Friday, June 20, 2014

Examining Andrew Nicholson'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:

Arron Afflalo
Kyle O'Quinn
Jameer Nelson
Tobias Harris
Nikola Vucevic
Doron Lamb
Jason Maxiell
Ronnie Price
Dewayne Dedmon

Let's take a look at Andrew Nicholson

That 18-point Opening Night showing in Indiana feels light years away now. Within a year, Nicholson went from a steal of a draft pick selection at #19 and playing in the Rising Stars exhibition at All-Star Weekend, to struggling on both ends of the court and being buried on Jacque Vaughn's bench. Sophomore slump or not, can someone find the Canadian his confidence again?

Nicholson somehow managed to step onto the court in 76 games this season, one more than his rookie year. Andrew though dropped from 28 starts to only 5 in '13-'14. He upped his free throw shooting to 82.5% and his rebounding slightly improved despite playing fewer minutes.

The positives end there. His points per game went from 7.8 last year to 5.7 this year. Nicholson only managed 15 games in which he scored 10+ points. Last year it was 28 contests. His 2-point shooting percentage also plummeted from a sturdy 52.7% last season to an average at best 45.9%.

The biggest media criticism about the St. Bonaventure product in 2012-2013 was that he wasn't exactly the most outgoing guy to interview. Being short in his answer replies is the least of his problems now. That shotchart is bleeding out of control in comparison to Andrew's tidy chart from his rookie campaign.

Last summer the 24-year-old added a 3-point shot - after not attempting a single 3-ball his rookie year - to what had been deemed an already deadly offensive arsenal. It appeared to pay off at the FIBA Americas tournament as well as early on in the Mississauga native's '13-'14 Magic campaign where Nicholson demanded immediate respect for his inside-outside repertoire. Andrew also developed a nifty driving floater that I wished he'd use more. But that 3-point shot ended up poisoning Andrew's entire season.

Andrew's 31.5 3PT% easily would have been worse if not for a respectable April during Orlando's tanking stretch. His field goal percentage was a bad 42.9%. Andrew's technique with both his footwork and shooting form grew sloppy and inconsistent. He continues to display large lapses in both man-on-man and help defensive awareness.

Nicholson's two outstanding performances in late October to open the regular season should have been a sign of things to come. Instead, the 6'9" big man hit an awful shooting stretch between mid-December all the way through March. Worse yet, Andrew is still a defensive liability especially when it comes to being sluggish in help situations. So there was no incentive for Jacque Vaughn to play Nicholson. Not when Kyle O'Quinn was taking advantage of playing time. I drank the Andrew Kool-Aid and right now all of our drinks are spiked.

As awful as Nicholson was this season, it's way too early to give up on a guy who has only played basketball about 6 years total in his life. Rob Hennigan is only scheduled to pay Andrew about $1.5 million next season. Andrew began to right the ship finally in April so he's not broken. Not yet anyway. Andrew doesn't have any Canadian national team duty this offseason, so he can focus solely on his Magic duties.

Would I trade Nicholson for a late first round pick in this '14 Draft? Yeah. I'm a big fan of guys like Cleanthony Early and Thanasis Antetokounmpo. However, Andrew isn't worth that right now. Maybe a great 2nd rounder. Orlando is better off holding on to Nicholson and seeing what his mental strength is when it comes to facing adversity. Hopefully Coach Vaughn and his staff gave Andrew a proper regiment to get their man back on track again.

I believe Nicholson can bounce back in his third season, but he needs to focus on improving his athleticism (he made some noticeable strides this year), becoming mediocre enough on defense to warrant Coach Vaughn keeping him on the court for more than a handful of minutes, and finding his dominant and efficient paint offense once more.

Andrew is behind Tobias Harris, Kyle O'Quinn, and even Dewayne Dedmon on the PF depth chart. He'll be buried even more if Orlando drafts another big man. Andrew needs to realize that he is fighting for his roster spot heading into training camp in October. Nicholson's on-court progress will have to improve if the Magic are going to pick up his $2.4 million team option for 2015-2016.

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