Breaking Down Orlando Magic’s Small Forward Position for 2014-15 Season

The Orlando Magic have question marks all over heading into the 2014-15 season, and the small forward position is no exception. The departure of Arron Afflalo is bound to have an impact. Can the additions of Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon make up for it?

Do they actually need to?

Each team adjusts its playing style according to the personnel available. In this case, losing Afflalo and signing Channing Frye implies a paradigm shift. Orlando now has Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic and the aforementioned Frye. All are able—and expected—to play a substantial part on offense, which suggests the small forwards will take a step back.

However, that will be a tiny, even minuscule step.

Players like Maurice Harkless and Tobias Harris possess too much talent to lock them away behind a rigid system focused on two or three players to provide points.

To understand the importance of the Magic’s wing position, it’s probably a good idea to first take a look back at last year.

 

Grading Orlando’s Small Forwards for 2013-14

Obviously, Afflalo was the most efficient offensive player the Orlando Magic had at the 3, where he spent 50 percent of his minutes. Frankly, he was their best weapon regardless of position, period.

The veteran shot an impressive 42.7 percent from downtown and averaged 18.2 points per game in 35 minutes. Not only that, but his 3.4 assists per outing were good enough to place him third on his team in that category.

He was arguably the most important player for Orlando.

Harkless played 24.4 minutes per game and was a more defensive-minded option at small forward. He might not have been a prolific scorer with 7.4 points per game, but that was a direct result of not being used as a main weapon on attack.

In his second year at the pro level, the former No. 15 pick displayed solid shooting, connecting on 38.3 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. Sadly, his free-throw shooting lacked in quality with a meager 59.4 percent success rate.

Harris, while officially playing as power forward for the majority of his time on court, was also a big contributor from the 3. His aggressive style of play led to 4.7 free-throw attempts per 36 minutes, of which he converted a solid 80.7 percent.

Overall, the Orlando Magic definitely had an above-average rotation at small forward in 2013-14.

 

Changes During the Offseason

The most important change was sending Afflalo to the Denver Nuggets for Fournier and the No. 56 pick, Roy Devyn Marble.

Orlando lost its high-scoring veteran and will now rely on others to step up. Frye’s addition means more firepower from the 4, but who can fill in at the 3?

Harkless and Harris are the first who come to mind.

They are used to head coach Jacque Vaughn’s system and showed a lot of potential last season. Both are still very young and will continue to improve with consistent minutes.

The Magic’s No. 4 pick, Gordon, will likely see some time at small forward, despite having been a power forward during his collegiate career. His 6’9″, 225-pound frame and athleticism place him somewhere between those positions—he will be a 3.5 if you like.

The team also acquired Fournier, who is nominally a small forward but can bring the ball when needed. He is a good shooter and can spread the floor, but his size and athleticism are not up to par with the other three candidates.

 

Orlando’s Small Forward Position 2014-15

Harkless and Harris seem set to fight for the starting spot at the 3. Both can be efficient small forwards, but they play very different roles. With Victor Oladipo and Channing Frye being the main weapons on offense, Vaughn will likely want to start Harkless for his defensive skills.

The 21-year-old can drain the open shot, but his main focus will be on the other end of the floor.

Harris can play as a small forward or a power forward, and he brings explosive offense with his reckless drives to the basket. Last season, this translated into a team-leading 33 and-1 opportunities, of which he converted 25. He would be perfect as a sixth man, providing lots of energy.

This brings us to the rookie.

Gordon will have a hard time adjusting to the NBA. He was able to dominate the paint as a power forward in college but seems more likely to succeed as a small forward at the pro level, unless he puts on more weight. The No. 4 pick certainly has a tough job ahead of him, getting used to a new position, a new system and a much more intense style of play.

The Orlando Magic will be happy if the 18-year-old manages to become an efficient player off the bench over the course of his first campaign.

Fournier, on the other hand, could turn into a valuable player very quickly.

His versatility and lack of size, however, mean that he will spend more time at the 1 and 2. If Elfrid Payton can’t get into a rhythm early on during his rookie season, the Frenchman may well end up bringing the ball up frequently.

Likewise, if Ben Gordon can’t produce, Fournier will be the main backup behind Oladipo. The 6’6″ athlete provides consistent shooting from three-point land (37.6 percent last season), and his tender age of 21 implies he still has room to develop. If he can improve his athleticism, he will eventually become an important factor for the team, regardless of position.

Despite losing Afflalo, the Orlando Magic have good options at small forward.

Effectively, three players will be able to contribute right away, even if Fournier seems somewhat undersized. Gordon will still need time to develop, but the Magic can afford to wait for him to mature.

One of the main advantages Coach Vaughn has at the 3 is the different style of play each of these three athletes can offer. If he wants aggressive defense, he can bring in Harkless. For the same aggression on the offensive end, Harris is the perfect choice. If in need of a good ball-handler who can spread the floor with his shooting, on comes Fournier.

The small forward position may have lost some punch with Afflalo‘s departure, but Orlando’s fans don’t need to be concerned.

The young guns are ready to take over.

 

All stats and info taken from NBA.com or Basketball-Reference.com unless stated otherwise.

You can follow @KurtJonke for more on the NBA in general and the Orlando Magic in particular.

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How Long Before Orlando Magic Catch Eastern Conference by Surprise?

It’s around this time each summer when NBA prognosticators posit a handful of teams worth keeping half an eye on—not contenders, not guaranteed bottom-dwellers, but the purgatory-bound upstarts with the potential to shake things up a bit.

The New Orleans Pelicans, the Detroit Pistons, the Milwaukee Bucks: You’re liable to hear these names bandied about quite a bit in the days and weeks ahead.

The Orlando Magic? They haven’t registered quite as high on the sneaky-sexy scale.

Ignore them while you can, though, because this might be the last summer you’ll be able to.

From the outside looking in, any team that finishes with the third worst record in the NBA—playing in a historically weak East, no less—wouldn’t seem the stuff of upstart promise.

The fact that Orlando recently jettisoned starting point guard and long-standing veteran Jameer Nelson, forcing it to rely on the steady but hardly spectacular Luke Ridnour, doesn’t exactly help the cause.

What the Magic have, however, is a youth-imbued core capable, with the right care and coaching, of catching its conference superiors asleep at the wheel.

Had it not been for Michael Carter-Williams’ incendiary start to last season, Orlando’s own sophomore sensation, Victor Oladipo, might’ve stolen Rookie of the Year right out from under him.

Despite the slight, Oladipo is a star in waiting—a two-way force with the athleticism of Dwyane Wade, the defensive tenacity of Tony Allen and the work ethic of young Kobe Bryant.

“He never takes a day off,” Oladipo‘s collegiate coach, Tom Crean, said of his former charge in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel’s Josh Robbins.

“He really worked as hard as he possibly could, and if the gym was going to be open, you knew you could count on Victor being there,” added Oladipo’s high school coach, Mike Jones. “He kind of became like the Pied Piper. When Victor worked out, other guys wanted to work out, too. His outlook and his approach are definitely contagious.”

After averaging 13.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists on 42 percent shooting during his rookie campaign, Oladipo stands as one of the upcoming season’s biggest breakout candidates. More encouraging still for Orlando fans, he’s by no means alone in this regard.

Oladipo may well be the Magic’s star of the future. But it’s in the frontcourt trio of Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic and the newly acquired Channing Frye that Orlando may find its steadiest, sturdiest anchor.

Entering his fourth year, Vucevic is already a double-double machine, and has improved almost across the statistical board in each of his three seasons. With another mini leap, we could be talking about an All-Star caliber center by January. At that point, Orlando has to start thinking about how much it’s willing to spend beyond the burly center’s $4.1 million qualifying offer next summer.

And while Harris’ first three seasons have been beset by minor injuries, his steadily developing offensive versatility is poised to be a focal point of Jacque Vaughn’s Spurs-inspired offense this season. That the 22-year-old Long Island native carved out some summer free time to work out with Carmelo Anthony at the New York Knicks star’s Midtown Manhattan gym (via the New York Post’s Marc Berman) only adds to the intrigue.

Frye, meanwhile, gives the Magic something they haven’t had since Stan Van Gundy left town: consistent outside shooting. The four-year, $32 million tender might seem steep now, but Frye’s veteran leadership is a necessary quantity for any team with grander designs on the horizon.

And that’s before we even get to Aaron Gordon, the 6’9” athletic specimen out of Arizona and the fourth overall pick of June’s draft. Gordon’s offense remains very much a work in progress, but the defense—think Shawn Marion in terms of positional versatility—is nothing if not NBA-ready.

Round it out with the 21-year-old Moe Harkless, the savvy-skilled Andrew Nicholson and the bruising Kyle O’Quinn, Orlando’s frontcourt depth will be an indispensable part of the team’s rotational strategy.

The backcourt, on the other hand—particularly in the wake of Arron Afflalo’s departure—presents question marks aplenty.

If rookie Elfrid Payton’s summer league showing is any kind of harbinger, the Rajon Rondo comparisons might not sound so hyperbolic. Still, Payton’s sheer rawness—particularly in terms of scoring—is bound to be a short-term hindrance to Orlando’s offense. Even if Payton earns the opening-night starting nod, expect a heavy dose of Ridnour as the season progresses.

Make no mistake, the Magic offense is nowhere near a top-tier attack. In fact, given their next-to-last finish in efficiency a season ago, it’d be a minor miracle for them to claw into the top half.

Still, the rudiments of an upstart are there, in the youth-laden talent, considerable cap space and a coach in Vaughn who, as Grantland’s Zach Lowe highlighted back in February, appears to have the confidence of board room and locker room alike:

The Magic locker room is a strikingly harmonious place — a rare thing for a team featuring veterans who want the minutes they’re accustomed to and young guys chasing numbers and money. The organization credits the positive vibes to Vaughn’s straight talk with each player.

But the Magic have so far to go, and they know it. Finding a star in this draft is crucial for the Magic’s long-term championship aspirations. If they find merely a good player, the road is going to be very difficult.

At this point, any one of Oladipo, Gordon, Payton, Harris or Vucevic has a chance—however varying in probability—to emerge as a bona fide cornerstone. That general manager Rob Hennigan and Co. have spread their gambles across all five positions speaks to an organizational philosophy at once sensible and intriguing.

But with the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks each adhering to a similar rebuilding timetable (and strategy), Orlando’s margin for error might not be as vast as fans would like to think. Sooner or later, Hennigan must begin shifting his focus from Ping-Pong balls to proven talent to capitalize on the Magic’s massive cap space by bringing in players capable of accelerating the rebuilding process.

With a slew of team and player options on the horizon, the Magic have a bevy of blueprints at their disposal, from maintaining its current core to reinforcing with veterans on the fringes and just about everything in between.

More importantly, they have the means necessary to begin their standings ascent—if not this season, then certainly by 2015.

Tempting as it might be to remain bolted to the basement, the time is nigh for Orlando to grasp a central truth of today’s NBA: Realizing you’re ready is just as important as the process of getting there.

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Orlando Summer League Schedule 2014: Dates, Times, TV Info and More

In case you weren’t getting enough of the NBA‘s silly season, real, live actual basketball gets back underway this weekend in Orlando, Florida.

A day after we stuff our faces with bratwurst and drink gallons of domesticated adult beverages, some of the game’s most promising young talent descends to Florida for the opening of the 2014 NBA Summer League season.

Orlando is the first and typically the more low-key of the two leagues. Teams that feature two summer league squads typically send their so-called A-team to Las Vegas and their B-team to Orlando. This isn’t without reason.

The Las Vegas proceedings are the NBA’s version of a summer camp. Executives from nearly every team use the league as an excuse for a mid-offseason breather in Vegas, during which you catch up with old friends and maybe make some new ones.

Summer league is like All-Star Weekend with one-fourth of the hoopla and pressure. Getting guys away from the day-to-day grind of the regular-season—and even to a certain extent offseason pressures—is conducive to a more relaxed feel.

In Orlando, though, the focus is intently on basketball. If surrounding aesthetics and late-night gambling sprees are your thing, then Vegas is for you. If you enjoy the more low-key and relaxed lifestyle, then Orlando is a perfect summer league to attend.

Even if making a trip to Florida in early July is not feasible, the NBA is doing a great thing by making all the games available on NBATV and its Summer League Live app. No longer will your days have to be filled pretending to like any other sports. With that in mind, let’s check out the complete summer league schedule and quickly look at why each team is worth watching.

 

Boston Celtics

Notable Faces: Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart, James Young, Phil Pressey

Why They’re Worth Watching: Because the Celtics could have the two best individual performers in Orlando.

Kelly Olynyk had the entire New England area ready for Larry Bird 2.0 whenever he took over last summer. His actual rookie season left a good amount to be desired, but he’s skilled and big enough (7’0″, 238 lbs) that he could trip and fall into a double-double.

Marcus Smart’s performance could go one of two ways. He could use it as a pulpit to begin proving everyone wrong who allowed him to drop to No. 6 in June’s NBA draft. Or it could go the opposite way, with Smart’s jumper failing him, and his brand of lockdown defense not standing out as much on a stage where few care all that much. Let’s hope it’s the former.

(Note: We’d discuss James Young here, but he might not play due to a neck injury he suffered in a predraft car accident.)

 

Brooklyn Nets

Notable Faces: Mason Plumlee, Cory Jefferson, Markel Brown

Why They’re Worth Watching: Because Mason Plumlee will do Plumlee things.

The Plumlee family is built to dominate summer league. They only know how to play at one speed—roughly that of a turbo-charged Air Force fighter jet; I did the math—and that runs counter to the relative noncompetitive spirit of most of these games. It remains to be seen how many of these games Plumlee will participate in, but he’ll drop double-doubles in any contest he gets significant minutes.

Also: Markel Brown in the open court. Anyone who happened to watch SportsCenter’s “Top 10 Plays” segment during the college basketball season knows what this means. Brown was among the best handful of athletes in this year’s draft class, boasting a co-combine-high 43.5-inch vertical leap. Brown’s other skills are a little iffy, but dude can flat-out fly. 

 

Detroit Pistons

Notable Faces: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tony Mitchell, Peyton Siva, Brian Cook

Why They’re Worth Watching: Because, yes, it is THAT Brian Cook of which I speak. The one who was on the Lakers when Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant were still teammates. The guy who knows firsthand what the Rudy Tomjanovich era was like in Los Angeles. The 33-year-old dude who has not played in an NBA game since April 2012.

He will be participating in Orlando for reasons of which I am not yet sure. 

The Pistons’ entertainment value will otherwise be reliant on players from their 2013 draft class. Second-round pick Spencer Dinwiddie is still recovering from ACL surgery and cannot participate.

That leaves Kentavious Caldwell-Pope a somewhat important opportunity to remind folks why he was a first-round pick last year. Caldwell-Pope suffered through a miserable rookie campaign, displaying none of the elite shooting ability Detroit had hoped for. He’ll need to get on the right track quick with Dinwiddie and Jodie Meeks in the mix.

Like Brown and Aaron Gordon, Tony Mitchell will be around to dunk in people’s faces. Looking forward to it.

 

Houston Rockets

Notable Faces: Nick Johnson, Jahii Carson, Jabari Brown

Why They’re Worth Watching: Because they have two of the best undrafted players from this year’s class. It’s still unfathomable to me—at least for reasons other than size—why Jahii Carson (5’10″) went undrafted. Carson, like the umpteen diminutive but talented guards before him, displayed an innate ability to attack off the rim and a solid long-range jumper.

There is real, mineable talent here that I feel can and will make its way onto an NBA bench someday. He’s going to be a breakout star this summer in large part because he needs to be.

Jabari Brown is an athletic, smooth 2-guard who can really stroke from three-point range, as he shot .410 from deep last year. His decision to leave Missouri was a little curious, though understandable given the turmoil in that program. He’s going to take double-digit shots in games where he gets significant minutes and has a 30-point breakout performance inside him. 

It will be interesting to see if the two undrafted guys play better than the one Houston thought enough of to take in the second round (Nick Johnson).

 

Indiana Pacers

Notable Faces: Solomon Hill, Lavoy Allen, C.J. Leslie, Donald Sloan

Why They’re Worth Watching: Because, umm, I’m struggling here. Perhaps because it’s weird that Lavoy Allen is working out with the team despite being a free agent? Or that it will be nice to see C.J. Leslie back on a basketball floor? 

Oh, I got it! Solomon Hill. The guy for whom Larry Bird decided to cartwheel out on the tree’s thinnest branch for. That guy. You may have forgotten about him because he played exactly one playoff minute last season. Bird sold the public on Hill as a three-and-D guy, someone who could help prop Indiana’s perpetually terrible bench unit. The clock is already ticking on that selection.

 

Memphis Grizzlies

Notable Faces: Jordan Adams, Jamaal Franklin, Scottie Wilbekin, Jarnell Stokes

Why They’re Worth Watching: Because the Grizzlies made two really interesting picks in this year’s draft. Neither Jordan Adams nor Jarnell Stokes is the most athletic player at his respective position, but both are damn good basketball players ready to contribute right away.

Adams, the No. 22 overall selection, is a natural-born scorer, able to stretch the defense with his three-point range and create space for himself despite his below-average athleticism.

Stokes was a steal at No. 35. He and Julius Randle were the two best rebounders in this group of players, and Stokes showed in workouts that there was more to his game than meets the eye. Superstardom probably isn’t in his destiny, but he’ll be a solid bench big for eight to 10 years.

Jamaal Franklin is an interesting piece because he was the Memphis player last year whom everyone thought was a steal. Franklin struggled to get himself off the bench, and his skill-set overlap with Tony Allen makes his path treacherous. I’m curious to see if he’s added any offensive wrinkles since the season ended.

 

Miami Heat

Notable Faces: Shabazz Napier, James Ennis, Justin Hamilton

Why They’re Worth Watching: Because Shabazz Napier. The Final Four Most Outstanding Player is the only piece on this roster who is going to make people turn their heads even once. The Heat are infinitely more invested in keeping their Big Three together than anything that happens in Orlando or Las Vegas. (They are one of a handful of franchises with teams in both cities.)

Seeing Napier play for the first time since his scintillating NCAA Tournament run makes a moribund roster look, well, less so. Otherwise? Meh.

 

Oklahoma City Thunder

Notable Faces: Perry Jones, Jeremy Lamb, Steven Adams, Mitch McGary, Josh Huestis, Andre Roberson

Why They’re Worth Watching: Because, as per usual, the Thunder look like they’ve assembled a juggernaut. Minutes distribution will obviously play a factor, as it seems unlikely that Steven Adams, Jeremy Lamb or Perry Jones get significant time. Whether Mitch McGary will be an actual participant or one in name only because of his back injury also remains to be seen.

From a purely on-paper standpoint, Oklahoma City should rampage through to the championship game. When we said the same thing a year ago, the Thunder failed to lose a game and captured the crown in Orlando with a decisive win over the Rockets. This year’s crop returns many of the same players, each a year older and (ostensibly) a year better.

It’s a matter of how hard the organization wants to push its young guys.

 

Orlando Magic

Notable Faces: Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon, Victor Oladipo, Seth Curry

Why They’re Worth Watching: Because I honestly kind of want to see whether the Magic actually play Victor Oladipo. Often players are listed on summer league rosters as a just-in-case gesture. Maybe Oladipo plays one game—at max two—but it seems like an unnecessary risk to have him out there. Getting him and Elfrid Payton a little experience working together is the only positive gained there. 

More likely, Orlando’s entertainment value comes from the two rookies. Payton and Gordon should run amok in the open court with their combination of quickness and athleticism. If there is not at least one alley-oop from those two, they will have failed America and the proud tradition of the Orlando Summer League.

Do not fail America on this, the weekend of our nation’s birth. Dunk hard and dunk long, Mr. Gordon.

 

Philadelphia 76ers

Notable Faces: Nerlens Noel, Pierre Jackson, Jerami Grant, Aaron Craft

Why They’re Worth Watching: The bright side of the Sixers having roughly six players worthy of being in the NBA is that most of them are young enough to still require summer league seasoning. The dark side to that is Philly is sending players to both Orlando and Vegas—meaning we’ll have to see how minutes are divided before getting too excited.

The big deal for most Sixers fans is Nerlens Noel (kind of) making his debut. Noel, the No. 6 pick in last year’s draft, sat out all of last season while recovering from an ACL tear. He’s been healthy enough to play for a long time, but rust will undoubtedly be a factor for at least the first game. 

Philly will also be antagonizing opposing defenses with explosive scorer Pierre Jackson and its own fans by bringing in Aaron Craft. The former Ohio State guard was one of the more polarizing figures in college basketball last season—mostly through no fault of his own. He’ll attempt to make an NBA roster after going undrafted last month.

 

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Best Landing Spots for Former Orlando Magic Point Guard Jameer Nelson

With NBA’s free-agency period officially underway, all sights are about to be set on the wheelings, dealings and whereabouts of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and the rest of the summer’s top-tier talents.

But while the focus is bound to stay squarely on the big boys, there’s sure to be plenty of movement on the fringes as well.

That includes Jameer Nelson, whom the Associated Press’ Tim Reynolds reports had officially been waived by the Orlando Magic Monday.

“The people, the way they embraced me there in Orlando over the last 10 years, were phenomenal,” Nelson told the Orlando Sentinel shortly after the announcement. “Not too many players can say they played in the same place in any sport for 10 years.”

Nelson doesn’t tout the talent or clout of his free-agent contemporaries. But at 32 years old and with a track record of solid point guard play to his credit, the diminutive Nelson is sure to attract the attention of upper-echelon teams looking for quality backcourt depth.

We’ve gone ahead and compiled a list of 10 teams—some contenders, others on the cusp, still others not so much—that could prove to be perfect fits for Nelson’s unique skill set.

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Ranking Orlando Magic’s Most Believable 2014 NBA Free-Agency Rumors

With the free-agency period upon us, the Orlando Magic don’t figure to be players for big names like LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony, but general manager Rob Hennigan may still be active with the next tier of free agents. 

As the Orlando Sentinel‘s Josh Robbins explained, the Magic are relying more on the draft to rebuild the team. 

The reality is the Magic are unlikely to make a major splash in the upcoming free-agency period, according to a league source with knowledge of the team’s strategy. If the worst available free agent rates as a “1″ on a 1-to-10 talent scale and James rates as a “10,” the Magic likely will target a player or players who rate as a 5 1/2 or a 6.

Orlando will have nearly $28 million in cap room to spend, adds Robbins. 

In the coming days, the dust will begin to settle as rumors either turn into realities or fail to materialize. Now is a good time to rank the gossip from least to most believable.

 

5. Sign Luol Deng

After being traded from the Chicago Bulls to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the middle of last season, Luol Deng is set to become a free agent. 

After going from a playoff team to a team that picked first in the NBA draft two years in a row, Deng will probably look to find his way back on a contender this summer.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Deng may also price himself out of Orlando’s range.

Magic officials like Cleveland Cavaliers free-agent-to-be Luol Deng, a defensive-minded 29-year-old small forward. For Deng to consider Orlando, he probably would want a massive payday, and it seems unlikely that the Magic would meet his asking price.

The Magic also drafted forward Aaron Gordon and acquired point guard Elfrid Payton in the NBA draft. Both were heralded for their defensive abilities going into the NBA, a skill duplicated by Deng. At this point, Orlando’s money would be better spent on shooters.

The team also waived Jameer Nelson, signaling a youth movement. Any agreement between Deng and the Magic would seemingly be a waste of time for both parties.

 

4. Acquire Greg Monroe

Detroit Pistons big man Greg Monroe is a restricted free agent and will have no shortage of offer sheets. According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Magic will be among his potential suitors.

Orlando’s roster is young, and Monroe, 24, would help fill a need at power forward. However, neither Monroe nor Nikola Vucevic can protect the rim.

For a team that currently lacks scoring power, a tandem of Monroe and Vucevic risks far too many easy points at the basket.

Still, if Orlando does make an offer and the Atlanta Hawks and other suitors are preoccupied chasing other free agents, the Magic could land him if the Pistons aren’t willing to match the offer sheet.

 

3. Sign Chandler Parsons

Magic fans would love a homecoming by Lake Howell High School (Winter Park) graduate Chandler Parsons, who is set to become a restricted free agent.

Looking to sign James or Anthony, the Houston Rockets have delayed re-signing Parsons. This leaves Houston in a tricky cap situation, as teams will have an opportunity to sign Parsons to an offer sheet. 

The Rockets will have just three days to match an offer from another team, per league rules. If Orlando offers more than any other team (and it could, given its cap room) and Houston is tied up in the chase for James/Anthony, the Magic have a chance to land the local kid.

 

2. Sign Rodney Stuckey

Now without Nelson, the Magic could be looking to add a reserve point guard to solidify the position behind Payton.

According to Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press, Orlando is interested in Detroit Pistons free agent Rodney Stuckey.

The Pistons’ other free agents — Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva — are not expected to return. Stuckey will receive interest — expect the Orlando Magic to speak with the veteran combo guard. The market for Villanueva isn’t clear.

Stuckey, 28, is a capable scorer who averaged 13.9 points per game coming off the bench for the Pistons last season. Orlando will likely add a ball-handler, and Stuckey is a solid combo guard who can help spell both Payton and Victor Oladipo.

Stuckey is the “6 player” (as Robbins described it) that the Magic could make a priority while other teams chase the 8s, 9s and 10s.

 

1. No Major Splash

The Magic won’t contend for a playoff run this season, so tying up money in a veteran free agent doesn’t make sense.

Orlando is looking to be flexible under the cap, especially with the more promising summer of 2015 a year away when impact players like Rajon Rondo, Goran Dragic, Marc Gasol, LaMarcus AldridgeAl Jefferson, Kevin Love and others are free agents.

Basically, what’s the point of signing an impact free agent this offseason knowing that this is a long-term rebuild? It’s better to let the young core of this team—Oladipo, Gordon, Payton and Vucevic—develop together.

After all, Hennigan has tied the future of the Magic to those guys, not anyone in free agency.

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Orlando Magic’s No. 4 Pick Aaron Gordon Plays NBA Word Association

Aaron Gordon has found his home with the Orlando Magic. We wanted to play a quick game of NBA Word Association with Gordon before he heads to NBA Summer League.

How do you think Aaron will fare in the National Basketball Association?

 

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Cavaliers Rumors: Cleveland interested in Orlando Magic’s trade offer

According to several sources, the Cleveland Cavaliers are divided on what to do with their top pick. Another option would be to trade the pick, and several teams have expressed interest. The most intriguing offer is from the Orlando Magic.Image By Mike, via Wikimedia CommonsESPN reports:”Of the offers they’ve received, a source says the Cavs aren’t enamored by either the Sixers’ offer (Thaddeus Young and the No. 3 pick) nor the Jazz’s offer (Derrick Favors and the No. 5 pick). However, the Cavs do have some interest in the Magic’s offer of Arron Afflalo, the No. 4 pick and the No. 12 pick.”It appears the Orlando Magic are keen on moving Afflalo. They already have Victor Oladipo at guard, and perhaps, they would like to pair him up with Andrew Wiggins.As for the Cavaliers motivation to trade with the Magic:”The Cavs have strong interest in luring [LeBron] James back to Cleveland this summer and they need to add more pieces to make the team more …

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Orlando Magic Rumors: Buying or Selling the Gossip Ahead of 2014 NBA Draft

With possession of the No. 4 pick in the 2014 NBA draft along with a fairly valuable trade asset in Arron Afflalo, the Orlando Magic have been heavily involved in the predraft rumors and gossip that consume us at this time of year.

This article evaluates the most popular Magic-related rumors and play a game of buy-or-sell.

For the purposes of the piece, “buying” a rumor means we think there’s a high probability it will come to fruition, while “selling” a rumor obviously means the opposite.

With this being such a fun time of year, let’s get right to it.

 

Rumor: Magic in Mix For No. 1 Pick

ESPN.com’s Chad Ford and Jeff Goodman reported on Tuesday that the Cleveland Cavaliers are still torn on what to do with the No. 1 overall pick and considering a deal with the Magic.

“The Cavs do have some interest in the Magic’s offer of Arron Afflalo, the No. 4 pick and the No. 12 pick,” they wrote.

 This is a no-brainer deal for Orlando.

Afflalo is clearly a quality player (18.2 PPG in 2013-14), but he’s not someone the Magic could build around and expect to truly contend with as a top option.

Furthermore, with HoopsHype indicating that Afflalo has a player option after next season, he could be a free agent in 2015. It’s smart for Orlando to get value for him now instead of risk him simply leaving without anything to show for it.

As for the other particulars of the trade, while the Magic could get two skilled players at No. 4 and No. 12, that doesn’t compare to having the chance at grabbing either Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parkertwo superstar prospectsat No. 1.

Having a player like Wiggins or Parker would give this Magic team a realistic chance to contend in the Eastern Conference sooner than later.

Unfortunately for Orlando, the same can be said for the Cleveland Cavaliers, which is ultimately why I’m selling this trade actually happening.

Afflalo, the No. 4 pick and the No. 12 pick is a great package for the Cavs, but Parker and Wiggins are truly game-changing players. I can’t see Cleveland passing on the chance to take one of them.

Verdict: Sell

 

Rumor: Afflalo to Chicago Bulls for Draft Picks

Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported Saturday that the Bulls were interested in dealing for Afflalo ahead of the draft.

“Chicago owns the 16th and 19th overall picks in the draft, and assuredly one of those selections would be included in a possible package with the Magic,” he wrote.

Again, the move makes a lot of sense for Orlando. Unless it trades with the Cavs and selects Wiggins or Parker at No. 1, Orlando isn’t making the playoffs next year.

So, getting a top-20 pick in a deep draft and presumably at least another piece for someone whom CBSSports.com’s Matt Moore writes is expected to “capitalize on being an unrestricted free agent” in 2015 is definitely enticing.

In a vacuum, it’s a beneficial trade for Chicago as well.

The Bulls are absolutely in a win-now mode and in need of another scorer to pair with Derrick Rose. Additionally, Afflalo is also a great defender who would be helpful in Tom Thibodeau’s scheme on that end.

However, what stands in the way of an Afflalo-to-Chicago trade happening before the draft is ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein reporting that the Bulls have emerged as an even stronger contender to land Carmelo Anthony’s services in the past couple of days.

Given their financial situation, Marc Berman of the New York Post notes it’s almost impossible for the Bulls to trade for Afflalo and then sign Anthony. Therefore, it would behoove the Bulls to put acquiring Afflalo on the back burner until they find out what the much better Anthony plans to do in July.

Don’t expect anything to happen here, even if the Magic are interested.

Verdict: Sell

 

Rumor: Magic Will Take Noah Vonleh at No. 4

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported on Saturday that the Magic will consider selecting Noah Vonleh (6’9.5″ and 247 lbs) at No. 4.

“They want a top frontcourt player to pair with Nikola Vucevic and may not be able to get one they’re comfortable with at No. 12. In that case, sources say they may opt for Indiana‘s Noah Vonleh with the fourth pick,” he wrote.

As Berger mentions, the Magic would love to scoop up point guard Dante Exum at No. 4, but the domino effect of Joel Embiid’s foot injury will likely result in Exum being selected before Orlando’s on the clock.

If everything goes as ESPN’s Chad Ford expectsWiggins, Parker and Exum being the first three picksthen Vonleh represents a strong choice for the Magic.

The Indiana product impressed throughout his only year in the college game, averaging 11.3 points (52.3 percent shooting from the field and 48.5 percent shooting from three), 9.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.

Plus, at 18 years old with great physical tools (including a wingspan of 7’4.25″), Vonleh is one of the highest-upside picks in the draft.

Although risk often comes with upside, a big man that can protect the rim, shoot and rebound the basketball will likely be too much for Orlando to pass up if Exum isn’t on the board.

Verdict: Buy

 

Measurements courtesy of DraftExpress.

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Dante Exum to Orlando Magic No Longer Inevitable After Joel Embiid Injury

A small bone in Joel Embiid‘s foot may have changed Dante Exum‘s career.

Exum was almost guaranteed to land on the Orlando Magic. Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker would’ve gone first, second and third overall in some sort of order. And Exum would’ve fallen to No. 4, into the lap of Orlando which is desperate for a point guard.

Then the navicular bone of Embiid‘s right foot suffered a stress fracture that required surgery (h/t ESPN). An NBA general manager told Sporting News’ Sean Deveney that now “you can’t use a Top 5 pick” on Embiid.

Embiid falling out of the top five, or even top three, will almost definitely alter where Exum is drafted. Even before Embiid broke his foot, Deveney reported that Milwaukee was considering Exum at No. 2. He fills a need for the Bucks.

Acquiring Exum would allow them to move Brandon Knight to shooting guard. According to 82games.com, Knight outplayed his opponent by a player efficiency rating of 8.5 at the 2. At the 1, he was outplayed.

Despite this disparity, Milwaukee is likely hesitant to move Knight to the 2 because he’s 6’3″, 189 pounds. He doesn’t have the size to defend larger shooting guards. 6’5″, 230-pound Lance Stephenson plays (or at least played) in his division for crying out loud.

Exum eliminates this issue. He’s 6’6″. In the event Knight can’t guard a Stephenson-sized 2, Exum can. 

And name a more physically gifted lineup than Exum, Knight, Giannis Antetokounmpo, John Henson and Larry Sanders. Good luck.

Of course, the Bucks’ lineup is even more physically gifted if Exum is replaced with Wiggins. If they draft him instead, don’t count the Philadelphia 76ers out at No. 3 just because Michael Carter-Williams is one of their two measly building blocks. ESPN’s Ryen Russillo dropped this bomb on Twitter late last week:

As mind-blowing as the rumor is, it isn’t as unrealistic as it sounds.

Thaddeus Young averaged 17.9 points and 6.0 rebounds last season. He’d help the Los Angeles Lakers win now better than anyone they could select at No. 7 would. Young wouldn’t be nearly as valuable long-term as, say, Marcus Smart, but that’s where Carter-Williams comes in.

Carter-Williams averaged 16.7 points, 6.3 assists, 6.2 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game this year, but his potential pales in comparison to Exum‘s.

If this trade happens, Philadelphia could realistically leave the first round with a package of Exum, Julius Randle and Doug McDermott. Pair them with Nerlens Noel, and the 76ers will be everyone’s favorite team to start a franchise with in NBA 2K15. So while they’d rather pair Wiggins with Carter-Williams, Exum and the power forward of their choice isn’t the worst consolation prize in draft history.

But if Exum still magically falls to No. 4 because Philadelphia drafts Noah Vonleh instead and Orlando opts for Embiid knowing it can choose between four point guards at No. 12, Utah Jazz fans should send Embiid‘s navicular bone a thank-you card.

 

David Daniels is a columnist at Bleacher Report. He tweets, too.

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2014 NBA Draft Rumors: Latest Buzz Surrounding Orlando Magic

The 2014 NBA draft is nearly upon us and every day brings new rumors. That is especially true for the Orlando Magic who have two lottery picks. Who will they draft with No. 4, who with No. 12? Will they make a draft-day trade?

With two picks come a lot of possibilities. That, by itself, causes a lot of rumors surrounding Orlando. But sometimes, things can get even more complicated. To highlight the fragile construction of mock drafts and predictions, consider the following: This article was already finished and ready to be published.

Then this happened:

Joel Embiid was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his right foot during his workout for the Cleveland Cavaliers. All of a sudden, draft predictions started falling apart. After all, Embiid was the consensus No. 1 pick until June 19.

Most experts, including Adrian Wojnarowski, now expect the Cavs to pass on the 7-footer.

Some see his stock drop dramatically, while others believe he will not slide past the seventh pick at the very worst. The sheer level of talent seems too high to not take the risk for some of these teams.

Be that as it may, the Orlando Magic suddenly face a completely different scenario.

 

What a Difference a Day Makes

Twenty-four little hours ago, Dante Exum was being treated as the most likely candidate for the Magic.

It made absolute sense.

All positions except the point guard are brimming with young, talented players. Many have starter potential, while others are expected to become valuable role players. However, the playmaker position rests mainly on Jameer Nelson‘s shoulders with Victor Oladipo clearly feeling more comfortable as a shooting guard.

The main question was whether it would be the Australian or Marcus Smart.

Noah Vonleh became another possible pick, while Smart seemingly fell out of favor with the Magic, according to Chad Ford of ESPN SportsNation:

They’ve been big fans of Marcus Smart, but I’ve heard neither of his workouts have been particularly strong. The Exum workout was a wow I’m told. But so was the Noah Vonleh workout. While I don’t completely rule out Smart there, I think it will either be Vonleh or Exum. Some of their choice may come down to who they believe will be available to them at 12.

All of that was before reports of Embiid‘s fractured foot emerged.

Now Exum may well be gone before it’s Orlando’s turn. Some pundits, like CBSSportsMatt Moore, expect him to be picked second, others third. But hardly anyone believes he will still be available after the Philadelphia 76ers are on the clock.

Currently, Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan and his staff are frantically trying to get as much information on Embiid and his injury as possible, as reported by Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel.

We’re going to try to gather as much information as we can, and we’re going to continue to do so right up until the draft. We have some information now, and we’re always looking to acquire more information that can help us make a decision.

All of a sudden, Orlando may face the tough decision of whether or not to pick an injured Embiid at No. 4. Everyone was sure he would not be an option before. How sure?

Embiid never was scheduled for a workout with the Magic. It made no sense, knowing he would certainly become a Cavalier.

If Exum is already gone, it may be worth the risk taking a player who was commonly thought of as the clear No. 1 pick. That, however, depends on the time needed for the foot to heal completely and the likeliness of the injury recurring.

According to Wojnarowski, recovery could take up to half a year.

Not only will Embiid miss Summer League and the entire offseason preparation, he will return with the season already in full stride. That is difficult for any player, let alone a rookie.

Basically, the first season will be lost for him and the team he ends up with.

 

What Happens With The No. 12 Pick?

For the Orlando Magic, this choice will mainly depend on who they acquired eight picks earlier.

If Exum surprisingly does drop to the fourth spot and ends up in Florida, there will be no need for another point guard. Instead, Orlando’s management can go for the best prospect, regardless of position. Some of the players thought to be available—and of interest for the Magic—are Dario Saric, Nik Stauskas, Adreian Payne or Jusuf Nurkic.

Saric can be a stretch 4 and has good rebounding potential, while Stauskas is a sharpshooter and has the potential to become the perfect sixth man on the Magic roster. The Canadian is said to have a high basketball IQ and good ball-handling skills, per NBADraft.net. His arrival could make up for possibly sending Arron Afflalo away in a trade.

Payne could go as early as No. 7, according to ESPN.com’s Chad Ford (subscription required), due to his NBA readiness paired with considerable upside. He is athletic and a versatile player, who can play both offense and defense. Nurkic has been all over the boards in various mock drafts. However, he is one of the few true big men in this year’s draft, which helps his stock.

If the Magic can’t get Exum and decide against Smart with the fourth pick, they are going to pursue a point guard with pick No. 12.

Elfrid Payton has risen across mock draft boards in the past weeks and may be a great option for Orlando. The 6’4″ guard is an unselfish player with good understanding for the game, according to Ford (subscription required). His quickness and defensive tenacity may make him the third-best point guard behind Exum and Smart.

Zach LaVine is 6’6″ and displays outstanding athleticism. He may need more time to develop his game but seems to have a lot of upside. Ford wouldn’t be surprised if LaVine ended up in the top 10, but the main question remains whether he is in fact a point guard or more of a shooting guard. In Oladipo, the Orlando Magic already have a combo guard who leans toward the 2.

Tyler Ennis, finally, is probably the most NBA-ready playmaker at this point in the draft. His game may not be flashy and spectacular, but he rarely makes mistakes. What he lacks in future potential, he makes up for in consistency.

 

Conclusion

As if all of the mayhem caused by Embiid‘s foot injury wasn’t enough, there are also rumors about the Orlando Magic looking at the possibility of a trade on draft day. Orlando Sentinel‘s Josh Robbins quoted GM Hennigan saying, “We feel like we’ve made all the effort at our disposal to look for opportunities above us or behind us.”

The Magic certainly have the assets to do so. While Afflalo certainly is the main object of trade talks, they can also throw in players like Andrew Nicholson, Jason Maxiell and Ronnie Price.

The necessity for a trade will largely depend on the outcome of the whole Embiid scenario.

The main dilemma facing Orlando is whether to take the risk and pick the former No. 1 prospect if he is still available. It seems more likely than Exum still being up for grabs.

Embiid certainly has a lot of potential and could become a dominating center. He could also end up a bust, depending on his health. And the NBA has been riddled with big men having health issues. There is a certain fear factor involved when going after the talented 20-year-old.

If the Orlando Magic choose to go big with their first pick, Vonleh seems like the safe choice while still offering a lot of potential. Embiid‘s upside, however, is unrivaled. That is why he was considered No. 1 despite his back issues. It is the reason for him still being ranked as high as No. 3 in some mock drafts, like the one by Zach Harper of CBSSports.

Strange as it may sound, Embiid‘s injury opened a whole lot of new options for Orlando rather than narrow down the choice.

One way or the other, Hennigan will have to make a tough call.

 

All stats and info taken from NBA.com or basketball-reference.com unless stated otherwise.

You can follow @KurtJonke for more on the NBA in general and the Orlando Magic in particular.

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