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Nikola Vucevic is a Franchise Player, and Don’t Forget That

2015 May 3
by Adam Papageorgiou
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

This is an MBO series of 2014-2015 Orlando Magic seasonal player recaps and evaluations. Throughout this month of May – as the NBA Draft and free agency approach – we’ll dive into statistics, highlights, and more as we dissect the 15-man roster and figure out who should stay and who should go as we enter a very important offseason in the franchise’s history. 

We’re going to begin with Nikola Vucevic, Magic ’14-’15 MVP, and yet still a ridiculously disrespected center by media and even Magic fans. In an age where great centers are becoming harder to find and develop, Orlando has a 24-year-old who just concluded only his 4th NBA season and is already a franchise cornerstone.

Vucevic only played in 57 contests in the ’13-’14 campaign. A few missed games were for tanking purposes, but a good chunk of them were due to some concussion scares. Hopefully we’re long past that, but I believe it’s a big reason why Rob Hennigan was able to lock up Nik to a 4-year, $50-something million extension in October. Averaging 14.2 ppg and 11.0 rpg on 50.7 FG% in his ’13-’14 campaign, Nik was expected to be one of the squad’s stars.

It’s not often you can say a guy making around $12 million is underpaid, but that’s exactly what will be occurring over the next few seasons. Vooch made the leap this season towards elite status.

The Montenegrin averaged 19.3 ppg, 10.9 rpg, on 52.4 FG% in 74 games played this ’14-’15 campaign. Here is a chart of every other player who has done that since the ’92-’93 season. The only restriction I’ve made is you needed to play at least 65% of that season’s games.

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25 guys in over two decades. That’s it. I don’t see DeMarcus Cousins on this list. Do you? That’s because Boogie has never sniffed at 50% shooting. Vooch has surpassed that in all 3 of his seasons in Orlando. Those folks wanting the Magic to trade Vooch for Cousins need to realize it’d be a lateral move, not forward. Orlando needs small and power forward help. They have their center in Vooch and they have the backcourt starters locked up in Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton.

Notice the Magic men in blue on my chart again. No one is saying it vocally/verbally, but I still think a lot of basketball watchers subconsciously compare Nik to Dwight Howard and Shaquille O’Neal. You just can’t do that. D12 and Shaq are rare physical specimens who powered and forced their way to on-court success. Vooch is vertically challenged and he’d be the first to say he’s not a big leaper. But that doesn’t make him ‘soft’. No man that’s a starting center for three consecutive seasons who averaged 11 rebounds per contest is ‘soft’. Vooch is blessed with a strong lower base. Something Shaq had but not something Dwight does. It’s tough to legally push Nik around and that’s why Vooch is great at boxing out in the paint.

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Elfrid Payton Finishes 4th in Rookie of the Year Voting

2015 April 30
by Adam Papageorgiou

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Well, I guessed third or fourth. Orlando Magic point guard Elfrid Payton finished in 4th place in the Rookie of the Year voting. Minnesota wing Andrew Wiggins ran away with the award.

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Elfrid’s first place votes all came from Orlando broadcasters. Dante Marchitelli from FOX Sports Florida/Magic DriveTime/Magic GameDay, long-time radio man Dennis Neumann from ESPN 580 AM, and former player and current FOX Sports Florida man Jeff Turner.

The 8 people who gave Elfrid 2nd place votes are: Adrian Chavarria (KEYH 850 AM), Antonio Harvey (FOX Sports Radio/620 AM), Brian Sieman (The Beast 980 AM FM), Ethan Skolnick (Bleacher Report), Israel Guttierez (ESPN.com), Jason Jones (Sacramento Bee), Mike Inglis (WAXY Radio), and Ric Bucher (Bleacher Report).

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Look, typically points per game determines the winner. That’s exactly how the voting went looking at the statistical comparisons. Elfrid’s 8.9 ppg, rookie-leading 6.5 apg, 3.0 rpg, 1.7 spg on 42.5 FG% campaign was strong for a kid who supposedly can’t shoot. His defense and vision can’t be ignored. You can see why people were impressed by Mirotic’s output at only twenty minutes per contest. Payton just didn’t take enough shots in comparison to the other 3 guys, and that’s more than fine.

Had the Magic been a better team, no doubt Elfrid would have finished higher. Nikola Mirotic came on strong in the second half of the season to help carry an injured Bulls team. Nerlens Noel has had a solid season in Philly after missing the entire ’13-’14 campaign. It’s okay, Magic fans, we know how great Payton is going to be in Orlando.

 

Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO and Founder of Orlando Magic Greek

Hennigan Passes on Billy Donovan, is Rewarded with Extension

2015 April 30
by Adam Papageorgiou
Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel

Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel

Or something like that. While Billy Donovan ditches the Florida Gators for the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Orlando Magic on Thursday extended the contract of General Manager Rob Hennigan. Hennigan’s contract has been extended through the 2017-2018 season. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel reports there’s a team option for the ’18-’19 campaign as well.

“Under the leadership of Rob (Hennigan), we feel that we are positioning ourselves to be able to contend in a long-term, sustainable fashion,” said CEO Alex Martins. “We are proud of the work that Rob and our basketball operations department has done to this point and we look forward to taking the next steps in the process.”

Hennigan was named GM of the Magic on June 20, 2012. He is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the team’s basketball operations, including day-to-day business, roster management and development, player acquisitions, salary cap management, analytical systems, and process development throughout the department. Before joining the Magic, Hennigan spent the previous four seasons (2008-2012) with Oklahoma City, including his last two seasons as the Thunder’s assistant general manager/player personnel.

“It’s an honor to be a member of this organization and a privilege to work for the DeVos Family under Dan and Alex’s leadership,” said Hennigan. “I am extremely grateful for the unwavering trust and support that our entire organization demonstrates as we continue building our team for competitive longevity and one in which all of Central Florida can be proud.”

 

Prior to joining the Thunder, Hennigan spent four seasons with the San Antonio Spurs. He was named director of basketball operations in September of 2007. Hennigan began as an intern during the 2004-2005 season and was later named the team’s basketball operations assistant during the summer of 2005. The Spurs won the NBA World Championship in 2004-2005 and 2006-2007.

As we’ve seen in every sport, contract extensions mean nothing without positive results. Henny needs to get the correct coaching staff – assuming he has a say in the decision – and roster of players to get the Magic into the playoffs in the 2015-2016 season. Rob has done very well up to this point, but Jacque Vaughn’s failures are a setback. Hennigan won’t have much job security if he doesn’t get this franchise back into the postseason.

 

Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO and Founder of Orlando Magic Greek

Notable Moments from Grantland’s Oral History on ’90s Magic

2015 April 26
by Adam Papageorgiou

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If you like the Orlando Magic and have not yet read the oral history of the mid-’90s Magic from Grantland, stop what you’re doing and do it. Then come back here. Jonathan Abrams did a fantastic job of piecing together the rise of fall of Orlando’s young franchise and collecting some great quotes from some very important figures. I decided to put together my viewpoint of the oral history and some notable moments from the piece.

 

It Actually Starts off a Little Slow

If there’s one thing that Grantland does absolutely spectacularly is oral histories. The 1989 World Series earthquake. The Chris Moneymaker-spawned poker boom. The film Swingers. The early 2000s Kings-Lakers rivalry. All are must reads whether you love those topics or not. We Magic folks have been waiting months for this mid-’90s Magic piece in great anticipation.

I’ll be honest, I was getting a bit worried about this piece when we started seeing similar quotes from guys like Pat Williams that we’ve seen over the past decade about the beginnings of the Magic franchise. If you’re not a strong follower of the Magic, it probably appeared fresh. But other than Dennis Scott throwing some ‘shade’ at Stanley Roberts and Bison Dele, it was sort of tame. Once we get to the Shaquille O’Neal drafting in ’92, it picks up steam quickly.

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The Orlando Magic App is Now Accessible on Apple Watch

2015 April 26
by Adam Papageorgiou

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As part of the Orlando Magic’s continuing commitment to technology and enhancement of the fan experience, the Magic have launched its exclusive Orlando Magic App for Apple Watch. Fans can download the app for Apple Watch using this link.

Fans will have to look no further than their wrist to check out the latest scores and stats, in addition to getting alerts directly from the Magic.

The Magic’s commitment to fan experience and engagement were recently enhanced through the team’s technology efforts. In addition to the team’s mobile app on Apple Watch, those efforts include the announcements of being the first NBA team to offer Apple Pay in Amway Center; the launch of iBeacons technology installed throughout Amway Center to provide fans the ability to receive instant communication and updates the moment they enter the arena; and the re-launch of OrlandoMagic.com to be more responsive to mobile and tablet applications. The Magic are also the first NBA team to sign a deal with FanDuel.com in the Fantasy Sports category.

“The Magic are committed to our fans and their experience and are continually looking for ways to innovate in order to make that experience legendary,” said Magic CEO Alex Martins. “Being able to offer our fans the Orlando Magic App for Apple Watch the day it becomes available is just one small way in what we hope to be a long line of future innovations to stay on top of the latest technology.”

 

Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO and Founder of Orlando Magic Greek

Did Orlando Shoot Better in the ‘Pride’ Sleeved Jerseys?

2015 April 23
by Adam Papageorgiou

paytonvoochpride

The Orlando Magic played 12 games in their brand new ‘Pride’ silver and sleeved jerseys this season. The vast majority of people have despised these jerseys. I love ’em. They look great. The Magic continue their NBA ‘pinstripes’ monopoly. The Association wants advertisements, and sleeved jerseys open up extra real estate for sponsors to take up uniform space. But supposedly players don’t like wearing them because of performance worries, and supposedly fans won’t buy them.

I wanted to give the Pride uniforms a fair opportunity, so I tracked statistics from the Magic’s 12 home games in which they wore those silver sleeved beauties and compared them to the 68 other games from this ’14-’15 campaign in which they weren’t wearing sleeves. Some intriguing results.

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Add Scott Brooks to Orlando’s Coaching Candidate Radar

2015 April 22
by Adam Papageorgiou
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

 

A new candidate for the Orlando Magic Head Coach position may have just emerged. If you haven’t heard, the Oklahoma City Thunder have fired Head Coach Scott Brooks after spending 7 years taking them from bottom feeder to championship contender. He departs OKC with a 338-207 (.620) regular season win-loss record as well as a 39-34 postseason record. Lasting 7 consecutive years as the Head Coach of any team in any professional sport is impressive now-a-days. Stan Van Gundy – the greatest coach in Magic history – only made it 5 seasons. Several big time media folks believe Brooks will be a strong candidate for the Magic job.

 

 

 

 

Ever since finishing just short of the title in the 2012 NBA Finals, the Thunder never could get back to the mountain top due to injuries (Serge Ibaka, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant). Still, I didn’t think that Brooks would get fired this offseason. I’m pretty shocked actually. OKC didn’t have their MVP in Durant available for the majority of this season, Westbrook and Ibaka missed time, and yet OKC still almost made the playoffs in a tough Western Conference. Also, OKC’s GM Sam Presti deserves a lot of blame for dumping James Harden to Houston before it may have been necessary. That franchise has not recovered from that deal.

Remember, this guy had to take over the ’08-’09 Thunder team that started that season 1-12 under P.J. Carlesimo. Scotty went 22-47 the rest of the way. No one thought he was leading that squad to 50 wins the next season. It helps when you draft well though. Still, that talent needs to be grown and can easily be botched in the wrong coach’s hands.

The 2009-2010 Coach of the Year gets great credit for helping develop Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, James Harden, Steven Adams, Jeff Green, Thabo Sefolosha, Reggie Jackson, Mitch McGary, and more. Sure guys like Perry Jones III, Jeremy Lamb, Andre Roberson, Hasheem Thabeet, Daniel Orton, and DeAndre Liggins didn’t pan out, but no coach will make everyone fantastic. He’s coached guys who are now coaches in Kevin Ollie and Derek Fisher.

At 49 years old, Brooks has 10 NBA seasons under his belt as a point guard – including winning the ’94 title with the Rockets in a small role – as well as those 7 years as Head Coach in OKC. He’s still young. Most of all, he’s got to be hungry for a title. Now Brooks will need to start over and the Magic may be the proper fit for him.

Brooks seems like a genuinely nice guy that would fit in well here in Orlando. No offence to Oklahoma City, but Orlando as a city is very appealing. He’s got the hipster glasses. He already has a past relationship of some type of significance with Rob Hennigan. Will Alex Martins sign off on Brooks? Or does the franchise’s CEO prefer another candidate such as Scott Skiles. That’s a front office tug-of-war we’ll never see publicly. Still, the Magic could do a lot worse than Brooks.

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A lot of unfortunate injuries have derailed some great OKC teams. That’s the type of playoff experience the Magic need from their next Head Coach. A guy who has been there. Someone who has had a lot of success, but will have learned a lot by getting bounced out of the playoffs by 4 NBA champs (2010 Lakers, 2011, 2012, 2014). That’s nuts. A fresh start could benefit Brooks and his family greatly. Why not the City Beautiful?

There are a lot of questions one must ponder when considering Scott Brooks’ Magic candidacy:

If the Magic keep Tobias Harris, can Brooks mold him into a Durant-lite scoring threat?

How would Brooks handle having an actual big time scoring back-to-basket type guy in Nikola Vucevic? Having Enes Kanter for a few months doesn’t count.

Could he turn Dewayne Dedmon into a defensive terror similar to Serge Ibaka? Can he give Dedmon a similar jump shot as Ibaka?

Can he make Aaron Gordon and/or Maurice Harkless his new Thabo Sefolosha go-to defensive specialist?

Will big time 2015 free agents want to play for Brooks in comparison to a Tom Thibodeau?

Can he lure a Kevin Durant or a shot blocking Serge Ibaka to Orlando? Even in his exit, Durant gave a very heartfelt Instagram goodbye. You want your superstars to love your Head Coach. That’s half the battle in keeping your best players in a middle market (the other main factor of course being $$).

Most importantly: Can Brooks disprove his doubters when it comes to the final 2 minutes of contests?

That’s been a massive problem for this Magic squad. Play well for the majority of a game, fall apart down the stretch. If Orlando knew how to finish late, they probably would have made the playoffs. That’s how many potential wins transformed into losses.

There is lengthy evidence though that shows Brooks isn’t great at X’s and O’s, especially late in contests. That he never drew up plays down the stretch, relying on Durant and Westbrook to get creative with 1-on-1 offensive takes. Then again, it’s Westbrook and Durant. Those guys want the ball in their hands in isolation situations. Those complaints occur when you have a team contending for a championship. Orlando for 3+ years now has begged to be in that type of discussion. I feel Brooks can potentially get this Magic squad there.

Is Brooks a great Head Coach, or is he an Erik Spoelstra that benefited from immense talent? We’ll find out if Brooks gets this Orlando job. His track record is very strong though as a man who can develop a young bunch of guys into a fantastic team.

Scott Brooks definitely deserves a strong look by the Magic. I’d put him in my Top 5 (maybe 3) for sure as far as candidates who are available. I certainly wouldn’t complain if Orlando brass hires him. On paper, Brooks fits what the Magic franchise should be looking for. A guy who has a strong NBA background, can teach young guys, who is very hungry to win an NBA title. Brooks will be in high demand. If the Magic want him, they may have to pounce at the opportunity well before the playoffs conclude.

 

Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO and Founder of Orlando Magic Greek

Seth Curry Named to All-NBA Development League 1st Team

2015 April 22
by Adam Papageorgiou
Photo by Rich Obrey/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by Rich Obrey/NBAE via Getty Images

The NBA Development League today announced the 2014-2015 All-NBA D-League selections, which included Seth Curry of the Erie BayHawks – the Orlando Magic’s NBDL affiliate – on the 1st team. This marks the second All-NBA D-League selection Curry has earned in his two-year career after being selected on the third team during last year’s campaign with the Santa Cruz Warriors.

Curry finished second in the D-League with 23.8 points per game in 43 appearances and was first in the league in three-point percentage (46.7%). He was clutch throughout the season, adding three buzzer-beating finishes; two to win the game and one to send the game into overtime where the BayHawks went on to win.

Curry earned a 10-day contract with the Phoenix Suns late this season, making two appearances while averaging 3.9 minutes per game.

It’s unknown if he’ll join the Magic at the Orlando Summer League in July or if Curry will seek a different opportunity. The 24-year-old was with the Magic last summer and at training camp last October.

 

Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO and Founder of Orlando Magic Greek

Vote for Tobias Harris to Win NBA Cares Season-long Award

2015 April 20
by Adam Papageorgiou

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Get your charity hats on, Orlando Magic fans. Fan voting for the 2014-2015 Season-long NBA Cares Community Assist Award presented by Kaiser Permanente has begun and Magic forward Tobias Harris is in the running. Along with an NBA panel of judges, fans can vote for Tobias to win through April 27th via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using #NBACommunityAssist and #TobiasHarris in their posts.

You MUST use both hashtags for the vote to count. There’s no limit on how many times you can vote. The NBA and Kaiser Permanente will donate $25,000 to the winner’s charity of choice.

 

 

Tobias won the monthly NBA Cares award back in March. The other season-long nominees Tobias is competing against include past monthly winners Anthony Davis, Ben McLemore, Joakim Noah, Chris Paul, Klay Thompson, and Russell Westbrook, along with three additional nominees, Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol, and Damian Lillard, who have all made notable contributions to their communities.

Harris last season won the Rich & Helen DeVos Community Enrichment Award. ‘T12′ was a co-winner this season.  

 

 

Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO and Founder of Orlando Magic Greek

Don’t Forget the Magic Have the #51 Draft Pick Too

2015 April 19
by Adam Papageorgiou

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Remember the Orlando Magic ‘asset acquisition’ deal the franchise made with the Chicago Bulls last July? No? Well, here’s your refresher. The Magic took on the $1.83 million salary of Anthony Randolph and received a second round Draft pick in 2015 as well as 2016. Even some cash. In return, Orlando only needed to give up the rights to Milovan Rakovic.

Fast forward to now.

Orlando will be handing Philadelphia their second round pick (#35) in this summer’s NBA Draft as part of the Elfrid Payton-Dario Saric trade. No worries, the Magic do still have a second round selection after all. #51. Courtesy of the Bulls. I’ll save you the ‘best of Bulls/Blazers’ details and the Bulls/Mavericks tiebreakers that had to occur, but the pick is at #51.

If there’s one thing we tend to neglect about Rob Hennigan, it’s that he makes better use of 2nd round picks than most NBA front offices do. And don’t get me started on Magic front office regimes prior to Henny’s arrival. Hennigan got Kyle O’Quinn in 2012 with the 49th pick. Along with having that legendary beard, KOQ is going to command some interesting league attention as a Restricted Free Agent. Rob took Romero Osby with the 51st pick in 2013. Injury bad luck is a main contributor to him missing out on being on this roster. Even though he was technically acquired via the Aaron Afflalo-Evan Fournier trade, Orlando got Devyn Marble with the #56 selection. Marble will most likely make the Magic squad this upcoming season yet again.

So who is projected at #51 currently?

Well, DraftExpress at the moment has Kentucky guard Andrew Harrison landing in Orlando. Assuming Willie Green, Luke Ridnour, and Ben Gordon all won’t be back next season, the Magic need to add depth behind Elfrid Payton. Peyton Siva should get a chance, but taking an non-guaranteed chance on a Harrison brother – Aaron is projected in that range as well – wouldn’t hurt.

NBAdraft.net has the Magic taking Treveon Graham, a 6’6″ SG senior from VCU.

I wouldn’t mind Hennigan taking an international prospect and potentially stashing him for a year.

I’m sure all of those player projections will chance over the next few months, especially after the Draft Combine in May. Just keep the #51 pick in the back of your mind. With Hennigan in charge, it’s far from a throwaway selection. So don’t give all of your attention to just the Top 8 pick.

 

Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO and Founder of Orlando Magic Greek