Previewing Complete Orlando Magic Depth Chart Post-Dwight Howard Trade
The Orlando Magic roster is right now seriously unbalanced and there will need to be some rather important changes made before a firm depth chart can be established.
Consider: Jameer Nelson is the only point guard on the team.
Further, think about this: The Magic have five power forwards and three centers. That's a lot of depth up front and very little to balance the backcourt, with only two shooting guards on the roster to pair up with Nelson.
For those of you who aren't fully familiar with the epic trade of last week, check out this piece I wrote regarding the Magic's immediate prospects post-trade.
Moves will have to be made before we can firmly establish any semblance of what the depth chart might look like. But what we can determine is the way it stands today before these moves are made.
Starting Point Guard: Jameer Nelson
Nelson is now 29 and has already peaked as a player. He is not getting better, and we're unlikely to ever see him revert to the form that made him an All-Star selection in 2008-09. That season, he shot incredibly from the floor prior to suffering his shoulder injury that held him out until the NBA Finals, as the Magic reached the Finals under the leadership of the stopgap replacement And One legend Rafer Alston.
Nelson has no back up yet. Chris Duhon was shipped away as part of the Dwight Howard blockbuster, and last year's third stringer Ish Smith has not yet been re-signed and may not be.
The problem for the Magic is that there are very few options available for free agents. Like other teams in need of depth at the point, they will likely be looking into signing a D-leaguer or looking overseas for help.
Starting Shooting Guard: Aaron Afflalo
Afflalo is coming off a career year and was the best player the Magic obtained in the Howard deal, at least in terms of immediate impact. He shot nearly 40% from three last season and shot over 40% the three years prior, dating back to the 2008-09 season.
He's a defensive stopper and is only 26, so he is still yet to enter his prime. Thus, Afflalo does represent a long-term option at shooting guard for the Magic and I do believe GM Rob Hennigan is high on him.
Expect Afflalo to best his career year from last year as the primary passing option for Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson as they set up plays. His value still lies mostly in his lockdown defensive abilities, but he averaged 15.2 points per game last year, so he can put the ball in the basket.
Starting Small Forward: Hedo Turkoglu
Make no mistake, Turkoglu has declined rapidly since his first stint with the Orlando Magic that culminated in his walking away and signing the bloated contract that he is still on with the Toronto Raptors. He's slower, fatter and takes even worse shots.
His value as a defender is minimal, and he is making about $12 million over this season and the 2013-2014 campaign, which he will undoubtedly be here for, though it is worth noting he is only guaranteed half his contract next year so a buyout may be possible.
He can still make plays, but is not worth the amount of money he costs, nor would he start on most contending teams at this point in his career. But, hey, that's okay, because the Magic are trying to do the exact opposite of contend this season in the hopes of landing a very high lottery pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.
Starting Power Forward: Glen Davis
Big Baby played brilliantly out of position against the 7'2" Roy Hibbert in the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs, at least offensively and rebounding the ball. Moving back to his natural position of power forward should benefit Davis as he looks to provide hustle and veteran leadership for the club.
He'll set a good example for the younger big men on the team and be a great guy in the locker room. Also, he's on a reasonable contract.
Starting Center: Nikola Vucevic
The starting center slot from day one may not belong to Vucevic, but rather Gustavo Ayon (more on him later). I do believe that Vucevic may represent a possible long-term solution for the Magic at center.
He's young and talented, and put up great per-minute production last year. Per-36, the 21 year old Southern Cal product put up 12.5 points, 10.9 rebounds and swatted away 1.5 shots. He's agile, talented and the Sixers felt confident enough to select him 16th overall in 2011.
Expect big things from Vucevic.
Backup Shooting Guard: J.J. Redick
Redick has carved out a solid career for himself after struggling initially during his first couple of seasons with the Magic. He's developed as a defender (I would actually consider Redick an above average defender against other shooting guards), has always been deadly from behind the arc, and is a class-act for the organization.
He's also loved by the fan base. Redick is now 28, so by the time this rebuilding is done he will be on the tail end of his prime, but that shouldn't matter much. The Magic realize he is one of the few players on the roster with decent trade value and he will get minutes.
He is a $6 million expiring contract, too, so if a contending team needs some shooting at the trade deadline and the Magic can net a first-round pick or prospect in return, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Duke legend dealt.
Backup Small Forward: Moe Harkless
Harkless may be the starting small forward of the future. I wrote in the piece regarding the Howard trade that Harkless has been compared to James Posey, who had a great career for himself as a very valuable role-player who was featured prominently on the 2008 World Champion Celtics squad.
The St. John's product is athletic, and after he adds a little more range to his jump shot to extend it beyond the NBA arc, he will be an even bigger threat. A good defender and a player who is known to have a good work-ethic, Harkless will have no problem finding minutes on this Magic squad as coach Jacque Vaughn works toward developing talent for the future.
Backup Power Forward: Al Harrington
Harrington is not a lot better for the Magic than Turkoglu is. He's owed about $21 million over the next three seasons and is not a part of the Magic's long-term plans. And yet he is. There is no way the Magic are going to be able to trade the ball-hogging Harrington for anything decent at all, both due to his contract and the fact he doesn't play very good defense. Again, though, like Turkoglu, Harrington is also on a partially guaranteed contract for the two seasons after this one, putting the Magic in the same dicey situation.
I wouldn't be surprised, in fact, to see youngsters Andrew Nicholson and Justin Harper leapfrog him in the rotation since they both represent long-term hopes for the Magic as much younger (and cheaper) options.
Backup Center: Gustavo Ayon
Ayon was obtained in the trade that sent out Most Improved Player of the Year Ryan Anderson. While many Magic fans were terribly sad to see the sharpshooting Anderson depart, Ayon should help them feel a little better with his hard work-ethic and strong interior defense. He was a 27-year-old rookie last year, so we're unlikely to see Ayon continue to get worlds better, but improvement is still possible.
I just don't see Ayon offering the same kind of hope that Vucevic does, which is why I've slotted him as the backup. Evan Dunlap of the popular Magic blog, the Orlando Pinstriped Post, does project Ayon to start, and I think he might—just not all year. The center position will be settled in training camp either way.
Third-String Small Forward: Quentin Richardson
Richardson at this point is going to be around this year and next. He has a player option for the 2013-2014 season for $2.8 million which he is surely going to exercise. He couldn't command more money elsewhere and would likely get a min vet contract (if he was lucky enough to even do that).
He was once a good defender and an above-average shooter, but at this point he's not worth much at all. He didn't play a lot last year, anyway, seeing only 18 minutes of action in 48 of the 66 regular season games, so it's not really relevant to Vaughn's interests to attempt to play Richardson when the talent around him is so much better. He'll likely be outworked and out-hustled in camp, losing whatever hold he had on the few minutes he was expecting to see.
Third-String Power Forward: Andrew Nicholson
It's hard to call Nicholson a third-stringer, because I think, much like Vucevic, he ends up being the starter this year at some point. Glen Davis will be appalled, but he'll quickly get over it with a double cheeseburger and 32-ounce Coke.
Nicholson played extremely well during summer league and has a great long-range two-point shot, which will work well with any offensive scheme. He's a good rebounder and has a lot of promise, so expect Vaughn to find minutes for the youngster.
Draft Express ranked him as the fourth-best big man in the 2012 Draft class, behind only No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis, Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller. He didn't get much TV time at St. Bonaventure, but Magic fans are about to find out that the team may have finally made a good late-first-round selection after striking out with Daniel Orton.
Third-String Center: Kyle O'Quinn
Like Nicholson, O'Quinn impressed a lot in summer league; that's why he was signed. Selected 14th in the second round, there was certainly no guarantee of that happening.
What worries me about O'Quinn is his true size, as he is only 6'8.5" without shoes and he's not really an exceptional athlete with a 30" vertical leap, so I don't know how he's going to make up for this at the NBA level.
Draft Express compares him to Ekpe Udoh as a best-case scenario and Udoh is a valuable shot blocker. O'Quinn is too. Last year at Norfolk State, he blocked 2.7 shots per game in 31 minutes of play. There's always room for another shot blocker in the NBA, so O'Quinn will have a place on the Magic's roster for the time being. As to whether he can remain in the NBA, that will be up to how he develops as time goes on.
Fourth-String Small Forward: Christian Eyenga
I don't really see Eyenga staying around very long, but he is guaranteed $1.1 million this year, and all further years on his contract are team options. He did put up decent per-minute production with the Cavs last year (11.5 points per-36), but in case you missed that, let me repeat myself: He did it with the Cavs.
Eyenga is just a throw-in to balance the scales on a large trade and he has no future in Orlando.
Fourth-String Power Forward: Josh McRoberts
McRoberts is pretty entertaining, but that's all he is. He'll bang and pick up fouls, and provide another body in practice for the guys that actually matter to train against. Somehow, the Lakers were so desperate that they had to start him a few games last year at power forward, but even on a team as bad as the Magic, that won't happen.
His career highlights all came during summer league with the Indiana Pacers, when he shot 1 of 13 from three and got in a fight in the same game.
Fifth-String Power Forward: Justin Harper
Harper came into the league drawing comparisons to the now departed Rashard Lewis. We might be inclined to form an opinion regarding that if Harper actually saw time on the court. He was two picks away from being taken in the first round and has serious range as a shooter but saw only 84 minutes the entire season last year.
Maybe Jacque Vaughn will take a liking to Harper and give him some burn, but as of right now, his future in the NBA is in question as he clearly hasn't demonstrated enough potential in practices or camps to warrant time on the court.