Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Draft Combine Results for Current Magic Players and Prospects

The NBA Stats website has Draft Combine statistics since 2000. So with that information I wanted to show how current Magic men on the roster performed as a way to gauge them against the incoming 2014 class of talent that the Orlando front office may be targeting with their #4 and #12 draft selections.

The Shuttle Run was just instituted back in 2013. Since it's relatively new, I decided to remove it from my spreadsheet tables. I also chose to omit any combine shooting statistics because it's idiotic to only take into account a few drills as a way to measure how a prospect will do in the Association. Below are Magic men currently on Orlando's roster and their measurements as well as drill results:

Notice Arron Afflalo isn't on there because he didn't participate back in 2007. That didn't stop the Pistons from selecting him 27th overall. I'm trying to figure out how Jameer Nelson measured out to be a legitimate 5'11" without shoes back in 2004 because he's not that tall in person. Or maybe I'm taller than 6'1".

Jason Maxiell is shorter than Tobias Harris, but Maxiell's wing span is ridiculous in comparison. It's interesting to see the variations in shoe padding with each player measurement. Even though both are listed at 6'4" in program guides, Doron Lamb is in fact taller than E'Twaun Moore. And yet, Moore's wingspan is almost 3 full inches longer than Lamb's.

Nikola Vucevic's 2011 Draft Combine landed him a record for the worst running vertical leap - 25 inches - that still stands today. Thanks to NBA training sessions, Vucevic is more athletic now than he was at age 20. Plus, you don't need to be a great leaper to be effective when you're almost 7-foot.

I'd be curious to see a 31-year-old Ronnie Price do the lane agility drill again and if he could still beat Victor Oladipo. They have the team's best running verticals as well. Both are athletic freaks which is why both were able to come up with some outstanding highlight reel plays.

I'm a bit surprised to see that Jameer Nelson and Tobias Harris had the top two 3/4 court sprint times. Kyle O'Quinn and Andrew Nicholson have very similar builds, but KOQ is the better athlete in every drill. Curiously, KOQ is one of few players in the combine's history to not have a higher running vertical leap than standing vertical.

So how about those 2014 Draft prospects in the #4 and #12 pick range?

Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, and Jabari Parker chose not to attend the event. Dante Exum and Nik Stauskas are legitimate 6'6" guys in shoes. Julius Randle doesn't have "T-Rex" arms. He has a similar wingspan to Maurice Harkless and it's better than Aaron Gordon's. Gary Harris and Doug McDermott are a bit shorter than advertised.

I'm surprised to see that Marcus Smart is over an inch shorter than Victor Oladipo, but they share the same 6' 9.25" wingspans. Tyler Ennis is a legitimate 6'1", and he still has a larger wingspan than Doron Lamb.

Rodney Hood's wingspan is even with his height in shoes. That's below average by NBA standards. Is it crazy that Marcus Smart weighs more than Aaron Gordon?

Gary Harris, James Young, Adreian Payne, and Kyle Anderson are all potentially in the mix for the #12 selection. All chose not participate in drills for various personal reasons. Dante Exum and Marcus Smart both possess elite agility and above average leaping ability. Perfect for being Orlando's next stud PG of the future.

You can notice why Aaron Gordon gets compared to Blake Griffin. The Arizona product can leap with the best of them. I do want to proudly point out that I barely have a better standing vertical than T.J. Warren. Now I only wish I was 6 inches taller.

I find it intriguing that James Young got out-jumped by by Nik Stauskas and Doug McDermott considering Young's epic National Championship jam. Stauskas and McDermott both may have benefited most at the combine by proving that athletically they can handle the NBA speed and agility demands. McDermott is projected to go in the top 8 while Stauskas is gaining traction among Magic fans as a sharpshooter they need to add to the roster with the 12th pick.

Zach LaVine has the best Lane Agility 10.42 seconds drill time out of anyone mentioned in this posting. The UCLA product also owns the crown in the Standing Vertical with a leap of 33.5 inches. However, LaVine fell just a half inch shy of matching Victor Oladipo's 42-inch running vertical jump from 2013. The 6'5" guard can supposedly be groomed to be a PG which is why he's on Orlando's radar.

I'm stunned to say that Jameer Nelson's 3.14 seconds 3/4 court sprint time isn't surpassed by any other individual. It's amazing what a decade filled with injuries can do to slow you down.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Orlando's Draft Options with the #4 Pick

Enough frowning. The Orlando Magic are the owners of the 4th and 12th overall draft picks following the May 20th lottery selection show. It's not #3, but fourth is a lot better than 5th or 6th. You want some real optimism? You know how the Magic are perceived to be on the OKC Thunder path of contending? Well back in the 2007 and 2008 drafts, the Thunder had the #2 and #4 picks. They took Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The Magic will have similar #2 and #4 picks in the 2013 and next month's 2014 Draft. Props to CCurran1986 for the tweet.

Orlando took Victor Oladipo last year who is arguably the best player in that class so far. 'Dipo was 'their guy' that GM Rob Hennigan and his front office staff wanted all along. Orlando may very well get 'their guy' at #4 in June as well. Feel better now?

So who are the Magic targeting at #4? Well, the Cavaliers (*shakes fist*), Bucks, and Sixers will decide that. You can eliminate Andrew Wiggins from the realm of possibility. Three guys are in Orlando's wheelhouse and the Magic will get the one that slips to them: Dante Exum, Joel Embiid, or Jabari Parker. That's how I rank those prospects. Then you have potential reaches like Marcus Smart, Dario Saric, Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon, and Noah Vonleh that could cause draft board volatility. You now know my current #1 through #9 prospect rankings.

With Wiggins 99.9% off the board by the time Orlando picks, I am imploring the Magic front office to take Dante Exum and team him up with Oladipo to form one of the deadliest backcourts for years to come. Dante almost skipped out on the NBA path and thought about going to college. He only toured one college...Indiana. Which Hoosier gave him a tour of the campus? Victor Oladipo. They've been known as solid acquaintances - at minimum - ever since. Heck, they each have a twin sister. How surreal is that? Complete the bond, 'Henny'. This gem of a quote from DraftExpress' extended mock draft supports my case:
Though Victor Oladipo played on the ball for stretches last season, Dante Exum would give the magic two long, athletic guards and plenty of flexibility moving forward. Exum is a bit of an enigma given he hasn't been seen extensively since last summer, but Orlando assistant GM Matt Lloyd was one of the few high level executives who actually were in attendance to scout him last summer in Prague at the U19 World Championship, and the Magic have reportedly conducted more background research into the Australian guard as any team in the NBA, according to our sources.

Exum very well would be selected #1 had he played his basketball in America. The 18-year-old Australian has been tagged as an 'X-Man', an 'X-Factor', an 'International Man of Mystery', and a 'Wildcard'. Exum isn't any of those. Dante can legitimately be the best prospect in this talented draft class. It doesn't take much analysis or research to notice this possibility. The falsified Lakers rumors in regards them being Dante's only playing destination have been dispelled numerous times. Exum would be happy in Orlando knowing that he could start immediately. More importantly, the Magic would be thrilled to have Dante's character and talent in O-Town.

Dante honestly has elements in his style of play that scream for Penny Hardaway comparisons. Quick first step. Court vision. Defensive potential. The way he handles the ball. He doesn't have the vertical leaping of Anfernee, but his lateral quickness and agility - as the Draft Combine proved - are more than solid for a 6'6" man who is 196 pounds and putting on more muscle by the day. If you think that's crazy, well some international analysts such as Fran Fraschilla think Exum reminds them of a young Michael Jordan.

Just imagine seeing a potential Penny Hardaway (Exum) and Dwyane Wade (Oladipo) as your starting backcourt with your Carmelo Anthony (Tobias Harris) at one of the forward positions. Then you have your double-double machine in Nikola Vucevic at center. That's the realistic future I envision. No I don't do drugs. Tobias is 21 years old, Oladipo is 22, and Vucevic is 23. They haven't sniffed their primes yet.

Now the sad part. Exum is continuing to raise his draft stock thanks to outstanding interviews and combine performances. The Sixers may very well snatch Dante at #3. For one, their Head Coach Brett Brown is an Aussie and has stronger communication ties than just about any other NBA franchise. Philadelphia has Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams as their established point guard of the future. However, Coach Brown has been said to want to create an offensive system that involves two great ball handlers. That's where Exum could fit in. Does Philly pass on Dante for a more traditional scorer like Andrew Wiggins or more likely Jabari Parker? We'll find out.

Embiid and Wiggins DO NOT want to play in Cleveland.
So what if Dante Exum is off the board by the time #4 comes? It means Orlando sees Joel Embiid or most likely Jabari Parker slipping to them. If it's Wiggins at #4 you thank God and do back-flips into Lake Eola. There are some intriguing variables involved. Does Embiid's back check out with the doctors? I don't see any issues here. Did Parker get out-of-shape and open up the questioning of his work ethic? Jabari looks to be in shape here. Are the Magic still as high on Marcus Smart as they were last year?

Do the Magic want a traditional power forward like Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon, or Noah Vonleh? I don't believe that any of those PFs are worth picking at #4. Randle reminds me way too much of bad Brandon Bass. Gordon and Vonleh are more athletes than basketball players right now. I'm more high on Gordon than Vonleh. Noah didn't impress anyone at Indiana. At least Aaron has a Blake Griffin-type mold.

Is Zach LaVine viewed as a tall point guard prospect worthy of a #12 pick? Do the Magic believe that point guard Tyler Ennis won't be available at #12 so then they're forced to take Marcus Smart knowing it's imperative Orlando selects a point guard? It's a lot of mental chess to process.

Two things are known right now. 1. Marcus Smart worked out in Orlando on Monday. 2. The #4 pick will be making about $3.3 million in the first season.

On the one hand I'm more than fine with selecting Marcus Smart if Dante Exum is off the board. On the other, you'd be picking Smart knowing that you're passing up on Jabari Parker or Joel Embiid. That's a hard pill to swallow. Smart's draft combine times and statistics were very similar to Oladipo's. Smart is much bulkier and stronger, but a bit shorter than Victor. Oladipo helped extinguish most of the worries about his shooting this past season. Smart seems to be capable of doing the same. Then there's the character question and how the Magic front office personnel view his fan incident. I don't view it as a massive issue, but it can be used against him as a tiebreaker between two prospects to pick from. Still, Smart is an athletic specimen who is ridiculously strong at his position.

An Embiid-Vucevic twin towers could potentially be phenomenal with Joel roaming in the paint on defense. I buy into the Hakeem Olajuwon comparisons. Embiid is a massive body who is two inches taller than Vucevic and already has numerous sophisticated offensive moves. A healthy Embiid warrants #1 selection hype. It's not a secret that - Mormon roots or not - the Utah Jazz are pleading that Jabari Parker somehow falls to them at #5. Parker is the most polished offensive player at this time, even though he played out of position all season at Duke. He's not quick enough to be a 3 but he'd get pushed around as a power forward. That combined with his awfully bad defense reputation worries me.

You could see a situation where if Orlando's not happy with Dante being taken off the board and Jabari being available at #4, that the Magic then trade their 4th pick in exchange for Utah's 5th and 23rd selections. Let Utah take Jabari and Orlando gets another point guard that they like in Smart with an extra pick in your back pocket. Rob Hennigan is all about that asset accumulation.

Orlando's other option that needs to be contemplated is the possibility of trading the #4 pick. Arguments can be made for moving up or for moving down, and I'm sure Hennigan's phone will be ringing rampantly over the next month. Are the Magic frothing at the mouth to jump up and grab Wiggins or Embiid? Orlando has Arron Afflalo to dangle around. Possibly Andrew Nicholson. No one will want to give up anything for Jameer Nelson.

Do the Magic want to trade down and settle for Marcus Smart? Smart is the guy Orlando probably would've selected last year had he entered the draft. Can Orlando obtain Kevin Love from Minnesota via trade? The 25-year-old is the best PF on the market in the NBA. However, the Magic should and I believe they will stay at #4. I believe in Rob's optimism when he says that an outstanding player can be acquired at #4. My pick is Dante Exum. If Exum is gone before #4, then that's when the true fun and angst begins. The fate of the #12 selection will also need to be heavily weighed and properly measured. That's for another post.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Examining Jameer Nelson'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:

Tobias Harris
Nikola Vucevic
Doron Lamb
Jason Maxiell
Ronnie Price
Dewayne Dedmon

Let's take a look at Jameer Nelson.

It's a rare feat in this age of the NBA to have played your first 10 seasons in the league with one franchise, but that's what Jameer Nelson has done. 'Mighty Mite' played and started in 68 contests in his tenth Magic season. His 7.0 assists per game average weren't a career-best, but it was good enough for 8th-best in the Association. Jameer embraced putting his scoring average on the backburner in order to dish out gems to his teammates. It's a good thing too because Nelson's 39.4 FG% was only 0.2% better than his career-worst shooting average last year. 

Nelson is no longer the perimeter weapon he once was which - combined with his nonexistent defending - makes him very expendable. Jameer only scored 20+ points three times all season. One of them was a 31-point game in that January triple-overtime thrilling loss to the Bulls. Nelson fell one point shy of matching his career-high. Nelson has never recorded a triple-double in the league, but he came mighty close on a few occasions. Jameer notched six double-doubles which give him a career tally of 41 presently. 

Jameer missing 14 games this season was actually quite decent for the oft-injured guard. Some of those games were just pure rest days to give Victor Oladipo more ball handling time. He had a few knee banging incidents as well. Jameer missed the final 3 home games with an apparent groin injury. That meant the only cheers the Amway Center crowd could give for him on the season finale were reserved for when Jameer addressed Magic fans with a microphone. That may have been the very last time Orlando saw Jameer as a member of the team. Nelson at exit interview day said that the '13-'14 was the healthiest campaign he went through in a few years. I believe him. You could also see in his face that his days in O-Town appear to be numbered.

So what does Rob Hennigan do with Jameer? Nelson has one more year on his contract that would pay him $8 million in '14-'15. However, if the Magic waive Jameer before July 15th then Nelson would only receive $2 million. Even if the Magic waive him, Jameer can still sign a new deal with the franchise he's always been with. I can't imagine there are more than a small handful of NBA teams that would welcome Jameer being a starter on their teams. If Nelson can embrace a support role, then a multi-year deal at around $3.5 million per season is a possibility that should be explored. It would be nice if Jameer retired in Orlando.

Where does Jameer stand as far as franchise records go?
#1 in Assists - 3,501 (Scott Skiles at #2 - 2,776)
#2 in Games Played - 651 (Nick Anderson - 692)
#3 in 3-Pointers Made - 874 (Nick Anderson at #2 - 900)
#4 in Field Goals Made - 3,109 (Shaq at #3 - 3,208)
#4 in Points - 8,184 (Tracy McGrady at #3 - 8,298)
#4 in Defensive Win Shares - 18.3 (Horace Grant at #3 - 18.5)
#5 in Steals - 619 (Dwight Howard at #4 - 626)
#6 in Offensive Win Shares - 24.8 (Nick Anderson at #5 - 28.1)
#6 in Total Win Shares - 43.0 (Penny Hardaway at #5 - 46.3)
#6 in Defensive Rebounds - 1,705 (Hedo Turkoglu at #5 - 1,851)
#8 in Total Rebounds - 2,038 (Tracy McGrady at #7 - 2,067)
#9 in Free Throws Made - 1,092 (Darrell Armstrong at #8 - 1,156)

I have great respect for what Jameer has been able to accomplish in his 5'10"-ish frame, but Nelson can't be starting for the Magic any longer. Not if Orlando is focused on winning. Either Jameer accepts a smaller salary to be a backup point guard in Orlando, or the 32-year-old will have to seek a new employer. Whether #14 returns or not, it's imperative that the Magic draft a point guard on June 26th. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Nikola Vucevic Won't Play for Montenegro this Summer

After smoothly avoiding the question at Orlando Magic exit interviews, there were reports earlier this month that Nikola Vucevic was not going to play for Montenegro in late August in the qualifying tournament for the 2015 EuroBasket tournament. Those are officially confirmed through multiple news reporting outlets such as Vucevic was at the Euroleague Final Four last weekend watching Maccabi Tel-Aviv pull off an improbable championship victory. More importantly, Nik was on hand to watch his favorite international team's Under-18 squad - Red Star Belgrade - claim the youth Euroleague championship.

Why isn't Vucevic playing for his national team? The reason is quite easy...Montegrin Head Coach Luka Pavicevic. The man may be a legend as a Yugoslavian player, but he hasn't earned enough prestige in the coaching world to warrant treating 'Vucci Mane' as an afterthought in the 2013 EuroBasket tourney. Nik's really been disrespected for 2 tournaments now. It's fairly safe to say that Vucevic won't play for Montenegro in an international tourney again until Pavicevic gets the boot. I don't blame him.

This is Nik's translated answer of the last interview question from Greek reporter Niki Bakouli in regards to if Vucevic will play for Montenegro:
"I won't play, I've already announced my decision. I don't go well with the coach."
It's good news for those folks not in favor of NBA players exerting themselves for their national teams. It means Vucevic can focus solely on the '14-'15 Magic season. After all, Nik does have the opportunity to earn a contract extension this summer. Also in that interview, Vucevic mentions how his most enjoyable time during last season was when the Magic beat the OKC Thunder, Indiana Pacers, and New York Knicks at Amway Center in February.

It's unknown whether Minnesota big man Nikola Pekovic will avoid participating as well. He was kind enough to donate fifty thousand euros to help support the flood victims in the Balkans. A cause that Nik Vucevic is also promoting via Twitter. It's a very scary situation that is uniting that region of Europe.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

VIDEO: Welcoming Back the Hornets

It's official, the Charlotte Bobcats are now the Hornets. Past history that belonged to the New Orleans Pelicans franchise has also been rightfully returned. Examining the head-to-head regular season battles between the Magic and Charlotte Hornets, Orlando owned a 21-24 record from games played between 1989 and 2002. Orlando was knocked off 1-3 in the '02 first round of the playoffs by Charlotte.

In comparison, the Magic have absolutely owned the Bobcats in their 2004 through 2014 regular season battles. Orlando held a 26-14 record. There's also the 4-0 first round sweep of Charlotte back in 2010. Those record differences are why the name change back to Hornets is being fully embraced by the Charlotte community.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Magic Fans Have to Care About the D-League Now

The NBA's Development League has been around since 2001, accelerating the maturity of young basketball talents, finding the occasional gem, and being a final stop for those veterans still holding on to their dreams of continuing to be professional ballers. Next season marks the NBDL's 14th season, and the first one that the Orlando Magic will truly have to care about as the D-League continues to grow its product.

The Magic today officially embark on a brand new 3-year single affiliation partnership with the Erie BayHawks who were founded in 2008. This came following the New York Knicks ending their relationship with the BayHawks. It's a massive upgrade from the rarely used 6-team affiliation the Magic had with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants who just won the NBDL championship.

Click here and you can see there was a press conference in Erie, Pennsylvania today commemorating the partnership with the BayHawks. Majority owner Steve Demetriou welcomed Magic representatives that included Nick Anderson, Pat Williams, CEO Alex Martins, and Orlando GM Rob Hennigan. I'm sure Orlando would have preferred an affiliate much closer than the northeast - such as Jacksonville - but the Magic are embracing the increasing presence the D-League is having on the NBA. Erie's organization seems thrilled with the new relationship. The Magic are now the 16th NBA franchise with a one-to-one D-League team affiliate. Below is a segment of the official statement:
The partnership, also referred to as a “hybrid affiliation,” is the eighth of its kind in the NBA D-League and allows an NBA team to control the NBA D-League team’s basketball operations, while the existing local ownership maintains primary responsibility for the team’s off-the-court business operations and community initiatives. 
“We are looking forward to a mutually beneficial partnership with the BayHawks,” said Orlando Magic Chief Executive Officer Alex Martins. “We feel this hybrid relationship will further assist our efforts in regards to developing NBA talent, while providing Erie with a team they can be proud of. I would like to thank Steve Demetriou. His vision and values fit very well with ours and we are excited about this exclusive affiliation.” 
The BayHawks, which just finished its sixth NBA D-League season in Erie, have previously been affiliated with the Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors and have produced four NBA D-League All-Stars and developed 11 players who earned GATORADE Call-Ups to the NBA. Additionally, the BayHawks have welcomed 15 NBA players on assignment, including Jeremy Lin of the Houston Rockets and Danny Green of the San Antonio Spurs. 
“We’re thrilled to have the Orlando Magic as our new NBA affiliate,” said Erie BayHawks majority owner Steve Demetriou. “I’ve enjoyed getting to know Alex Martins and other members of the Magic management team, and we are extremely excited to join forces with this first class organization. The Magic are aligned with our goals of providing an outstanding product on and off the court that our fans, corporate partners and the Erie community can continue to be proud of.”
The D-League regular season typically runs from late November through early April. Then a 3-week postseason occurs. The BayHawks just let go of their Head Coach, Gene Cross, after 2 seasons at the helm. Erie missed out on the playoffs both times. It's pretty obvious that the Magic will have a heavy hand in deciding who will be on the new coaching staff. No hints yet as to which individuals will be chosen.

Back in 2012, Patrick Ewing was actually offered the Head Coach position but turned them down. The BayHawks are best known for being the team that gave Jeremy Lin his stage that would lead to the New York Knicks signing Lin and then witnessing the birth of 'Linsanity'. The most famous current player on the BayHawks is former Magic man Solomon Jones. It'll be interesting come October/November to see which players the Magic send to Erie. Orlando previously had not sent down a player to the D-League since the 2010-2011 season.

Examining Tobias Harris' 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:

Nikola Vucevic
Doron Lamb
Jason Maxiell
Ronnie Price
Dewayne Dedmon

Let's take a look at Tobias Harris

We go from one young potential NBA stud who had injury problems and is up for a contract extension - Nikola Vucevic - to another. Tobias Harris played 61 games, starting in only 36 contests as Coach Jacque Vaughn did a lot of experimenting with 'T12'. This third season in the league was still the most court action Tobias has seen to date. Jacque had Tobias at Power Forward and Small Forward as well as on-the-ball and off-the-ball. 

The Tennessee Volunteer missed out on Summer League following a knee collision prior to the vent, the majority of preseason, and 21 of the first 22 regular season games with a bad left ankle sprain. The 21-year-old played every single contest following December 11th. Harris averaged a career-high 14.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 0.7 spg, 50.8 2-point % at around 30 minutes per game. The problem for Harris was his 25.4 3PT% that dropped Tobias' total shooting percentage to 46.4 FG%.

All of that time missed took a toll on Tobias' rhythm, and his numbers. Tobias logged six double-double games this season after posting 9 in his twenty-seven games with the Magic last season. Harris tallied nine games of 20+ points in '12-'13 and twelve in this campaign. It needs to be known that T12's season really didn't get underway until January as he was working back into game shape. In that regard, he performed admirably as he also displayed improved defensive abilities against PFs and SFs.

Let's be realistic though, Tobias' best asset is his offense. There was the 28-point, 20-rebound game in late January against the Lakers, the game-winning dunk at the buzzer to knock off OKC in early February, and his career-high of 31 points came against the Sixers in early March:

I already pointed out back in March how Harris was playing at an elite level following the All-Star Break. His averages were much better in the last 28 games (9 of which he came off the bench: 15.8 ppg, 50.8 FG%, and 82.1 FT%. T12 was too good for tanking. That's why Coach Vaughn tried to pull the reins back on Tobias as discreetly as possible before he started winning more games for the team and hurting Orlando's lottery chances.
Coach Vaughn on March 2nd about Tobias' clutch shot ability: "A few times he bailed us out at the end of a shot clock violation. So the ability to make shots, that's crucial in this league and he has that ability."
There are more highlight packages from a variety of games this season. They all still support my thought that Tobias Harris can be a go-to scorer in a similar mold to Carmelo Anthony. Harris maximizes his 6'8" frame on the boards and in the post while still having outstanding speed and quickness to dominate on fast breaks and to get to the hole at will. Tobias is reliable with the ball in his hands by demonstrating his point forward capabilities. All that's left is for Tobias to work on the consistency of his pull-up jumpers and his 3-balls.

Magic fans should have full faith in Harris' work ethic and should hope for his 4th season to be by far his best and healthiest. I know Tobias' agent and his bank account are counting on it.

Rob Hennigan has to decide on if he'll offer Tobias a contract extension this summer or if he should allow the free market in 2015 to determine T12's value. Harris is expected to make about $2.38 million in '14-'15. Harris' value of worth is much more difficult to determine. Unlike with Vucevic, Tobias' fate can fluctuate depending on who the Magic draft in June. Tobias has earned the right to be a starter next season, whether it be at SF or PF. 

Let's look at some new-CBA contracts of players who have comparative production to Tobias. One that jumped out at me immediately was Thaddeus Young's 5-year, $43 million deal with the Sixers in late 2011 following the Lockout. Nicolas Batum back in 2012 got a 4-year, $44 million deal from Portland. Then there's the oft-injured Danilo Gallinari who is earning $42 million over 4 years with Denver. None of these players are considered overpaid, but none of them have lived up to their contract. Yet, their salaries rank in the top 15 of SFs. 

It's not a stretch to say that Tobias currently is a top 15 small forward. He'll get paid like one, whether by the Magic or another franchise. The range is between $9 million and $12 million per year salary. There has been zero indication of Tobias not being part of Orlando's future toward championship contention. He should and will be a starter even if the Magic were to obtain a Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins.

'Henny' should offer T12 around a 4-year, $40 million extension with incentives for up to $44 million. That's $10 million per season. He along with Vucevic and Oladipo are part of the core towards an NBA title. Harris will be compensated like it. When the extension ends, Tobias would barely still be 26 years of age. Harris would be in his prime and Orlando would know by then if Tobias is the superstar that I believe he will be. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

VIDEO: Tobias Harris' Designated Texter Commercial Outtakes

One of the highlights of the '13-'14 Magic season have been Tobias Harris' 'Designated Texter' and 'Arrive Alive' commercials for the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority that include the Twitter hashtag #whosyourDT. Myself being a William R. Boone High School alum, it's fun to point out that all of the actors used in these safety ads are Boone Brave students. Students who are not exactly polished stars at this moment.

Even though Orlando is in the offseason, we've been granted gifts of entertainment: TOBIAS HARRIS COMMERCIAL OUTTAKES! Because it's not easy to get several teenagers and an NBA player to have immediate synchronization. Tobias should and will be seen doing more ads as his basketball career grows.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

VIDEO: Victor Oladipo's Rookie Season Highlights

Respect to Youtube user 'DeeJay235' for putting together this package of high moments from Victor Oladipo's Orlando Magic rookie campaign. A sound mix of passing, dunking, and defense.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Breaking Down the Orlando Magic's 123 Playoff Games

This post is inspired by Tim Duncan solely having almost double the playoff games participated in than the Orlando Magic's 123 contests. Orlando has had 14 postseason appearances in its 25-season history. Some have gone deeper than others. That's not bad by any standard. Hopefully Orlando gets back into the playoffs next season as this franchise has missed out on the past 2 postseasons. In the meantime, below I've charted some statistics in relation to those 123 games. You'll see which Magic coaches have done better than others.

The above is why Stan Van Gundy is the greatest Magic coach in franchise history. 

It's not a shock that the Magic have historically played better at home than on the road. You can say that for just about any NBA team.

Below you'll see player team records from past postseason runs. It's a nice reminder at how many outstanding playoff scoring and rebounding (and other categories) performances have occurred in such a short period of time.

Most Points in a Playoff Game
46 - Tracy McGrady - 4/23/2003
46 - Dwight Howard - 4/16/2011
43 - Tracy McGrady - 4/20/2003
42 - Tracy McGrady - 4/28/2001
42 - Penny Hardaway - 4/29/1997
41 - Penny Hardaway - 5/1/1997
41 - Shaquille O'Neal - 5/8/1996
40 - Dwight Howard - 5/30/2009
39 - Shaquille O'Neal - 5/25/1995
38 - Penny Hardaway - 5/19/1996

Most Rebounds in a Playoff Game
24 - Dwight Howard - 4/28/2009
22 - Shaquille O'Neal - 5/16/1995
22 - Dwight Howard - 4/20/2008
22 - Dwight Howard - 5/4/2009
22 - Dwight Howard - 5/14/2009
21 - Shaquille O'Neal - 5/3/1995
21 - Dwight Howard - 4/28/2008
21 - Dwight Howard - 6/11/2009
20 - Horace Grant - 5/13/1996
20 - Dwight Howard - 4/22/2008

Most Assists in a Playoff Game
15 - Penny Hardaway - 5/25/1995
14 - Penny Hardaway - 6/11/1995
14 - Penny Hardaway - 5/23/1995
14 - Hedo Turkoglu - 5/20/2009
13 - Penny Hardaway - 5/5/1995
12 - Hedo Turkoglu - 5/17/2009
11 - Penny Hardaway - 5/16/1995
11 - Brian Shaw - 4/26/1996
11 - Penny Hardaway - 5/13/1996
11 - Jameer Nelson - 5/5/2012

Most Blocks in a Playoff Game
9 - Dwight Howard - 6/11/2009
9 - Dwight Howard - 4/18/2010
8 - Dwight Howard - 4/26/2008
7 - Dwight Howard - 4/24/2010
6 - Dwight Howard - 5/7/2008

Most Steals in a Playoff Game
6 - Nick Anderson - 5/10/1996
5 - Penny Hardaway - 5/7/1995
5 - Tracy McGrady - 4/27/2003

Monday, May 12, 2014

Examining Nikola Vucevic'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:

Doron Lamb
Jason Maxiell
Ronnie Price
Dewayne Dedmon

Let's take a look at Nikola Vucevic

It's never fun to go from a 77-game breakout sophomore season to a 57-contest campaign that involved hurting your ankle by tripping over a camera guy or getting concussed, but that's what Nikola Vucevic has been through. It's unfortunate that Vooch's EuroBasket experience last September could've gone much better. Even after all of that, Vucci Mane's future is very bright.

His importance to this franchise is well known. Orlando's record this season with Vucevic was 19-38. Without Nik, the Magic were 4-21. Vooch tallied 36 double-doubles. Nik had 46 of them last season. His 11.0 rebounds per game was still good enough for 8th-best in the NBA.

The Montenegrin notched ten games last year where he scored 20+ points. In '13-'14 that total was eleven contests. So Vucevic took up more scoring responsibility, raising his average to a career-best 14.2 ppg from the previous 13.1 ppg. Doing it by playing a minute and a half less per contest. The 1.1 spg, 0.8 bpg, and 76.6 FT% were also career-highs. Vucevic matched his career-high with 30 points early this season against the Clippers (as you see above). That film is a solid sample platter of Nik's improved arsenal, and Jacque was impressed.
Coach Vaughn on Vucevic: "He was extremely determined from the first play of the game. His aggressiveness on both ends of the floor, I love it. He looked over at me and wanted me to call his number. That's a first in our time together and so it's great to see and great to be a part of. Just seeing his growth overall of looking forward to playing the game of basketball, competing every night, I love it."
The man can score efficiently, he's one of the best offensive weapons on the team (even when the veterans ignore him) and one of the better scoring centers in the league. Jump shot consistency is being developed. Coach Vaughn needs to feed him the ball even more next season. I wouldn't fret about the slight drop in rebounding and FG%. That's a testament to Nik's injuries and shaking off rust in his return games.

Room for improvement exists, but Nik still shot over fifty percent. Examining the game logs, you'll notice that Vucevic got off to a superb start to the season, missed time in December, and really didn't get back to that full Vucevic form until after the All-Star Break. Vooch received his first ever NBA honor by winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the final week of March.

Nik being shut down for the final 7 games of the year can be viewed as the coaching staff being pleased with Vucevic and seeing no need to put him on the court in that 'tanking' stretch. We'll never know how many of those 25 missed Vooch contests were due to actual injury or a tactic to lose more games.

It's also unknown if Vucevic will play for the Montenegrin national team in the EuroBasket qualifiers that will occur in August, especially with the same coach from last year still handling the team. We'll know the answer later this month or in June. If Nik doesn't go then obviously his risk of injury significantly drops. Vooch can focus solely on preparing for a possible Magic playoff push in '14-'15.

There is the offseason matter of GM Rob Hennigan deciding on whether or not to offer Nikola Vucevic a contract extension. Talks will definitely occur and it's very clear that Nik wants to spend his fourth NBA season and on with this Magic franchise. Nik greatly improved on his one-on-one and help defense this season. The numbers prove it, as does the eye test. Nik moves his feet and body a lot better now. Vucevic continues to add strength to his 7-foot frame and knows how to balance himself properly when defending finesse and power opponents. Nik will never be an enforcer, but Vooch isn't a liability protecting the rim.

The only thing that can derail Vucevic's rise to stardom are injuries. Unfortunate ankle sprains do not signify any lack in durability. Any more future concussions are a concern though. He's sustained two in his two Magic seasons. It's not something that should be worried about in basketball, but getting hit by another player in the head or slamming your melon onto the parquet court are part of the professional hazards. Once you get a few concussions, players are more prone to having additional concussions symptoms occur in their playing careers. Ask Jameer Nelson who was one of the first to pioneer the stricter NBA guidelines on how to deal with concussions. Nelson has had more concussions in his Magic career than we'll ever know.

Vucevic's situation isn't that extreme yet, but there's no doubt it's something that will be factored in when deciding on a contract extension. Nik will make $2.75 million next season. So what is the 23-year-old worth? Let's peek at new CBA era deals.

The Pacers matched the Blazers' offer to Roy Hibbert for a 4-year, $58 million 'max' contract in the summer of 2012 when Roy was 25 years old. It was good timing as Roy had completed his first All-Star season with 12.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.0 bpg averages. Nik's already better than that. The now 25-year-old Larry Sanders' 4-year, $44 million contract extension begins in '14-'15. Let's just say it needs to be a much better campaign than this past season. The Warriors also gave Andrew Bogut an extension in 2013. Golden State handed the big 29-year-old Aussie a 3-year, $36 million deal that will have incentives for additional money.

Then there's the player Nikola Vucevic wants to emulate his game after. Marc Gasol. Back in December 2011 - just as the new CBA was agreed upon following the Lockout - the big Spaniard signed a maximum 4-year, $57 million deal. So just doing a basic per year cost analysis of the four deals I listed, you're looking at $14.5 mil, $11 mil, $12 mil, and $14.25 mil per season. On average, that's a hair under $13 million per season. It's not cheap retaining a center that teams believe to be a perennial All-Star.

I believe that Hennigan should offer Vucevic and his agent 4 years at $44 million with an incentive to be as much as $48 million. That's $11 million per season with it potentially being $12 mil per year. The deal ends at age 28 where Nik will be able to get a full maximum contract. Nik's present talent and potential moving forward is as valuable if not more than Hibbert, Sanders, Bogut, and even Marc Gasol. Anything lower than an 8-figure per season offer would be an insult. Nik may never reach the primes of Shaq or Dwight, but he doesn't need to in order to dominate the East in the years to come. Vucci Mane can and most likely will be a cornerstone as this franchise progresses to championship contention. If he's not locked up this summer, then next summer there will most likely be a team that offers Nik the maximum.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Work Begins Next Month on Downtown Orlando Magic Complex

The Orlando Business Journal has come out with a report stating that next month will be the start of work being done on the Orlando Magic's brand new $200 million construction project of an entertainment and sports complex that would be right across the street from Amway Center. Obviously before construction can be kicked off, the existing properties on Church Street - across from the arena - need to be destroyed.

The Magic are expected to start demolishing existing buildings next month on the site near Amway Center, said Thomas Chatmon, executive director of the Downtown Development Board, during a May 7 real estate conference.  
The project is slated to include 100,000 square feet of office space, 250 hotel rooms with 40,000 square feet of meeting space, 250 residential units, 64,000 square feet of retail space and a parking garage.
There are still a lot of details that are still unknown. One of them includes tenants, especially for which company will run the hotel. Could there be a casino? I would be surprised, but I'm certainly not opposed to a casino. Money talks, and casinos can bring in an awful lot of revenue. It's rumored that some of the Magic's current team partners could move into the new complex office space. We do know that the Magic will be able to have their entire headquarters just a brief stroll from Amway Center. That's part of Phase 1 that also includes rebuilding the parking garage.

We know that the retail business, the restaurants, the hotel, and the office spaces will help in continuing the improved economic development of the Parramore community. That will tie-in nicely with the soccer-specific stadium for Orlando City that will open in early 2016 just a few blocks West. We know that as many as 1,000 new jobs will be created during the construction process and the running of the facilities. We know the necessary parcels of land were bought up late last year which include the current city's police headquarters on Hughey Avenue.

It's unclear if the Magic have been able to agree to terms yet in regards to buying and relocating the Orlando Resuce Mission on Central Boulevard and Division Avenue, but an agreement doesn't need to be in place at this time for Phase 1 of the entertainment and sports complex to be given the green light in June. Just like a new police station will be found, so will a new sanctuary for the city's homeless. This new complex would signify another positive step in growing Orlando.

Considering how successful the 2012 NBA All-Star Weekend was despite it being during the Lockout-shortened season, it is well known that Orlando could host the spectacle again in 2017 or 2018. The 2015 event will be held in New York City next year, while 2016 will go to Toronto, Canada. The '12 All-Star Weekend hosted in Orlando saw an economic impact well above $100 million. Having convention center space and another upscale hotel that's closer than the Grand Bohemian on Orange Avenue and South Street raises that appeal for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and other All-Star decision makers to want to return to Orlando sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Examining Doron Lamb'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:

Jason Maxiell
Ronnie Price
Dewayne Dedmon

Let's take a look at Doron Lamb.

Doron is the only Magic man in this series that didn't start a game in '13-'14. Still, Lamb was able to display some promising ability in the 53 games he participated in his sophomore NBA season. The 22-year-old guard averaged a career-best 3.6 ppg. 0.8 rpg, 80.6 FT%, and 40.0 3PT%. D-Lamb posted season-highs of 14 points, 4 assists, and 5 rebounds. It's nothing spectacular, but it's a step in the correct direction.

Lamb was playing catch-up all season due to unlucky hustle injuries he picked up in Summer League as well as training camp that had the Kentucky guard missing out on the preseason as well as the first 8 regular season games. In fact, Doron has yet to have a healthy NBA offseason as he suffered a torn elbow ligament his rookie year. Looking at his shotchart though, I'd say Lamb did a solid job of salvaging his '13-'14 campaign. The only blemish is at the rim, and that can be corrected with building strength and repetition.

Doron has only had 8 games in his 100-game NBA career where he's tallied 10 or more points. Six of those occurred in the final four months of this season. Some of those came in key victories such as against Philly and Portland. Lamb's hard work in getting back into NBA shape paid off as he only sat out three games following the All-Star Break.

Lamb only participated in 28 contests before the All-Star Break. His averages then were 34.1 3PT% and 72.7 FT%. In the 25 games following the Break, you can see Doron was able to finally return to his healthy self with his 44.9 3PT% and 84.0 FT% averages in 16 minutes per contest. Those stats will keep you on the court more.

Doron following 01/31/14 win over Bucks:
"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."

If I had to choose between Doron Lamb and E'Twaun Moore as a long-term guard prospect, I'm taking D-Lamb. For one thing, Lamb is 22 years old while Moore is 25. I believe the tiebreaker is Doron's defensive advantages over E'Twaun. Also, both are listed at 6'4" but Doron plays up to his size advantage while Moore doesn't nearly as much. I expect the Magic to nab a point guard in the draft. That makes E'Twaun Moore much less valuable and you then have Doron who can play and defend 3 positions for brief stints.

Behind all the sock tweets is a very humble man who deserves to stay healthy for a full offseason to prove himself to fans and management. Doron wants to be in Orlando, as do I. Lamb is set to make a non-guaranteed $915,000 next season with a qualifying offer for '15-'16 at just over $1.1 million. That's a bargain. D-Lamb has displayed his potential to be a 3-point assassin and a defensive specialist. Those types of players are mighty valuable on playoff contenders, which is what Orlando will be sooner than later. Plus, Lamb is an NCAA champion.

If he's on the team come October, I expect more than 1.7 3-point attempts per game for Lamb next season. He shouldn't be the afterthought piece of last year's JJ Redick deal any longer, and I expect Lamb to have every opportunity to solidify his long-term future with this franchise.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Michael Carter-Williams Wins ROY, Magic Fans Need Not Care

We knew it was coming, but the Philadelphia 76ers' Michael Carter-Williams officially won the Rookie of the Year award. Magic guard Victor Oladipo finished second overall. MCW won by a rather overwhelming margin thanks to obtaining 104 of a possible 124 first-place votes. Oladipo received 16 first-place votes. Here's the tally of first, second, and third place votes:

Notice how the point system works. 1st place (5 points). 2nd place (3 points). 3rd place (1 point). You can see that Oladipo was the clear-cut 2nd place choice with 364 total points. There were only 2 media members who left Oladipo completely off their top 3. So where did the 16 first-place votes for Victor Oladipo come from? I'll list them all for you:

Alan Horton - WCCO 830 AM
Bill Simmons - ESPN Grantland
David Aldridge - TNT
Dennis Neumann - ESPN 580 AM (Magic radio play-by-play broadcaster)
Jeff Turner - FOX Sports Florida (Magic television color commentator)
Jim Paschke - FOX Sports Wisconsin
Joe Freeman - The Oregonian
Joel Meyers - FOX Sports New Orleans (Calling playoff games for TNT)
John Reid - New Orleans Times Picayune
Michael Wilbon - ESPN
Mitch Lawrence - New York Daily News
Sam Smith -
Steve Holman - Hawks Radio Network
Tim Bontemps - New York Post
Tim Kempton - KTAR Radio
Zach Lowe - ESPN Grantland

Some very influential names on that list. There were only two Orlando voters - Neumann and Turner - and both voted Oladipo in first place.

My thoughts on MCW not being the best player of the top two rookies are known. Since that piece, at least MCW got his shooting percentage over 40% by the end of the season. Still, MCW ranked 387th in the league in offensive scoring efficiency. That's a joke. But no need to fret, Orlando, this voting will only motivate Victor even more to strive for greatness.

Every Magic fan should remember that Dwight Howard finished in 3rd place in the '04-'05 ROY voting behind Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon, and we know who has had the better career. Tyreke Evans took the '09-'10 ROY with Steph Curry finishing second. I'm pretty sure if there was a poll, that Curry would be preferred by GMs. Look at the '06-'07 season voting when Brandon Roy won. Paul Millsap finished 6th. LaMarcus Aldridge 7th, and Rajon Rondo 12th.

Rookie of the Year is a pure stats award. MCW played more minutes than Oladipo and had more touches and field goal attempts. Victor was more efficient with his fewer touches. Numbers can be inflated when examining just one season, and we'll know who is the best player from this rookie class in a few years time. My money is on Oladipo.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Examining Jason Maxiell'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:

Ronnie Price
Dewayne Dedmon

Let's take a look at Jason Maxiell.

For the first time in the 31-year-old's now 9-season NBA career, Jason Maxiell was playing for someone other than the Detroit Pistons. Maxiell played 34 games and started 13 of them this season for the Magic, the least court time he's had since his '05-'06 rookie season. Jason averaged 3.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg, and 0.6 bpg on a not-so-good 44.8 FG%. He's never been much of a free throw shooter, but the 48.4 FT% won't appease any coach. His season-high tallies were 12 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Jason only had three games where he reached double figures in scoring, the last one coming on December 3rd.

Ironically until the calendar flipped to January 2014, one of the more efficient Magic scoring plays was posting up Jason Maxiell. Especially on that left side of the bucket. The shot chart mirrors that somewhat. The Cincinnati Bearcat ended up starting the first 10 games of the season due to Glen Davis and Tobias Harris nursing injuries. Once January came, when Kyle O'Quinn began coming into his own and Tobias was healthy and firing on all cylinders, there was no need to play Maxiell. 

Jason played one game in February, one in March, and one in April on Fan Appreciation Night. Following January, Jason may as well have been an assistant coach. It got to the point where the most interesting thing about 'Max' was the question: Why did he stop wearing his signature eye-wearMaxiell's second half of the season highlight was being the player representative to wear Google Glass. It was strange because Maxiell was so pesky on the Pistons and he always gave Orlando issues. He went from 'Magic Killer' to invisible in a season. At least fans loved him for wearing the Bo Outlaw goggles.

He's made a career off of explosive blocking and dunking ability despite being a 6'7" undersized 260-pounder. Just like Ronnie Price though, Jason was signed last summer to be an influence on the younger guys and show his true value in the locker room and practice court. He learned a lot from champions Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace. 

Maxiell ended up teaching centers and forwards such as Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, and Kyle O'Quinn about being more physical than they were last season (and results show it). Last July, Jason was signed to a 2-year deal at $2.5 million each season. That's almost twice what Ronnie Price makes. As you'd expect, the '14-'15 portion of that contract is fully non-guaranteed. 

Should Maxiell be brought back? I guess Jason has a lot of say in that answer. Is he content with being buried on the bench for another season? My thinking is 'no'. That's fine. Orlando currently has Vucevic, Tobias, O'Quinn, Dewayne Dedmon, and Andrew Nicholson manning the '4' and '5' spots. Romero Osby will be on the team's Summer League roster again. Then there's the NBA Draft itself and who Rob Hennigan may select. 

There probably isn't room for Jason to get the minutes he probably feels he deserves. Maxiell is a great mentor, a solid veteran, another overall good guy, and there will be other NBA opportunities for him.