Orlando Magic Stock Watch: Risers and Fallers at Season's Halfway Point
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It seems that for every player that is exceeding expectations, the Orlando Magic have an athlete doing the exact opposite, failing to live up to the hype.
Their mediocre 13-23 record is a testament to the inconsistent play of their rotation. After all, the Orlando Magic narrowly beat the dominant Los Angeles Clippers, 104-101, arguably their best win of the season.
Coming into the season, Jacque Vaughn and the franchise needed other players to fill the production left by their former All-NBA center, Dwight Howard. Well, the players that have decided to rise to the occasion are not the ones who were probably expected by management to carry the heavy load.
Due to a series of injuries and the ineffectiveness of a few veterans, a few prospects have managed to carve a nice role in Vaughn's game plan, and those young guns have absolutely repaid their coach with solid play.
With the NBA playoffs probably out of reach, this season's sole purpose is player development and analyzing the current roster.
*All stats and records are accurate as of January 12, 2013.
Stock Rising: Andrew Nicholson
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Andrew Nicholson was considered one of the safest picks in the NBA draft last summer. Already 22 years old and spending four years at the collegiate level, the former St. Bonaventure star wasn't considered an elite prospect due to his lack of potential.
While Nicholson doesn't have the highest ceiling, as a lack of top athleticism and size will always be his downfall, the rookie has blossomed into a valuable rotation player. Nicholson is averaging nearly eight points and three boards in only 15 minutes per contest.
Recently, though, Nicholson has been starting due to the injury sustained by Glen Davis nearly a month ago. The past eight games, the power forward has flourished. While his statistics haven't significantly changed, one can easily see that there is an increase of confidence in his game.
Hopefully, Nicholson will be a solid, loyal player for years to come in Orlando—unlike any former Magic big men.
Stock Falling: Gustavo Ayón
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Before Andrew Nicholson, Jacque Vaughn initially decided to start Gustavo Ayon to replace Glen Davis. That, however, was a terrible decision, as the big man failed to live up to the hype that surrounded him after a successful rookie campaign with the New Orleans Hornets.
Ayon is in somewhat of a sophomore slump, as the center is only averaging three points and three rebounds per night in a reserve role.
Before the season, many expected Ayon to be the major contributor at the 5. With Nikola Vucevic and Andrew Nicholson emerging, Ayon has become somewhat of a nonfactor. Only seeing 14 ineffective minutes per night, the Magic are probably not too thrilled with the production from the 27-year-old.
Stock Rising: Nikola Vucevic
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Speaking of the center position, Nikola Vucevic has been probably the biggest surprise for the Orlando Magic. Not only has he solidified himself as a franchise cornerstone, but his increase in production has even stirred up some Most Improved Player of the Year talk.
Last season, Vucevic averaged only five points and four boards per night in his stint with the Philadelphia 76ers. This year, the former USC star has risen those averages to 11 points and 11 boards per contest.
His field-goal and free-throw percentages have skyrocketed. He is shooting 51 percent from the court and 65 percent from the line, which is major considering last year's woes.
The most impressive statistic is his 29 boards he collected against the Miami Heat on December 31, 2012. That total is the Magic's single-game record. Considering that the team has been home to the likes of Horace Grant, Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard, Vucevic's accomplishment is nothing to scoff at.
Stock Falling: Hedo Turkoglu
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It really is a shame the way Hedo Turkoglu's career is ending. For a player that really has always been such an underrated talent, the small forward from Turkey just doesn't have the athleticism to thrive in a facilitator role and guard the opposing swingman.
Don't blink now, but his tenure in the NBA is coming to a close.
The forward is only averaging four points, three boards and two assists per night, which is far from his career averages of 12 points, four rebounds and three dimes.
The 33-year-old's contract is cumbersome, and there is no denying that the Magic wish to rid themselves of the deal. Expect the Magic to be active in pursuing a trade partner with hopes of dumping this former star off on another team's payroll.
Stock Rising: J.J. Redick
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J.J. Redick, once considered a bust in the Association, has actually developed into one of the best shooting guards in the entire league. Sure, people are going to point out that the former Duke star doesn't even start on his own squad, but that is only due to the fact the Magic need a scoring punch off the pine.
The last six seasons, Redick has increased his scoring average, culminating in 14.7 points per night this year.
However, scoring isn't the only facet to Redick's growing game. The 6'4" shooting guard has picked up the slack in the assist department, dishing out close to five dimes per night.
Additionally, Redick has become a leader on one of the youngest squads in the league. Due to the aforementioned praises, Redick is drawing major interest on the market. Let's just hope the Magic realize how special a talent this longtime Orlando marksman is for this organization.
Stock Falling: Arron Afflalo
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Arron Afflalo has been far from terrible, but his play has been a bit disappointing since arriving to the Orlando Magic.
Many expected the shooting guard from Denver to flourish once he became the new face of the city of Orlando basketball. That has not been the case, however.
In fact, Afflalo's level of play has only slightly risen, and in fact, the star has developed a problem with inefficiency. Not only is the defensive-minded guard's shot selection suspect, but Afflalo is also averaging a career high in turnovers with over two per game.