Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Examining Ronnie Price's 2013-2014 Magic Season

Over the course of the Magic's offseason, leading up to the NBA Draft, I'll be analyzing all of the Orlando players that are still on the roster and how they did in their 2013-2014 campaign. I'll be going in ascending order based on games played. I won't be assigning grades or scores.

Previously in the series:
Dewayne Dedmon

Let's take a look at Ronnie Price.

Depending on your viewpoint on tanking, Ronnie Price appeared to be the cheaper - and just as old - replacement for the much more talented Beno Udrih who exited the team after a brief 2-month stint with the franchise. That's not a false assumption, but there was clearly more to the summer 2013 signing of Price than that. For one thing, Ronnie proved that all of his hustle can translate into positive production and that there would be no disastrous comparisons to Chris Duhon.

On a veteran minimum contract, Rob Hennigan really can't be viewed as doing any wrong with signing Ronnie. He's due to make $1.3 million in '14-'15, but it's non-guaranteed at this moment. I feel Ronnie should return in pinstripes. I don't envision Price stealing any meaningful minutes from the younger guys if he's still around next season, which falls in line with how this year went. His value comes on the practice court and in the locker room. But if injuries pile up again, we now know Ronnie can be counted on as a stopgap. 

When you read that Price helped troubled guard Sebastian Telfair get his act together in Phoenix, your eyes kind of open up a little wider. Ronnie's future in Orlando won't be long-term, but he's shown Victor Oladipo, E'Twaun Moore, and Doron Lamb, a few tricks of the NBA point guard trade in one year. Price won't have trouble receiving recommendations in regards to becoming an assistant coach in the future should he seek that path.

The soon-to-be 31-year-old Ronnie played 31 games this season (2 starts), which are the fewest since his rookie season with the Sacramento Kings. Price's averages were 2.4 ppg, 2.1 apg, 1.4 rpg, and 0.8 steals per contest this season at around 12 minutes per contest. Those numbers don't exactly jump out at you. But his athleticism sure does:

Still, I can recall a few games off the top of my head that Price greatly impacted without making a large stat sheet dent. November 13th against Milwaukee saw Ronnie fuel the comeback victory against the Bucks after Magic starters got off to a horrible start in that contest. December 27th saw Ronnie post a rare 7 points off the bench (including an awesome dunk that's the GIF up top) to knock off Detroit. 

There came a point in the season where the 9th-season veteran didn't play the entire month of February. Then injuries forced Jacque Vaughn to start Ronnie Price twice in the first week of March. Just a consummate professional stepping in when he's asked. Always ready for anything. 

The 6'2" lefty had one final surprise in store for Magic fans when he posted a career-high 11 assists on the second-to-last game of the season in Chicago. Price had never tallied double digit assists until that evening. 

When you take a peak at the shot chart, you can see that for Ronnie to continue getting playing time for Jacque - assuming he'll be retained over the summer - that his perimeter shooting MUST improve:

His 30.4 FG% and 20.9 3PT% can't be sugar-coated. They're awful, and they're career-worst statistics. But again, Price gets minutes when a boost of hustle is required. Ronnie ranked 4th on the team in steals per contest. His ball handling skills are fine and I don't worry about him bringing the ball up the court. Price has a solid basketball IQ and you can watch his court vision constantly scanning the court for an open teammate, but has the burst of speed to penetrate the paint and keep defenses honest. That's all you can really ask for from a third-string guy. 

Price really is a genuinely great guy who is well-respected and hustles his ass off. He literally bleeds for his teammates. Sprinkle in some moments of explosiveness and you can get a better feel for how Ronnie has stuck around in the NBA for so long. He knows his role, but he's not afraid to be aggressive on both ends. The guy went undrafted in 2005. Price was offered no scholarships coming out of high school in Friendswood, Texas before playing at Nicholls State University and then Utah Valley State College. Ronnie's story is this decade's version of Darrell Armstrong, and Magic fans can get behind a success story like that. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The U.S. Racial Distribution of NBA Fans

To go in hand with the Donald Sterling banning news, the folks at FiveThirtyEight decided to come up with an appropriate chart. The below chart shows the racial distribution - Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians -  of all NBA fans in the United States for each franchise.

Nate Silver explains how he was able to come up with these statistics:

It’s also possible to come up with some crude estimates of the racial composition of fans for individual NBA teams. My process for doing this was as follows:
  • I used Nielsen estimates of the racial composition of the population in each of the United States’ 210 media markets;
  • I used the frequency of Google searches for each NBA team in each media market as a proxy for its per-capita popularity;
  • I multiplied each team’s Google search frequency in each media market by the population by race there, then summed the totals to produce an overall estimate of the racial distribution of its fans;
  • I recalibrated the estimates to ensure that the whole matched the sum of the parts. In other words, I added or subtracted from the fans assigned from each racial group to each team such that the sum total matched my estimate of the overall distribution of NBA fandom throughout the country (e.g. 46 percent white, 31 percent black, and so forth). The estimates were weighted by the overall popularity of NBA teams, according to their number of Google searches.

In regards to the Magic, you can see that its racial distribution is very similar to the overall average NBA fan distribution. Orlando has the 15th-highest distribution of Whites (45.6%) among the thirty franchises. The 11th-most distribution of Blacks (34.4%). The Magic rank 12th in distribution of Hispanics (15.5%). As well as being #21 in distribution of Asians (4.6%).

Orlando Magic Statement on Donald Sterling

Short and sweet, the Orlando Magic have released a statement that supports Adam Silver's lifetime banning of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling:

"The Orlando Magic feel the recent reprehensible comments by Donald Sterling were absolutely unacceptable and do not reflect the values and beliefs of our organization or our league.
We applaud the leadership of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, as well as Head Coach Doc Rivers and his players, who are at the epicenter of the situation."

UPDATE: The Magic have also showed their signs of support by changing their website to this:

Orlando Chairman Dan DeVos has told the Orlando Sentinel's Josh Robbins that they'll vote to remove Donald Sterling from his franchise and the NBA.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Enacting the Perfect 2014 Magic Draft Lottery

Because delusional dreams and unrealistic hope is something Magic fans are allowed to have.

Mark Jones: "Welcome to the 2014 NBA Draft Lottery. A look inside the room, Mark Jones here along with Jay Bilas. A big night. A lot of angst and anticipation for the 14 lottery teams. The big question at the end of the night of course is: Who will end up with the #1 pick? How would you characterize this draft class, Jay?"

Jay Bilas: "You know Jonesy, last year really was not a good draft. We the media resisted and fought that notion. We knew there were not going to be any superstars but were hoping for potentially 7 or 8 All-Star type players. That still may happen as the years progress, but for now we can say that the 2013 draft class lacked depth. THIS draft class though is stacked. Enough so that there's plenty of talent to go around for all 14 team representatives in this room today to froth at the mouth."

Mark Jones: "Thanks, Jay. Let's remind everyone how the Pre-Lottery order looks."

Mark Jones: "Well, the time has finally come for new NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum to reveal the final order of the 2014 NBA Draft. Mark."

Mark Tatum: "Thank you, Mark, and good luck everyone."

Mark Tatum: "The 14th pick goes to..."

Mark Tatum: "...the Phoenix Suns."

Mark Jones: "The Phoenix Suns finished with 48 wins in a tough Western Conference and just barely missed out on the playoffs in Jeff Hornacek's first season at the helm. The Suns have never had the first overall selection."

Mark Tatum: "The 13th pick will be made by..."

Mark Tatum: "...the Minnesota Timberwolves."

Mark Jones: "Minnesota has a crucial offseason in front of them with Head Coach Rick Adelman resigning and rumors surrounding Kevin Love's future status as a T-Wolves player."

Mark Tatum: "The 12th pick belongs to..."

Mark Tatum: "...the New Orleans Pelicans."

Mark Jones: "Oh my! You can hear the rumblings as that means that both Denver and New York have defied the odds and jumped into the top 3. The Pelicans' selection will go to Philadelphia as part of last year's Jrue Holiday trade, but all eyes are on Pat Williams and Orlando."

Mark Tatum: "Picking #11 will be..."

Mark Tatum: "...the Cleveland Cavaliers."

Mark Jones: "After winning the #1 pick last year, the Cavs selected UNLV's Anthony Bennett. Cleveland claimed they wouldn't be back in the Lottery, yet here they are again."

Mark Tatum: "The 10th pick in the draft will go to..."

Martk Tatum: "...the Detroit Pistons."

Mark Jones: "That means that the Charlotte Hornets will take that pick from Detroit."

Mark Tatum: "The 9th pick will be made by..."

Mark Tatum: "...the Sacramento Kings."

Mark Jones: "Sacramento finished 28-54 for the second consecutive season."

Mark Tatum: "The 8th pick goes to..."

Mark Tatum: "...the Los Angeles Lakers."

Mark Jones: "Eager Lakers fans will undoubtedly be disappointed for dropping a few spots."

Mark Tatum: "The 7th pick will be made by..."

Mark Tatum: "...the Boston Celtics."

Mark Jones: "The rebuilding Celtics managed 25 victories under first-year NBA Head Coach Brad Stevens."

Mark Tatum: "Pick #6 belongs to..."

Mark Tatum: "...the Utah Jazz."

Mark Jones: "After finishing with the worst record in the West, Utah chose not to retain the services of Tyrone Corbin and are seeking a new Head Coach. Still, no one aside from Denver and New York have moved up."

Mark Tatum: "Pick #5 goes to..."

Mark Tatum: "...The Philadelphia 76ers."

Mark Jones: "More reactions can be heard as that means Orlando's pick is assured to be in the top three along with Denver and New York. This is awful news for Milwaukee as we'll find out in a moment. Nerlens Noel was the 6th pick last year and Philadelphia will be keen on adding another potential star piece here with the #5 and also #12 selections."

Mark Tatum: "And the 4th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft goes to..."

Mark Tatum: "...the Milwaukee Bucks."

Mark Jones: "The worst possible scenario for the Bucks who had the best odds at the #1 pick and a 64.2% chance of being in the top 3. It's down to 3: Orlando, Denver, New York. The Magic are guaranteed two top 3 picks while Denver will have the better of their pick or the Knicks'. We'll go to a quick commercial break as we let some of the dust settle on what has been one of the most astonishing draft lotteries in recent memory."

Mark Jones: "And welcome back. You just saw the last time the Orlando Magic got the #1 pick back in 2004. Will it happen again? Back to the NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum."

Mark Tatum: "Thanks, Mark. The 3rd pick in this year's draft goes to..."

Mark Tatum: "...the New York Knicks."

Mark Jones: "That means Orlando will get that 3rd pick."

Mark Tatum: "The 2nd pick will be made by..."

Mark Tatum: "...the Denver Nuggets."

Mark Tatum: "...and that means, the #1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft goes to..."

Mark Tatum: "...the Orlando Magic."

Mark Jones: "The Orlando Magic just celebrated their 25th Anniversary season and they are owners of the #1 pick for an unbelievable fourth time now. Denver will end up picking 2nd and the Magic will take #3 pick as well thanks to the Dwight Howard trade back in the summer of 2012. Pat Williams has brought the good karma and mojo once again to Central Florida."

Examining Dewayne Dedmon's 2013-2014 Magic Season

Over the course of the Magic's offseason, leading up to the NBA Draft, I'll be analyzing all of the Orlando players that are still on the roster and how they did in their 2013-2014 campaign. I'll be going in ascending order based on games played. I won't be assigning grades or scores.

Let's take a look at Dewayne Dedmon.

Orlando was the 7-footer's third NBA stop in his rookie season, but it may be his last for a while. It was an impressive 6 starts and 16 total games for Dedmon. The Magic franchise had not signed a D-League player midseason since Andre Barrett in 2005. That's absurd when you think about how far the developmental program has come. Dedmon's success isn't the start of GM Rob Hennigan tapping a new resource with Orlando now being rumored to acquire a D-League team of their own.

Dewayne was brought in with Adonis Thomas and initially it was Thomas seeing more court time than Dedmon. But Dewayne settled into his new home, took two 10-day contracts in late February and March, and transformed them into a full contract that has Dedmon signed through the 2016-2017 season. It's a completely non-guaranteed deal, but if he keeps performing and improving, then Orlando has a steal of a deal for a 3rd-string center.

The University of Southern California product might be the fastest guy at his height in the league, and that proved ideal when it came to Head Coach Jacque Vaughn wanting his men running as much as possible. The 24-year-old still appears raw offensively, and that's fine since Dewayne didn't start playing organized basketball until his senior high school year. He doesn't have a go-to post-up move yet, but at least he's displayed a possibly consistent jumper. His timing and instincts in the paint can't be taught, neither can his team-best leaping ability. That translates into putbacks, alley oops, and chaotic defensive potential that this team hasn't had since Dwight left town.

Dewayne's March 1st Magic three-minute debut in a Miami Heat blowout wasn't exactly memorable, but it was Dedmon's performance on the practice court that was winning coaches and teammates over. You could see the ambition, the humbleness, and his immediate locker room chemistry. Once Dedmon got signed to his full contract, he began receiving consistent playing time during Orlando's final 4-game Western Conference road trip in the third week of March.

When Nik Vucevic got shut down in April, so did Dewayne's responsibilities and playing time. I can specifically recall Coach Vaughn's praise of Dedmon even if his contributions didn't light up the stat sheet.
Jacque Vaughn on Dewayne Dedmon's 2nd start: "It's tough for guys to recognize and accept what they do and just to continue to do it. He's done that since he's been here. You see him get an offensive rebound; if he's not in position he'll bring it out and give us another possession. Those things matter and he understands that. He rolls to the rim. He might not get it but in the 4th quarter he did get it. He ended up putting it in the bucket for us. He's long, he blocked some shots for us tonight, and he was aggressive and running the floor in every possession."
In #3's final 5 games - all as a starter - Dewayne averaged 9.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per contest in about 24 minutes per game. The only downside was Dedmon having to deal with opposition team scouting reports and seeing his offensive efficiency suffer because of it. That didn't prevent Dewayne from posting career-highs in points (8) and rebounds (13) on Fan Appreciation Night.

Dedmon in those last five contests shot just 9-of-28 (32.1 FG%) from the field. But no matter, the groundwork for a possible long-term NBA career has been laid out. Odds are the Magic don't acquire another big man in the Draft. It's up to Dedmon to enhance his tools and to maximize and match his athleticism. Barring something odd occurring, we'll see Dewayne at Summer League in July.