Does Andrew Nicholson Have One Foot Out the Door?
This is a guest piece contribution by Tyler Kobylinksi.
Yes, Orlando Magic fans, Andrew Nicholson is still on the roster… for now. Drafted 19th overall in the 2012 NBA Draft, Nicholson received high praise from scouts for his effectiveness in the paint and his ability to score with his back to the basket. Out of St. Bonaventure, Nicholson averaged 18.4 ppg as a senior, leading the Bonnies to an NCAA tournament birth and receiving the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year nod.
In his rookie season, Nicholson started 28 games while also playing off the bench behind veteran Glen Davis, averaging 7.8 ppg. The two backup PF’s (Tony Battie and Brian Cook) from the Magic regular season squad that eventually went to the NBA Finals in 2009 averaged a combined 7.8 ppg for that season – showing that Nicholson’s production was at an equal level of an NBA Finals caliber team for his position. Andrew was rewarded for his success in the form of becoming an All-Star Weekend participant in the Rising Stars Challenge. Magic GM Rob Hennigan was countlessly praised by basketball analysts and scouts for getting a ‘steal’ in Nicholson.
So What Happened?
The key factor to analyze in Andrew’s 2012-2013 campaign is that he took ZERO three point attempts the entire season. Somewhere between the Milwaukee trade that brought in Tobias Harris and the 2013 offseason that included the signing of Jason Maxiell, it was decided that Andrew Nicholson would be transitioned into a stretch four position player in an attempt to spread the floor and add another three-point scorer to the roster- think Rashard Lewis.
Out of the blue, Andrew Nicholson had debuted his new 3-point shooting weapon while on international duty for Jay Triano’s Canadian national team at the FIBA Americas Championship. You know what? Andrew was draining those 3-pointers averaging 45.5 3P% (10-of-22) in the tournament. It initially looked like Andrew was going to make a sophomore leap in Orlando.
It didn’t quite end up that way after a hot start. Nicholson went from taking 0 three-point shots in 2012/13 to taking 89 in 2013/14, of which he made 28, a lowly 31% from behind the arc. This resulted in his ppg dropping by over 2 points to 5.7 ppg. Compare this to Rashard Lewis, who in 2013/14 was deep in a Miami bench and still attempted 134 three-point shots.
It was not a matter of Andrew being moved to a new position, or the fact that he only took 89 three-points attempts; it’s that he lost the confidence that he had coming into the NBA after averaging almost 20 points per contest at St. Bonaventure. The Magic took a second-year player, coming off a decent rookie season as a back-up and said, ‘we are going to completely change your game and we expect results in one season’. That doesn’t sound like the Rob Hennigan I know. Nicholson was the fifth most efficient player in the 2012 NBA Draft and the 1st-most efficient at his position. So why change it?
Things are not looking much brighter for Nicholson. With the drafting of Aaron Gordon and the addition of a true stretch four in Channing Frye – who took 432 three-point attempts last season – there seems to be little room on the depth chart for Nicholson. He’s too slow to play the SF position and too small to play the C position. Even if Tobias Harris gets moved back to his natural position of SF, the team still has three PF’s.
One can make an argument for Aaron Gordon playing the SF position and moving Harkless to the SG position, freeing up a roster spot at PF; however, if Elfrid Payton is the Magic’s PG of the future then there is no doubt Oladipo will be getting more minutes at the SG position pushing Harkless to third on the depth chart in that role behind Oladipo and Ben Gordon.
Any way you slice it, all roads lead to Nicholson not fitting into the role that Orlando’s staff needs him to play – ironically enough, a role that we did not draft him to play. Andrew is in the midst of a crucial offseason, one with no international duty involved. If he doesn’t impress come training camp, a trip to the Erie BayHawks awaits. Nicholson needs to prove he’s worthy of having his $2.38 million ’15-’16 team option picked up. It’s only a matter of time before the longest-tenured Magic player, at a whopping 748 days and counting, is no more.
Tyler Kobylinksi is a guest MBO contributor and future legal correspondent.