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MBO Roundtable – How are the Orlando Magic doing so far?

2013 November 30
by Brian Serra
Oladipo-Nicholson-Moore
With 16 games having come and gone, fans have had a decent picture painted of what the rest of the year will hold. The five contributing members of Team mBo take an early season look at five Orlando Magic topics:
How do you evaluate Jacque Vaughn’s 2nd year so far?
Brian Serra – @magicbasketball – My immediate thought is to compare him to other coaches in similar situations – Jeff Hornacek, Brett Brown, etc – but even that isn’t completely fair. Jacque is in a very difficult position, one that only has gotten increasingly more difficult with constant change to the active roster. Once a healthy Tobias Harris returns and he can run a roster of Nelson/Oladipo/Afflalo/Davis/Vucevic with Harris, Nicholson and Harkless off the bench, then a truer measure can be made. Though the overall likelihood of that happening for a sustained amount of time seems unlikely.
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Adam Papageorgiou – @adamosgp – Coach Vaughn is still very nice in media interviews. I don’t want that to change. But you can tell based on player interactions and just his overall demeanor that Jacque is demanding more from his roster this season. So far his group of guys have responded and are showing that necessary improvement. Coach is much more vocal with the refs and that’s part of the job if you want more whistles blown in your favor. Vaughn is doing a decent enough job considering the front office would very much like to get a high draft pick. Players love and respect him and I appreciate how Jacque is grooming Victor Oladipo so far.

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Andrew Melnick – @andrew_melnick – Jacque Vaughn has a very difficult job. The Magic have some solid veteran players like Arron Afflalo, Glen Davis and Jameer Nelson and he has to balance attempts to win with the development of key players who are more important to the overall future of the team in guys like second-year players Maurice Harkless and Andrew Nicholson and rookie Victor Oladipo. Although there are some complaints (given how efficient Nicholson has been, it’s almost crazy he doesn’t play more), but for the most part, he’s done a pretty nice job. Obviously, when you a first time head coach and as young as Vaughn, there are going to be bumps in the road.
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Preston Raulerson – @TheMagicBBall -  I often find myself wondering whether he is actively trying to worsen the team (Worsen for Wiggins?), or if he just doesn’t feel any necessary obligation to winning, and therefore messes with rotations and playing time on a whim to see what works. Rarely is the team in better positions because of play calling, adjustments, or fine-tuned execution. Defensively, the team is better, but that might be because of experience for the young guys vs coaching. Hard to evaluate without knowing what type of directive he is getting from above, but I can’t place him higher than average.
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Matt Jensen – @magicroyal - This is the hardest question to answer.  It’s hard to tell what the Magic mission is right now, if its to win games, or develop players.  By watching, it seems like that goal changes from game to game.  Clearly playing Oladipo at the point isn’t going to win games.  Sitting Jameer and Uncle Drew during crunch time is confusing. The roster they have now is good enough to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference I believe.  This will mean giving Jameer, Baby and Arron big minutes and crunch time minutes.  I’m not sure the Magic are willing to go that route.  As a fan that disappoints me.  I’d give Jacque a C-
Most surprising player (Good or Bad)?
Brian: Good – Nik Vucevic. Vucevic, on most nights, is putting up consistently strong numbers and has displayed an expanded offensive arsenal so far this year. While he still gets caught in the wrong place on defense far too often, the return of Big Baby will have huge effects on Vucevic’s ability to not get hung out to dry. The only other players in the league averaging > than 15+ ppg and 11+ rpg are Kevin Love, Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin – not bad company.
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Adam: Good – Andrew Nicholson. I was following the 23-year-old at the FIBA Americas tournament and saw an added toughness and grit on both ends of the court. The Canadian we know can dominate in the post and drill a 20-foot jumper. Now ‘Drew has added a deadly 3-pointer and can now drive into the lane and finish on the rack all on his own. Not bad for a guy who has played basketball about 5 years. I love Andrew’s defensive strides, both one-on-one and on help rotations. It’s to the point where I can envision Andrew possibly being a viable starting PF option when it comes time for Orlando to compete. ‘Drew is at around 55% from the field and upping his rebounding numbers as well. Keep it up, ‘Drew, hopefully Jacque rewards you with more playing time and touches. Efficiency needs to be utilized and maximized on this squad.
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Andrew: Good – Arron Afflalo. Everyone knew that Afflalo was a good player and could be a nice piece on a very good team, but the way he has carried the Magic has been extremely impressive. Before Afflalo’s injury last season, he was averaging a career-high16.5 points per game, but wasn’t all that efficient, posting an effective field goal percentage of only 47.8% and a true shooting percentage of 52.7%. This season, he’s raised those percentages to 56.3% and 61.4% while scoring 21.7 points per game. His usage rate has gone from 22.5% to 24.1% yet his turnover rate has gone down from 12.1% to 11.4%. He’s simply playing at a level I didn’t think he was capable of. He is a deserving all-star at this time.
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Preston: Bad – Moe Harkless. Maybe I overestimated his skill/ability last year, but he seems so less impactful on the defensive and offensive side this year. He has improved his shot (which we all know), but now it feels like he is a little slower coming in from the 3pt line for cuts to the basket or offensive rebound/tip-in opportunities like he had last year. Defensively, when the effort and focus is there, he can be a treat to watch…but he is lapsing more often it seems, and he has gotten abused a few times this year so far. Rebounding more, shooting worse, scoring less, and ballooning PF and TO numbers aren’t where we thought he would be after a full off-season and training camp going into his second year.
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Matt: Good – Arron Afflalo.  Seems to really be on a mission this year, worked very hard in the offseason.  The twitter hate for him has defintely died down.
Who gets dealt first: Jameer, Glen, or Arron? To which team and for what assets?
Brian: Jameer Nelson. Point guards seem to be the most injured position in the league, and also happen to be of the most importance. If Jameer himself can stay healthy, he becomes the player with the easiest chance to move without feeling the need to bring a ton back. The Magic could certainly use some second round picks again (thanks Justin Harper) – I’ll start the expectations low.
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Adam: I see Hennigan trading Arron Afflalo to a Memphis Grizzlies team desperate for outside shooting that should have a healthy Marc Gasol and an eagerness to push for the playoffs in a very tough West. Memphis could send back the expiring contracts of Ed Davis and/or Jerryd Bayless, as well as include cash and/or a 1st round pick. 
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Andrew: This one is tough. Early on, Afflalo would have been the easy guess, but it’s tough to trade your best player. Plus, with the injury to Derrick Rose, it wouldn’t be all that shocking to see a team come after Jameer Nelson, especially since you can get out of the last year of his deal for only $2M after this season. I’ll stick with Afflalo for now and he say he nets the Magic a first round pick and a young player or two to develop. As for what team, I’ll throw out the Minnesota Timberwolves. They’re always looking for a two-guard.
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Preston: Two factors – value to the Magic, and value to the market. I think Arron has the highest value as a trade chip, but he also has the highest value to the Magic- he is someone that we can build with, and the organization brought him in because of it. Jameer has the least value to the Magic, and the least value in the market (outside of his wonderful, cap-clearing contract). If his play picks up for a few weeks consistently, would be an attractive piece to a contender that wants veteran PG scoring presence for a run, but without the long-term salary implications. But I think it is Big Baby that will be the first to move. He is on a reasonable deal, has major defensive and offensive presence, and is comfortable off the bench or starting (even at C in a pinch). If he can string together another 5-6 games of good production and no injuries, I think he will be the first to move.
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Matt:  Jameer gets traded first.  Maybe to the Bulls since DRose is down.  I just think they’ve made it clear that they are going with youth, and the Oladipo experiment at point.  On a personal note this disappoints me because I wont have an active players jersey anymore.  I guess my Howard, Redick, and Turk jerseys are all retro and Jameer soon to be.
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Will any Magic players participate in All-Star Weekend?
Brian: Rising Stars Game – Victor Oladipo and Andrew Nicholson. Oladipo is a lock for obvious reasons (the vast majority of this draft class is atrocious). Andrew Nicholson was in the game last year, played well, and has seniority when it comes to hopefully coming back. His per-36 numbers are phenomenal, but the folks who select the players for this contest would prefer flashier ball handlers. Andrew needs to keep playing well even in limited minutes and I think he’ll sneak in again like last year.
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Adam: Dunk Competition – Victor Oladipo. Victor joked that he’d participate in slam jam festivities if the veterans on the team allowed him. He should be more concerned about the heads of the organization denying him. If Hoosier nation can overtake an Orlando Sentinel online bracket, I think they can support a campaign to get ‘Dipo into the competition. He can fly and he’s athletic enough to overcome potential creativity shortcomings
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Andrew: I think Afflalo makes the all-star team this year.As of right now, he certainly deserves it. Oladipo will be a fixture at the weekend, participating in both the rookie game and the slam dunk contest.
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Preston: Oladipo in the Futures game on the Rookie team, Afflalo in 3pt contest (Long shot: Harkless on the Sophomore team)
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Matt: Afflalo makes 3 point contest and maybe Vooch can sneak in because of injuries to other East centers.
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Who do you want the Magic to draft with a top-3 pick right now and why? (Reminder –  we were all Marcus Smart FanBoys last May/June and will likely remain that way if he becomes available)
Brian: Andrew Wiggins. He is not LeBron James and he never will be. He lacks the immediate fire and incredible physique that LeBron had at his same age. But he can be Paul George and a Kevin Durant upside. And every team in the league right now would – obvious statement of the century – take either of those. 1) Wiggins 2) Smart 3) Parker – all would be welcome!
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Adam: Marcus Smart. I’ve been screaming his name long before his Memphis and USF performances. The Oklahoma State guard was who I wanted Orlando to draft in the 2013 draft (with Oladipo as my backup option) before Smart decided to do something we all thought was stupid and pass up on guaranteed top 3 NBA money to stay in school another year. Now Marcus is clawing and fighting just to be considered a top 5 prospect again. But you know what, he’s better for it. At least so far. Imagine Smart and Oladipo in the backcourt with a variation Afflalo/Harris/Harkless/Nicholson/Davis at the forward positions. I like Marcus more than Parker, Randle, and Wiggins. No, I’m not on narcotics. I’m not drafting by position need either, I just view Marcus as the better all-around prospect right now.
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Andrew: Another tough one. With Harkless and Tobias Harris, the Magic already have a couple of capable, talented and developing young small forwards. However, you can’t pass on the best player in basketball. Despite the fact the Jabari Parker is currently outplaying him, I’ll still go with the upside of Andrew Wiggins.
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Preston: Wiggins. His tool set at the SF position is going to be a huge value to an NBA team. Has a competitive streak, as well. Athleticism is off the charts – the rare kind that I think we will notice every time he plays (which is true for both LeBron…and Gerald Green. Doesn’t lock in greatness, but certainly helps). Also, name recognition and flash even now would be enough to keep the Magic compelling from a business/fan perspective, which doesn’t matter on the court…but is nice to have, all the same.
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Matt: Marcus Smart.  I think he’s the most polished.  I like his leadership and his style of play and it will fit in well with Oladipo and Harkless.   This may be a biased pick though, because I loathe Kansas. #anyonebutwiggins
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