Sunday, August 11, 2013

NBA Season Preview 13-14: Orlando Magic

2012-2013 Regular Season Record: 20-62

Key Additions: G Victor Oladipo (Rd 1, Pick 2), F Jason Maxiell (2 yrs, 5 mil, 2.5 mil guaranteed) , G Ronnie Price (2 yrs, 2.58 mil, 1.27 mil guaranteed), F Romero Osby (Rd 2, Pick 51)

Key Losses: None

Projected Starting Lineup: PG: Jameer Nelson SG: Arron Affalo SF: Maurice Harkless PF: Tobias Harris C: Nikola Vucevic

Key Backups: G Victor Oladipo, F/C Glen "Big Baby" Davis, F Andrew Nicholson, F Jason Maxiell

Well there is one thing Orlando Magic fans can be happy about, they are now the clear cut winners of the Dwight Howard trade. It was always seemingly inevitable Dwight Howard would leave the Orlando Magic and unlike the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Magic managed to get pieces out of the trade in the form of Arron Afflalo, Maurice Harkless and Nikola Vucevic. What has also been the cause and effect was a huge rebuilding year, one that netted them the 2nd pick of the NBA draft in which the Magic choose Victor Oladipo.
Enter Victor Oladipo, part of the Indiana Hoosier resurgence alongside current Bobcat Cody Zeller, leads the current new look Orlando Magic. Oladipo is an intriguing prospect, blessed with excellent athleticism and good defensive qualitiesthat I found at first puzzling the Magic drafted him although having a playing style similar to the aforementioned Arron Afflalo. After watching the Orlando Summer League, Oladipo has left doubters including me speechless.

Orlando Head Coach Jacque Vaughn, tasked the Nigerian descent two guard of running the point guard position, one that doubters including me questioned with his presumed lack of ball handling and playmaking skills. Victor Oladipo put all those doubters including me on hush as he was the only other rookie not named Kelly Olynyk to make the first team of the Orlando Summer League scoring 19 points, grabbing 4.3 rebounds, five assists and picked off 3 steals through four games. Oladipo shown surprisingly good ball handling skills, a knack for hitting the big shot and blazing speed to cover both areas of the court in a matter of seconds. This summer league showing has him drawn to comparisons of Russell Westbrook, a player who also was almost exclusively a two guard in college playing at UCLA. While it is quick to put such a heavy ceiling on him, I expect after this summer league showing he will be used primarily as a point guard, and with learning under former point guard Jacque Vaughn and an experience point in Jameer Nelson, the sky is the limit on his presumed limited potential.

The free agent signings the Orlando Magic have made are not too much to note although Jason Maxiell and Ronnie Price adds some veteran presence in a young locker room. Maxiell was a high energy guy during eight seasons with the Pistons and Ronnie Price is an explosive combo guard who has seen stints with Sacramento, Utah, Phoenix and Portland. This team is obviously not expected to land a big star at this stage of development but are solid short term signings for a rebuilding team.

This rebuilding team has some nice rebuilding pieces. Despite Glen Davis being the designated starter of the Magic during the 2012-2013 season before being sidelined by a left ankle injury, I expect him to start the season on the bench after the tremendous showing of duo forwards; Maurice Harkless and Tobias Harris. Harkless struggled in the first half of the season when he was thrown into the starting spot after Hedo Turkgolu went down, but in the second half of the season, he averaged 13.4 PPG while rebounding at a clip of 5.3 in 35.7 minutes of play. The former St. John's man is versatile and athletic able of playing both forward spots and with further improvement on his shooting could be a player to watch for the Magic. Tobias Harris is also a player to keep an eye on and who would of thought the Magic came out with a rising star out of the trade of J.J. Redick. Tobias Harris averaged 17.5 PPG, grabbed 8.5 boards, chipped in 2.1 assists and also added a block post-trade playing the power forward position. At the age of 21, Tobias Harris already has a game mature beyond his years that will only improve with time.

Nikola Vucevic also surprised quite a few this season averaging 13.9 PPG and 11.9 rebounds even breaking Shaq's longstanding record of rebounds in a single game with 29 against the Miami Heat. In a league where it is rare to find talented seven-footers, the 76ers are wishing they had him back. Arron Afflalo had a heavy offensive workload last season scoring 16.5 PPG at a 44 percent clip. Same can be said for Jameer Nelson who scored 14.4 PPG and 7.4 assists before his season ended due to injury. Youn power forward Andrew Nicholson shown promise scoring 7.8 PPG in 16.7 minutes and could be in line for more playing time this season.

This upcoming season is only expected to be a slight improvement upon last season's 20-62 record. Jacque Vaughn is the right coach for the job with his leadership and his relationship to players as a former one himself, this team will grow as he grows. Unfortunately for this upcoming season they do not have much offensive firepower to compete in the Eastern Conference. This team is still in rebuilding mode and with the rising young talent they have, expect the Orlando Magic to make some noise a few years down the road.

Projected All-Stars: None

Season Projection: Bottom of the Eastern Conference