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:
Let's take a look at Kyle O'Quinn.
BEARD SMASH! Kyle O'Quinn made quite the leap in his sophomore NBA season. 'Beard Be Free' played 69 games and even started 19 of them. That's quite outstanding considering KOQ began the season behind Jason Maxiell, Tobias Harris, Glen Davis, and Andrew Nicholson on the depth chart. It wasn't until the calendar flipped to '2014' that the Norfolk State University alum found his way into Jacque Vaughn's core rotation. 'KOQ' didn't miss a single game after January 6th.
O'Quinn really enjoys doing most of his offensive damage on the baseline, and the green areas support his way of thinking. Kyle posted career-high averages of 6.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 1.1 apg, 0.6 spg, and 68.7 FT% at around 17 minutes per contest. Although his 50.1 FG% is slightly down from his 51.3% rookie percentage, O'Quinn took 2 more field goal attempts than last year. Add to it that KOQ shot 52.6 FG% as a starter and 48.6 FG% off the bench. Credit goes to his chemistry with Nikola Vucevic as the two have shown spurts of being a formidable twin towers duo. It's unknown if the Magic will continue to start them together in the long-term. But Kyle has left the door open for possibilities, and that's a wonderful thing out the 2012 49th overall draft pick.
The 24-year-old tallied only 2 double-doubles in '13-'14 - the same as last season - but Kyle's improvement from his rookie year was very evident to anyone who turned on the television. His most valuable asset may be his passing in and around the post. Assist numbers don't show it, but Kyle is an outstanding distributor for a big man. If there was an NBA statistic for a hockey assist, O'Quinn would be tops among big men. Still, Kyle managed a career-high 7 assists on February 18th against the Bucks. Fantastic peripheral court vision.
The second-best attribute that O'Quinn brings is swatting shots and getting his hands on anything that comes into the lane. His 1.3 blocks per game not only led the team, but was a large improvement from his 0.5 bpg average last season. O'Quinn twice notched 5+ block outings that included a career-high 6 swats against the Pistons on February 5th.
Victor Oladipo on Kyle O'Quinn following the February 5th game: "It was crazy. He played great today, absolutely amazing today. When he's blocking shots and he's still running the floor, beating everybody down the floor, it's crazy energy and we definitely feed off of that."Kyle isn't known as a leaper - a 31.5-inch standing vertical isn't something to scoff at though considering his height - but his almost 7'5" wingspan combined with impeccable jump timing gives KOQ the potency to block anyone's shot.
Kyle's already a very confident individual, but it expanded every game he stepped onto the court. An encouraging sign of maturation in the 6'10" man's game was him tallying 6 consecutive games of 10+ points in April that culminated with a season-high 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting against the Bulls. The New York native was an intricate piece in why the Magic were much more improved in protecting Amway Center. O'Quinn only played 30+ minutes in two games. His sweet spot as far as court time given to him by Jacque Vaughn was in the 20-29 minute range. That's also the minutes range where Kyle has been most efficient, displayed by his 55% total shooting.
GM Rob Hennigan has a great talent on a bargain of a contract. Kyle is currently on a non-guaranteed contract that has him projected to make about $915,000 in the '14-'15 campaign. Then there's a $1.1 million qualifying offer for '15-'16. KOQ made Glen Davis completely expendable, and kept a struggling Andrew Nicholson on the bench. Again, good talent on a cheap deal. O'Quinn has solidified his role and shouldn't worry about being waived this summer. Kyle just needs to continue to grow his game, even if it's subtle improvement. He'll have other front offices clamoring to get their hands on him in no time.
I consider Kyle O'Quinn to be a core member of the team. Whether that's as a starting PF or the first big man off the bench is all up to Kyle and who the Magic draft. He has the attitude, work ethic, and unique skill set to succeed as an important component on a franchise that is gearing up to compete again.
Here's a quote from Kyle at the end of the Magic's April 16th season finale:
"Two years in, and third year you don't want to be a loser. Then again, I'm not saying we're losers, but we made strides. We have to be up there with the Indiana Pacers and the Heat, teams like that. That's who we want to be like so we're a long way from that. We're a long way from that so, we have to continue to work."Kyle sets a great example in the locker room, does all of the right things, says all of the right things, shows the hunger to win, but still has a fun personality that makes him the funniest guy on the team. Also KOQ's beard is phenomenal, even if he shaved it off for charity. It'll come back and so will his presence in a pinstriped jersey. Kyle's solid play is a reason why Orlando doesn't absolutely need to draft a PF in a few weeks.