Enemy Lines: A rival scout sizes up the Magic
2012-13 Record: 20-62
AN OPPOSING TEAM'S SCOUT ANALYZES THE MAGIC
The Magic are committed to the youth movement. They have a lot of decent young players, but they need a star. This season will be about bringing along No. 2 pick Victor Oladipo, third-year center Nikola Vucevic and two young forwards in Tobias Harris and Maurice Harkless. They're still putting the pieces together for future contention. There has to be patience.
They want to make Oladipo the point guard of the future after he played off the ball in college. It will take some time, but Oladipo can play the point. With good shooters around him, Oladipo can run the team. The Magic are lacking those shooters now, though. They will play a lot of two-guard sets where he doesn't have to be a pure point.
Oladipo is intriguing with his skill set and size [6-4, 215 pounds] at that position. He seems to embrace wanting to be a leader. Coach Jacque Vaughn, who was a pretty good point guard, can help Oladipo with the transition. They have to let him play through mistakes, because he is going to make a lot of them.
Teams are going to challenge Oladipo to be a three-point shooter, which is something he didn't do much of at Indiana. Opponents will go under the screen on pick-and-rolls all season until Oladipo proves he can make that shot.
The best thing Jameer Nelson has left is trade value. [Nelson, 31, who is making $8.6 million this season, has only $2 million guaranteed on his 2014-15 contract.] Nelson -- with his size [6 feet] and the fact that he has been injured off and on -- needs to be a backup. Whether he can do that in Orlando, where he has been a starter for years, I don't know. His production has declined, particularly his shooting, which used to be reliable. He's not a consistent knockdown shooter, not a great penetrator; his strength is pick-and-roll.
If Oladipo ends up as their point guard, they need a really good 2 who can make shots. That way Arron Afflalo could become a sixth man, which is the best spot for him. At the beginning of last season, after coming over from Denver in the Dwight Howard trade, Afflalo wanted to prove that he could be the guy. He tried to be their main scorer, but that's not a role that suits him, and his efficiency suffered. After the first couple of weeks, he realized it's not much fun to be the guy who's focused on defensively. He's best suited to be the third guy, playing in transition, knocking down corner threes and attacking.
Glen Davis also isn't fit for a starring role. They gave him a lot of touches last season, but he's never going to be the type of big man you can throw it to consistently on the block and expect great results. He's not an offensive focal point. But he's a complementary player who is an adequate passer and a strong driver and he can do things from 15 feet.
The way Vucevic consistently rebounded surprised me. He showed flashes of potential during his one season in Philadelphia, but he really came along with the Magic when he got big minutes regularly. There has been some pretty steady growth. He will get rebounds outside of his zone. He has a good energy level. He won't just lean on someone's back to try to grab a rebound; he works to get around guys. He can make 18-footers. He's fine defensively in the paint but struggles in space.
Harkless showed flashes as a rookie, but some games you didn't see him. He is best suited as a slashing 3 on the wing who can get into the paint and score. He's a good transition player. Harkless will get better and better as he improves his shooting range, which was very limited last year. He has the length to be a good defender.
Harris showed at the end of the year that Milwaukee made a mistake trading him. He got in better shape. He showed he had good range, and he was running the floor hard. He's kind of a tweener forward. I don't know if he is mobile enough to be a 3 defensively. He has the offensive skills to play small forward, especially if he continues to progress as a shooter.
I like Andrew Nicholson as a second-unit scorer. He has a lot of moves and can score on mid-range jumpers or in the post. But he doesn't have great wheels to guard an attacking 4. He plays physically in the post, though.
In his first year as coach, Vaughn got them to buy in early to sharing the ball and playing defense. They weren't very good, and they were bound to struggle defensively with so many young players, but they competed every night. They didn't have the personnel, but they played hard. They still tried to move the ball late in the season, when they were toast. They were not a one-man show. That's a credit to Vaughn.