Ironically, not much shooting or guarding was done at all by the Orlando Magic shooting guards last season, but it is a new year.
Orlando was second to last in all of basketball last year with a 32.9 collective three-point percentage. They also allowed over 101 points per game and were last in the league in forcing turnovers.
Those stats begin and end in the backcourt, which is why drafting Victor Oladipo was such a fantastic move for this franchise. After investing so many picks and executing trades to beef up the frontcourt, they finally showed a little love to the smaller guys.
For the Magic to improve during the 2013-14 season, they are going to need increased production from the shooting guard slot, which was arguably their weakest position last season.
Here, we are going to dissect the position on the roster and explore how and why it will be a much greater strength for the organization going forward. With added depth and experience, the shooting guard position will not be the black hole that it was last season.
No. 1 - Arron Afflalo
The incumbent at the 2-guard position for Orlando is Afflalo, their best offensive weapon. He averaged career highs across the board in his first season with the Magic at 16.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game.
At age 28, the UCLA product has already hit his peak. He was impressive last year in his first season as the main offensive option on the team.
As talented of a scorer as Afflalo is, this team is going nowhere with him leading the way. Afflalo is not much more than a good complementary scorer.
On the other end of the floor, Afflalo is abysmal. He averaged a career-worst 0.5 defensive win shares last year as well as a weak 1.5 offensive win shares, less than a third of his 4.7 win shares the prior season.
As his usage rate increased last season, his efficiency plummeted. Afflalo has long been known as an knock-down shooter from long-range, but canned a ghastly 30 percent last year after being at or above 40 percent the previous four years.
What this all means for the current regime is that Afflalo is simply too good to avoid starting. Compared to the rest of the options at shooting guard, he is clearly the main option as long as he is still on the roster.
It behooves coach Jacque Vaughn to squeeze as much offense out of Afflalo as he can, but in order to do that he is going to have to get Arron to play more like he did in his Denver days as a good complimentary player instead of as a somewhat decent lead option.
I still predict Afflalo will be shipped out of town once Victor Oladipo establishes himself at some point this year, but for now Afflalo is here and he is going to produce. Look for Afflalo to return to a more comfortable role this season. With Nikola Vucevic, Glen Davis and Tobias Harris all having firmly established themselves along the front line, there is no pressure on Afflalo to be the type of volume scorer he was last season.
His turnovers skyrocketed and his shooting went down the drain. Those were the two most glaring inefficiencies on this roster as a whole. Correcting those things as a team starts with Afflalo correcting them personally, and that is much simpler with more talent around him.
Stat Predictions: 14.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.5 steals, 38 percent from three-point range, 34 minutes per game
No. 2 - Victor Oladipo
Breathing down Afflalo's neck all season will be rookie Victor Oladipo, the No. 2 draft pick who was not taken to be a sixth man.
General manager Rob Hennigan fully intends for his new toy to be a dynamic two-way player at shooting guard. How long Afflalo is able to hold him off remains to be seen.
Oladipo's strength is his jaw-dropping athleticism. He uses his power and quickness to infuriate whoever has the displeasure of being guarded by him. From day one, we can expect him to wreak havoc by jumping passing lanes and even punching some shots into the crowd as a weak-side shot blocker.
At Indiana, he went from an average recruit to a can't-miss prospect in three years. Last season, he shot an astounding 60 percent from the field including a very surprising 44 percent from deep.
Luckily for him, Afflalo will be able to mask his weaknesses for the time being.
As good as he is, he is not ready to be thrown right into the fire. His percentages at Indiana were slightly misleading for a few reasons. For one, they came out of nowhere. A field-goal percentage increase of 13 percent as well as a three-point percentage that doubled just screams of a fluke.
Those jumps could be compared to the No. 2 pick of two seasons ago, Minnesota Timberwolves' Derrick Williams. In his last stellar season at Arizona, he shot 60 percent from the field and nailed an otherworldly 57 percent of his threes.
During his rookie year in Minnesota, those numbers plummeted to 41 percent overall and 27 percent from downtown.
It cannot be ignored that Oladipo has gone from a really good situation to a really bad one. Indiana was the class of the NCAA and he had fellow top-five pick Cody Zeller with him, as well as many other fantastic players. He was a glorified "three-and-d" type of player, albeit a very good one.
Oladipo has never had the pressure of creating his own shot. It is something he hasn't had to do, and something he is clearly not capable of yet from what we saw during summer league.
It is best to bring him along slowly at first. His defense should translate from day one, but the training wheels on offense will not come off for a little while.
Stat Predictions: 9.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.3 steals, 28.5 minutes per game
No. 3 - Maurice Harkless
It may come as a surprise to see Harkless' name on this list, but whatever minutes Afflalo and Oladipo don't eat up at shooting guard will likely fall to him.
Harkless' best asset is his versatility. At this point in his career, he is still going through the motions and learning a lot about his skill set. Harkless is still very raw—he doesn't turn 21 until the end of next season.
Davis and Harris will log lots of minutes at the forward spots, but Orlando is fortunate to have a young guy like Harkless going forward. He can spell either of them at both forward spots and is very much learning how to play the 2 as well.
Early reports out of Magic camp say he is working on his shot and ball-handling in order to log minutes in the backcourt.
Harkless provides Orlando with a solution for their defensive woes. He was arguably their best defensive player last season. After the All-Star break when he started logging heavy minutes, Harkless averaged 1.6 steals and a block a night. He was second on the team in steals overall with 1.2 per game behind Jameer Nelson.
The Magic are better with Harkless on the floor, plain and simple. The fact that he is becoming even more versatile makes it increasingly possible that he and Harris could see heavy court time together and cause huge matchup problems on both ends of the floor.
Granted, Harkless still has much to work on, namely his shot and ball-handling. He has a lot of similarities to Oladipo at the moment.
Many "ifs" will be mentioned with this backcourt, but that comes with the territory of such a young team. Another huge "if" is what happens if Oladipo proves he can run the point amicably.
It may take a while, but if somewhere down the line Orlando can field a backcourt of 6'4" Oladipo and a 6'9" Harkless to complement Harris, Davis and Vucevic in the frontcourt, the Magic will have themselves a menacing force on defense due to their size.
For now, Harkless remains the collector of shooting-guard scrap minutes. He will see big minutes all over the court as this team's jack-of-all-trades character, which is exactly what a weak-minded defensive team needs.
Stat Predictions: 10.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 1.0 blocks, 28 minutes per game
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