Ranking Each Orlando Magic Player by Importance for 2012-13 Season
The Magic are rebuilding and are going to be horrible. When judging a player's importance on a rebuilding team, things other than simply skill set and talent come into mind. Rather, the value of the player towards a rebuilding effort is what must be considered. That must be first and foremost when evaluating the talent and merit of a guy who is up in years and slightly better than average (see: Jameer Nelson, Al Harrington, and Hedo Turkoglu).
Thus, by taking into account the actual value of a player and his prospective role in the rebuilding effort, we can obtain a sense of who actually matters the most to the people in charge: head coach Jacque Vaughn and Magic GM Rob Hennigan. If neither of these guys are on board, the guy's career is over, or at least his days in a Magic uniform.
The Magic have no need other than to have one of two types of players: veterans with leadership and mentoring capabilities, and then, guys for them to mentor. It's a very Mister Miyagi meets Daniel Son way of building a team, but is also as old as the hills: have a young guy learn from someone who has already succeeded and is a high character person.
That, again, is the category in which Nelson, Harrington and even Glen Davis fall into. The Magic's young guys need mentors like them just as much as they need their proteges (see: Moe Harkless, Nikola Vucevic, Andrew Nicholson, Kyle O'Quinn). It's commensalism.
All in all, the list becomes a bit more defined as you consider what gives a player importance in an effort like this, as we see franchises have to do from time to time.
Only a rare few stand strong over decades (Think: San Antonio), and teams like Orlando have a blueprint for when they go from the ground up. It will take years, but in the meantime, this slide show gives you a rough estimate of the importance of each player to the organization first, and then to the actual team.
16) Quentin Richardson
Q-Rich carved a nice little career out for himself, he did. But that career is winding to an end, and Richardson's sweet J is now flat. He just doesn't have the lift. He can't bend his knees on defense. In short, he's advanced beyond his years—some do.
Even with Richardson worth little more than a min vet contract, he is only owed $5 million over the next two seasons, the last of which is a player option that he'll undoubtedly pick up to avoid a vet min deal.
If nothing else, Richardson is an active cheerleader on the sidelines and does some entertaining celebration dances. Surely that's worth a couple cool mil.
15) Josh McRoberts
Think about this: At one point, McRoberts was a higher recruit in his high school class than Greg Oden. He won high school player of the year. I'm not kidding at all. Since that time, however, McRoberts' free-fall has been pretty clear.
Oden went No.1 overall in 2007 while McRoberts went 37th overall.
It's hard to say that McRoberts hasn't had the better career of the two, but that isn't really saying much. McRoberts has outlasted a number of players drafted before him, and is actually a pretty standard value for an early second round pick.
But teams don't rebuild around "solid second round picks" and McRoberts really isn't going to bring much other than a little amusement. We are, after all, talking about a guy who shot 1 of 13 from three in a summer league game while getting in a fight. I can't help but always bring that up when people throw the word "potential" around in the same breath as McRoberts.
14) Justin Harper
Harper would rank above the two guys ahead of him on this slide show if not for the fact he hasn't earned court time yet. The fact that he was taken second pick of the second round and still hasn't made a rotation yet is disconcerting.
It's hard to give Justin Harper anything other than an "Incomplete" if you're grading him, but that doesn't increase his importance. The only reason he is ahead of McRoberts and Q-Rich is because he is young and was drafted at a decent position.
Harper likely won't be the next Rashard Lewis, but that was his early draft comparison. Since then, we've drawn no conclusions because the guy hasn't even been on the court. He looks good in warm-ups, with a fluid shot, but when your best observations of a player come from watching him in pre-game shoot arounds, it's hard to form much of an opinion. His mechanics look sound, but who knows what he can do at the NBA level.
13) Christian Eyenga
Eyenga had a decent season for the Cleveland Cavaliers last year, but it was just decent, and it was on a very bad team. Nothing will change here, except I doubt Eyenga gets much time. He's just not even a replacement level backup, so his time in the NBA will be short barring major improvement.
His per-36 numbers over his first 51 career games were 11 points, two rebounds, and one assist. That doesn't scream potential.
Aaron Afflalo and J.J. Redick will see all the time at shooting guard and Eyenga's days with the Magic are short. I could be a lot longer-winded about Eyenga, but you'd just click to the next slide, wouldn't you?
12) Ish Smith
Ish Smith looked to have a lot of potential during the preseason of 2010-11 with the Houston Rockets. He was putting on an exhibition with ball handling and fast break offense. I don't know what happened to that guy.
Smith since has become a nervous player who seems to always be playing to avoid making mistakes, rather than just doing what he knows how to do as a basketball player. It has resulted in him picking up a lot of silly fouls, committing turnovers, and just not figuring out the NBA game.
That said, Smith still has a lot of promise due to his blinding speed, handles and motor. He could be a far better player than people give him credit for, but he needs to have the swagger of believing he is playing in preseason on the big stage, too.
Smith needs to realize he's in the NBA because he is an incredible talent, worlds better than thousands of D-leaguers and international guys that never have made it to the most elite 400 players in the world. In short, all Smith needs is confidence and playing time, because he has the skill set and athletic ability already.
11) Kyle O'Quinn
Kyle O'Quinn has shown a lot of promise and has drawn comparisons to defensive stopper forwards like Ekpe Udoh and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute of the Bucks (strange to have two defenders that can't score at forward in Milwaukee).
O'Quinn is a good shot blocker, but still stands only 6'8" without shoes, making his stature a bit short for a center. This isn't good since he's been projected to be a center, lacking the speed to match up with power forwards at the NBA level.
O'Quinn could carve out a nice career backup role for a team, but that still places him above the five players I featured before him, who are just fighting to have any chance to be in the league at all, with the exception of Ish Smith.
10) Al Harrington
Harrington has never been much of a defender, but did mentor Kenneth Faried last year in Denver, so he should have mentoring capabilities for other young guys on the Magic roster, like Andrew Nicholson, Kyle O'Quinn, and Justin Harper. Harrington can shoot threes and is good at getting a lot of shots up, but those are hardly two qualities most coaches look for in a player.
The last two years of Harrington's contract are non-guaranteed, so it will be interesting to see if the Magic can shed his salary and move on. For right now $6.6 million is a good bit to pay for a guy Jacque Vaughn can do little good in using.
Harrington's minutes are all only minutes that could have gone toward developing a project player and blasting the Magic further into the bottom of the lottery teams.
9) Hedo Turkoglu
Turkoglu is now an aged reminder of what the 2009 Finals team had on it. Face it, we will never see the "Old Turk." Hedo is done, and has been done, but he's still entertaining to watch.
Like Boris Diaw, Turkoglu seems to have forgotten that staying in shape makes you a better basketball player. He's slow getting around pick and rolls; slow turning the corner on defense; slow about taking poor shots. No one is really looking to obtain Turkoglu at this point. He's basically just entertainment, and even that is minimal.
Turkoglu isn't really a fundamentally sound player, speaks poor English and doesn't even chatter in the locker room nor stick around to talk to media. He's just around for the remainder of his contract, then likely retired. I'm sure he's eager to get back to his home land after spending so many years over here.
8) Gustavo Ayon
It really hurts to think this is the player the Magic got back from giving up Most Improved Player of the Year Ryan Anderson. Ship out a fringe All-Star and receive a backup center in return. I know that is an over simplification and that there was a trade exception in the deal, but Anderson should have netted at least a good first round pick, and all that came with Ayon was a second rounder.
Ayon is a tough banger and will earn fans' respect. They will love the way he sacrifices his body, takes charges, and plays his rear off in general. But when one begins to think of what the Magic gave up to obtain a very average player, it stings.
It's always pitiful to see teams give guys up and get so little in return, and Ayon isn't even as young as Anderson, as he came into the league last year as a 26 year old rookie. Ayon is still more valuable than most of this Magic team though, which only further screams why they are a 20-win team.
7) Jameer Nelson
How can the first or second best player on the team be ranked 7th in terms of importance? Simple. Jameer Nelson serves no purpose in the rebuild other than being a fan favorite and career long Magic player. He doesn't want to leave, and he's been well received his entire time here. No team is going to want him with his newly signed three year, $19.7 million contract.
Nelson is a starting level NBA point guard, but only a mediocre one.
Nelson played at an All-Star level for half a season, but then never returned to those heights. Yes, it was a fluke. He's very undersized, has all the heart in the world, but he's just not the kind of player who can lead a team to a championship.
Remember, when the Magic got to the NBA Finals in 2009, it was Rafer Alston who led the way while Jameer sat sidelined. Nelson's defense would not have been enough against the Cavaliers, as Alston's tough defense slowed down Mo Williams. Alston made Williams a non-factor, but Nelson likely could not have.
Can Nelson provide some leadership? Sure. Do fans love him? Most of them do. It's just that he's not a very valuable guy anymore in terms of trade value nor potential.
6) Nikola Vucevic
Vucevic doesn't look like a basketball player, but looks can be deceiving. When you look at Vucevic, you think to yourself he would be better off bagging groceries, but all of the sudden he starts to, well, play.
Vucevic is mobile, good with his hands, and good at getting shots off in traffic. He's rugged for what many perceive to be a Euro big man, but he's not. He's a domestic product and played his high school and college ball here in the States, in Stoneridge Prep School in Simi Valley, Calfornia and the The University of Southern Cal.
He put up impressive numbers at Southern Cal, averaging 17 points per game and 10 rebounds per game in his junior season. His played sporadically in his rookie season, and saw only three minutes total in the playoffs, but his per-36 numbers from the regular season, were impressive: 12.5 points, 10.9 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, on 45 percent shooting.
Vucevic has even demonstrated range, launching eight threes last year and connecting on three. If he extended his range and became a stretch-five, I have to believe his value would only increase further.
5) Andrew Nicholson
Nicholson is the guy who Rob Hennigan felt would make Ryan Anderson expendable. Hennigan didn't want to dish out the $10 million-plus to keep Anderson, so a cheaper alternative was drafting a guy who can play a lot like him. Nicholson isn't quite as mobile, but he is a prototypical "stretch-four," a power forward capable of playing away from the basket and still rebounding when the time comes.
It's a scheme the Magic employed during the entire Stan Van Gundy era. It started with Rashard Lewis, became Ryan Anderson, and now is Nicholson. Van Gundy is no longer the coach, of course, but he left his mark in Orlando.
While Jacque Vaughn will bring a style of his very own to the team, Van Gundy's imprint on the roster—especially in the form Jameer Nelson—is quite evident and concrete (Van Gundy stood beside Jameer Nelson come hell or high water).
4) Moe Harkless
Harkless is likely the starting small forward of the future, which is why he ranks far ahead of the incumbent, Hedo Turkoglu in this slideshow. Harkless looks like Andre Iguodala and James Posey mixed in a blender, a versatile strong defender who can guard shooting guards and small forwards. The question is whether he can learn from his mistakes early or end up becoming the next athletic D-league dunk champion. I'd think he'll do the former:
He's quick, athletic, and seems to have a knack for getting off good shots.
His shot needs to add range, but once he does that, he'll be just fine. Harkless was on a lot of team's radars in the June draft, and the Magic had Harkless on theirs, but he didn't fall. They gained the opportunity to acquire him in the Howard deal, and pounced on it.
Harkless will have a good NBA career, and could even be like Iguodala, an All-NBA defender. He'll be worth keeping an eye on all year because a lot of the Magic's hopes are riding on he and Nicholson's shoulders.
3) Glen Davis
Glen Davis is a remnant of what Dwight Howard did to this organization, but we'll try not to dwell too long on that. Howard insisted the Magic add Davis last summer and it required giving up the promising and now thriving Brandon Bass to do so. Otis Smith acquiesced. Fast forward a year later, and they are comparable players, at least in terms of salaries and statistical production, but I still think Bass is better than Davis.
Davis will be valuable for his veteran leadership and seems like the kind of guy that organizations like to keep around. He's a class act. He's undersized as a big man, has limited upside, and will never be an All-Star. But Big Baby has big value.
Davis will set a good example for the younger guys to come into the organization and is the kind of player that will play hard even on a rebuilding team. Davis' importance to this squad cannot be underestimated. He is going to be a vital piece throughout this process, and he's on a reasonable contract.
2) J.J. Redick
The first thing to remember about Redick is that he is an expiring contract. The second is that he is very good. Redick's three point shooting and reasonable salary ($6 million this year) will make him an attractive target to a team at the trade deadline.
There are a number of teams I could see benefiting from Redick, and one deal I would like for the Magic to try is giving up J.J.'s expiring deal for Tiago Splitter, who has a qualifying offer of $5.7 million following this year. The Magic would then re-sign Splitter, and possibly surrender a draft pick with Redick because Splitter would be more valuable.
Why haven't I actually talked about J.J.'s importance to the Magic, but only suggested a good deal for him?
Because, his biggest value is as a trade piece.
Contenders will look to add spot up shooters at any time at a reasonable price, and Redick is an upgrade from a guy like Kyle Korver, who doesn't even try to play defense. Redick has improved every year he has been in the league. Really, while expectations were high at Duke, once he was drafted in the late lottery, we got about what we expected.
1) Aaron Afflalo
Afflalo is the center piece of the Dwight Howard deal. In Afflalo, the Magic have a shooting guard who plays well-above-average defense, and one who shoots with stellar percentages. The 26 year old from Cal brings five years of NBA ball under his belt and boasts a 40.5 percent career three-point average. In addition to that, in the 2010-11 season, he shot nearly 50 percent from the floor, 42 percent from three, and nearly 85 percent on free throws.
That puts Afflalo dangerously close to that exclusive 50/40/90 club that contains the likes of Steve Nash, Larry Bird, Mark Price, Dirk Nowitzki and Reggie Miller. I realize a 5 percent jump is a bit for free throws, but who would mention Afflalo in the same breath as that exclusive club?
I'm not suggesting he is the next NBA superstar like the aforementioned five guys, but the fact he is on the precipice of attaining that type of exclusivity speaks to how well rounded he is.
He will also see even more than the 33 minutes a game he saw the last two years in Denver with the Magic, leading many fantasy basketball enthusiasts to begin thinking they might have themselves a true "sleeper."