Simply put, the Orlando Magic are shocking the NBA community, and there are a plethora of awards that should be handed out for the first quarter of their season. While this slideshow won't give the rightful credit to all individuals who deserve recognition, including the players, coaching staff, management and fan base, there is no denying the heart and character of this squad.
Just a few months removed from the "Dwightmare" that literally shook the franchise to the core, this organization has rebounded in tremendous fashion, proving to the NBA that this roster is still a force to be reckoned with.
Even without their All-Star center, a franchise cornerstone for nearly a decade, the Magic have salvaged an 8-12 record, which is third in the Southeast Division.
In the end, this squad may even surprise their impressed fans even more, as it is possible this gritty squad acquires a playoff berth. For right now, though, let's focus in the present and serve out a few awards to some worthy recipients.
Out of the four rookies on the roster, one player has stood out as the best first-year player for the Orlando Magic.
That player is Moe Harkless.
While Andrew Nicholson, the 19th overall selection out of St. Bonaventure, has been impressive during limited action, Harkless has become the unquestioned starter in Orlando due to his unique play style.
One word sums up Harkless’ game: Smooth.
Whether it be penetrating the lane or defending the opposing team’s best defender, this rookie seems to make everything look so simple and easy. With remarkable athleticism and a lanky 6’8” frame, this 19-year-old looks like the real deal.
Only a teenager, Harkless is already making significant contributions in a NBA starting lineup—Wow.
While his statistics don’t pop off the page, as he is only averaging four points and four boards in 17 minutes of action per game, Harkless’ intangibles are his true contributions.
His hustle, defense and knack of not committing to many mistakes are hard to document in stats, but there is no doubting the importance these aspects are to a team’s success.
The fact Harkless won this award is not a testament to how bad the rest of the rookies have played, but more one towards the potential this small forward has shown.
Kyle O’Quinn, Andrew Nicholson and DeQuan Jones have all shown flashes of brilliance this season, but not to the extent or regularity as Harkless.
Nikola Vučević has simply been stellar this season. The former USC star has burst onto the scene, erasing all previous doubts that Gustavo Ayón was the more suitable player for the starting center position.
Obviously, coach Jacque Vaughn made the right decision, as Vučević has thrived in the starting lineup and Ayón has failed in his limited role.
Last season, Vučević failed to find his groove as a backup with the Philadelphia 76ers. The legitimate seven-footer averaged only five points and five boards per contest, which is much lower than the 10 points and nine rebounds the big man is averaging this season.
Arron Afflalo, the main asset who was acquired in the Dwight Howard deal, has not produced nearly as much as the Orlando Magic probably had hoped for.
The shooting guard has struggled to find an offensive rhythm, not creating quality shots in isolation plays and failing to convert consistently on open jumpers.
Nevertheless, the former Denver Nugget star is still an elite defender, as he is always assigned the opposing squad’s best perimeter scorer.
His athleticism and 6’5” frame allows him to cover a wide array of different players. While his offensive game may always be suspect, his skill on defense will continue to keep him a starter-caliber talent.
No player means more to this franchise than J.J. Redick. One could make a solid case for Jameer Nelson or Glen Davis, but Redick’s leadership, hustle and consistency this season is one of the major reasons the Magic are off to such an impressive start.
Despite coming off the bench, Redick is averaging an impressive 14 points per contest on 43 percent shooting—not bad for a player defenses key-in on every single contest.
The most impressive statistic, though, is his work regarding passing. Redick, due to the various injuries of Jameer Nelson, has been forced numerous times to play the role of a facilitator.
While this is a bit foreign to the shooting guard, Redick has shown he is more than capable of the position, as he is averaging a career-high five assists per game.