COMMENTARY | The Orlando Magic open the NBA regular season on October 29. Perhaps most important for the fan base, Victor Oladipo officially begins his NBA career on that day, and, with him, the most definitive step forward for the franchise in the post-Dwight Howard era.
And that step is essential for a franchise that is trying to reshape its identity under general manager Rob Hennigan.
The 2012-2013 regular season was unabashedly a rebuild, one in which Hennigan and new coach Jacques Vaughn progressively transformed the roster into a group of young, unproven players.
Some of that roster transition was incidental. A season-ending injury to Glen Davis opened a gap in minutes at power forward. Jameer Nelson played in only 56 games due to various minor injuries, and Aaron Afflalo missed the last 12 games of the season with a hamstring injury.
Others roster moves were more deliberate. Veterans Al Harrington and Hedo Turkoglu combined to play in only 21 games. 2006 draft pick J.J. Redick was traded before the deadline to Milwaukee in a deal that netted Orlando younger players in Tobias Harris and Doron Lamb.
And while Vucevic showed signs of having a solid future as a starter in the NBA (he had four games with 20 or more rebounds during the regular season) and Harris displayed an ability to score in averaging just more than 17 points a game after the trade (albeit averaging almost 15 field-goal attempts per game during that 27-game stretch), the Magic pointed a team toward the lottery with a roster that ultimately produced the league's worst record.
The front office wanted to get a guy to begin to build around.
Now Victor Oladipo will get a chance to be that guy.
We don't know where exactly he will play on the court. But he will play. A lot.
And when looking at the Magic's roster for the upcoming season, Oladipo averaging over 30 minutes a game might be one of the few safe bets to make.
The team will have decisions to make in the upcoming season when it comes to minutes for its returning players. The power forward and center position battles will include Vucevic; Glen Davis (when healthy); second-year players Kyle O'Quinn and Andrew Nicholson; and newly signed veteran Jason Maxiell. And while Vaughn and the Magic committed to Davis before the regular season started when appointing him captain, his season-ending injury and extreme tendency toward a high-volume shot selection (one that was on track to be 13th in the league in attempts per game) are going to have to be factored in when determining his role this upcoming season.
Add to that frontcourt Harris, who played both the small forward and power forward positions in his short time with the team, and the 4 and 5 spots lack some predictability when it comes to deciding where those minutes will go.
Afflalo will get big minutes this year, but where Oladipo plays will factor greatly into where. He will likely play minutes at small forward when Oladipo plays shooting guard (as he did when Redick shared the court with him) and transition to his natural 2-guard position whenever the Magic try out Oladipo at the point guard in the way they did over the summer league.
Second-year player Mo Harkless will also get minutes at the 2 and 3 spots. He struggled with his outside shot in his first season, but Vaughn liked employing him as a stopper toward the end of the season. With his length at 6 feet 8 inches and his youth, the Magic will certainly continue to develop him by getting him minutes. The Magic haven't yet moved Turkoglu, but based upon his limited role during this past season, it seems unlikely that he will finish the season under contract.
Finally, the team will hope to get veteran leadership out of Jameer Nelson. Nelson shot a career-low field-goal percentage last season, but, when healthy, showed in a few outings that he can still play quality NBA minutes (including a 27 and 12 outing against Miami in March). Hennigan seemed to put his faith in Nelson's locker-room leadership with a new contract before the start of the 2012-2013 year. His minutes are likely to shrink (after a career-high 35 minutes per game last season) with his increasing age and the addition of Oladipo. But Nelson has shown in his career that he will compete, and with a young roster, the front office will hope that his presence and leadership will help develop the accountability and work ethic amongst the young players on the team.
Oddly, the strangest observation to make about the Magic's prospects in the upcoming season might be that they are too good to be as bad as some fans will want them to be.
While the team will in all likelihood be lottery-bound, the competition amongst the young players on the roster and the infusion of Oladipo will likely push the Magic above some of the teams that have cleared out their rosters in hopes of landing the top pick in a loaded draft.
Regardless, it will be a season in which Magic fans wait and see as they watch what bright spots emerge from the team's player pool during the franchise's ground-floor rebuild.
Jeremy Adney lives in Central Florida and is a lifelong Orlando Magic follower. He prides himself being addicted to the statistical analysis of basketball. This is likely an overcompensation for his complete ineptitude when attempting to play the game himself.
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- Orlando Magic
- Victor Oladipo
- Jameer Nelson