The Orlando Magic will need to improve individually and collectively if they intend to compete.
In the wake of losing star center Dwight Howard, the 2012-13 Orlando Magic were expected to be a lottery contending team, and they were. Sporting a roster with an average age of 25, they finished the season with a 20-62 record.
That led to the second-overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft, with which they selected Victor Oladipo.
This year, while no one is predicting the playoffs, their roster is brimming with young talent. One can only expect the likes of Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris and Kyle O'Quinn to continue to get better—as they showed much promise last year.
However, there are are those who need to step up their game, both for themselves and for the team. Here we will take a look at five such players.
Heading into 2013-14, Jameer Nelson has a lot to play for.
Point guard Jameer Nelson had a rough season last year. He missed 26 games due to a series of nagging injuries.
He enters the 2013 season with two years remaining on his contract. Unfortunately, next year is not guaranteed and, at $8 million, odds are his services won't be retained beyond this season.
Nelson will need to try as much as humanly possible to remain healthy over the course of a long 82-game schedule. At 31, he will also need to show he is capable of evolving as a player.
This past year, his three-point percentage (.341) was the worst it has been since the 2006-07 season. His field-goal percentage (.392) was the worst it has ever been in his career. As he continues to get older and struggle with injuries, he will need to adapt and develop a more consistent jump shot.
If he can't become a reliable shooter his value to other teams will greatly diminish. And, going forward, that is basically what he is playing for—his next (and potentially last) contract.
Glen Davis will need to improve his game and his physical durability this season.
Heading into the forthcoming season, Glen Davis is looking to rebrand himself. He's getting older, more mature and healthier. He hopes to separate himself from his nickname of many years—Big Baby, especially the "Big" part.
Earlier this offseason, Davis told the Orlando Sentinel he had begun a new diet with the hopes of losing weight to take pressure off his recovering broken foot—the foot that cost him most of the 2012-13 season.
Over the past few seasons, when healthy, he has shown gradual improvement. Since 2008-09, his player efficiency rating (PER) has improved incrementally from 10.7 to 15.0. In 34 games last year, he set career-high averages in minutes (31.3), points (15.1), rebounds (7.2), assists (2.1) and blocks (0.6) per game.
Unfortunately, for a player entering his seventh season who may be on the trade block, he needs to prove he is capable of playing at an above-average level.
As a 6'9" power forward who plays primarily in the post, he particularly needs to improve his rebounding. In six seasons, he has yet to averaged a double-double, not even in per 36 minute averages.
Can Arron Afflalo become the shooting guard Orlando needs him to be?
Arron Afflalo was a brief commodity at the onset of free agency, as the Los Angeles Clippers were considering a trade that would have sent upstart point guard Eric Bledsoe to Orlando. However, the deal did not pan out—and for good reason.
Why trade a young point guard with starter potential away for a three-point shooter whose percentages have continued to drop over the past four seasons?
In 2009-10, Afflalo recorded a career-high 43.4 percent from beyond the arc. Since then, he has lost his way. This past season, he made a career low 30 percent of his 240 three-point attempts.
When you consider the six-year veteran shot 43.9 percent from the field—his worst field-goal percentage since his second season—on 905 attempts, it's easier to disregard his career-high 16.5 points per game average.
Over the course of the past two seasons, he has devolved into an inaccurate volume shooter. For someone who is due $7.5 million in each of the next two seasons (with a third non-guaranteed season), Afflalo would serve his own cause well to regain his three-point touch and be more selective with his field-goal attempts.
Second-year guard Doron Lamb needs to speed up his development should he want a guaranteed contract and a place to call home.
Last year, Doron Lamb played 47 games for two teams, averaging over 12 minutes per game.
Offensively, advanced statistics say he shows promise. In Orlando, he shot 50 percent from 3-15 feet. At only 20 percent, his long-range two-point shot (16-23 feet) is below average. However, he made 47.6 percent from three (37.8 percent for the entire season).
He needs to improve his ability to finish around the rim, where he completed 59.1 percent while in Milwaukee, but only a dismal 46.7 percent in Orlando. He, like Moe Harkless, could also stand to improve his free-throw shooting (.588).
He has all the potential to be a deadly marksman in the NBA. He lacks the physical gifts necessary to be an elite scorer or a great floor general—as speed, agility and court vision are things that cannot be learned. Therefore, in order for him to be continue to improve, he'll need to step up his contributions in other aspects of the game.
Be more active on defense, jump passing lanes, have active hands. Create more than one-third of a steal per game. Crash the boards and help a team that was in the middle of the pack in rebounding become one of the best.
If he is unable to start helping the team in other ways, he'll be doomed to be another one of those guys that stays buried on the bench with heat packs on his legs, waiting for the coach to call his name when the team needs a quick three—guys like James Jones in Miami this past year.
To the average person, that may be a great gig: great pay, travel accommodations, play minimal minutes. But, no competitor wants that for themselves.
Swingman Maurice Harkless will have to improve in some key areas to help Orlando become successful.
It's hard to even know where to start with the young 19-year-old Moe Harkless.
First of all, until he bulks up some more, head coach Jacque Vaughn ABSOLUTELY MUST stop playing him at power forward. Last season, five percent of the teams' total minutes when he was on the court had him at the 4. This, statistically, proves to be a terrible move.
At 208 pounds, the 6'8" swingman does not have the strength or physical presence to compete against other power forwards. When playing the 4, he registers a net 48-minute production PER of -16.7. He, himself, performs best when playing at the 3—with a PER of 13.5.
He defends best against opposing 2s, holding them to a meager 8.6 PER. This makes sense considering his 6'8" frame with his rangy 7'0" wingspan.
Perhaps, when managing Harkless, the best use of him would be in a small forward role offensively, while asking him to defend opposing shooting guards.
As a player, he needs to improve his ability to shoot the basketball. When you shoot 27 percent from 3-9 feet, 33 percent from 10-15 feet, 13 percent from 16-23 feet and only 27.4 percent from three...well, let's just say you shouldn't be shooting unless you're point blank away. Even worse, his free-throw percentage is an abysmal .570.