the basketball. Just a great effort overall from the guys."

01/22/2014 - Atlanta Hawks

Jameer Nelson on last failed play: "The play was drawn up, and like I said, the timing didn't happen the way we wanted to. When I looked up, when I actually got a grip on the ball, I saw 5 on the clock and after that you have to make an executive decision."

Jacque Vaughn on final play: "We had 2 options on that play. I thought we had time. I think the possession before that, we had a decent look. I was hoping we would get a little bit more than the shot that we got at the end."

Hawks guard Jeff Teague: "They played hard. Their 2nd unit came in and gave a lot of effort. Doron Lamb is like my little brother's best fried so I was happy to see him get out on the floor but not play the way he was playing. He played great and I am happy for him but I wish he didn't do that. We played hard and held them off."

01/24/2014 - Los Angeles Lakers

Arron Afflalo on Tobias Harris: "He's been playing extremely well. He was all over the glass from start to finish. Until the very last play of the game, from the very beginning of the game he had a great rebounding effort...The way he approached the game tonight was very well balanced and I don't know if it's a career night, but I'm happy for him."

Jacque Vaughn: "Victor's ability to get to the rim kind of established our inside presence tonight; him wanting to get to the free throw line, then Tobias taking advantage of his matchup...Tonight we challenged the three, I thought, pretty good. We weren't great in transition tonight, defensively, but overall offensively we got a chance to push the basketball."

01/31/2014 - Milwaukee Bucks

Doron Lamb: "How we are right now I don't know when I'm going to get in, but when I do get in, I have to be ready and just provide for my teammates, make shots, and get my teammates involved."

Jacque Vaughn on Arron Afflalo being snubbed from the All-Star Game: "I think we're all human and the last thing I told him was this 2nd half of the season to continue to let the league know how good you are. He's a guy that takes pride in his craft and whether or not he says he was trying to send a message, I'm not sure, but I just loved the way he played tonight. His focus was extremely diligent tonight."