Winners and Losers from Week 1 of Orlando Magic's Preseason
The first week of Orlando Magic preseason had little to offer with just one game on their plate. However, we did learn a few things.
Orlando showed positives and negatives during their 99-95 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans in Jacksonville of all places on Wednesday, Oct. 9.
Obviously, not a whole lot of evaluation can be put into one game, especially the first one of the season. But we only get one chance at a first impression, right?
Here are the winners and losers based on what we know so far about this mysterious Orlando Magic squad.
Winner No. 1: Victor Oladipo
Victor Oladipo truly was all that and a bag of potato chips during the first game. If week one was any indication of what is to come, something tells me Orlando is not going to regret taking him second overall one bit.
The former Hoosier put up a phenomenal stat line of 10 points, nine assists, five rebounds, four steals and just two turnovers in 25 minutes off the bench. He significantly outplayed veterans Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo in the backcourt.
Better yet, his performance even caught the eye of a few Hall of Famers. Julius Erving and George Gervin were on hand to bestow praise upon the young guard.
Oladipo faced huge questions of whether or not he could play the point, especially after his turnover-fest during summer league. He made a very loud first impression with his performance by jumping passing lanes and turning them into flawlessly-led fast breaks on more than one occasion.
He dropped a few dimes that almost no one knew he was capable. His performance was nothing short of fantastic.
Missing two of his four free throws and all three of his attempts from long range are about the only negatives so far for Oladipo. If he can just continue doing what he has done so far in training camp and game one, he will be a gem.
Loser No. 1: Arron Afflalo
Arron Afflalo is on the hot seat and Victor Oladipo is holding the match underneath it. After one week, that little matchstick is starting to look more like a forest fire.
Maybe that is a little extreme, but it is set in stone that Oladipo will be taking over a spot in the backcourt. The only question is when.
Afflalo slumped to a 2-for-9 shooting performance against the Pelicans. He missed both of his threes and registered just one rebound and one assist in 23 minutes. He was a non-factor for the most part.
Let us not forget that Afflalo is an established veteran with little to prove. We know what kind of player he is, but we also saw how uncharacteristically poor he was shooting last season.
Afflalo also said he was going to make a conscious effort to attack the basket and get to the line more often this season, and he shot no free throws in game one.
Worst of all, Orlando was minus-26 with Afflalo on the court compared to plus-22 with Oladipo.
On a young team, he is going to need to show more leadership. Being outshined by a rookie is not a good start on that path.
Winner No. 2: Andrew Nicholson
Andrew Nicholson went his entire rookie season without so much as hoisting a single three-pointer.
After one game in the preseason, he is 1-for-1.
The extended work that Nicholson put in this offseason to expand his game paid immediate dividends in the first preseason game. Nicholson made four of his first five shots from the field, a handful of which were jump shots, and finished with 13 points and four rebounds in just 19 minutes.
Nicholson is just one of a bevy of incredibly talented young forwards on this roster. Just like the rest, he has put in his due diligence to hammer out the kinks in his game. We know what he can do around the basket and on the boards, but if he can consistently hit from the outside, then his stock will soar.
All is well on the Nicholson front.
Loser No. 2: Overall Team Defense
During the Pelicans game, Orlando was dictating the tempo early on and had a solid six-point advantage at halftime.
Then, they inexcusably allowed 58 points in the second half. The game was only as close as it was due to a furious 10-0 run late in the fourth fueled by a handful of impressive post moves from Nikola Vucevic.
For a team playing their first preseason game against a Pelicans team playing their third game in five days, it is inexcusable to get run out of the gym in the second half. No one would have blamed New Orleans for mailing it in without two of their key players in Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon, but they showed the type of resolve that Orlando needs to match.
Looking deeper, the plus/minus numbers were staggering, Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn had predetermined lineups heading into the contest.
"We played basically two groups and gave them six-minute stretches and we gave them a chance to feel the court a little bit. I saw some good things tonight,’’ Vaughn told John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com
Vaughn's bench significantly outperformed his starters. As a whole, the bench was average on defense and the starters were dramatically worse. Aside from Maurice Harkless and at times Vucevic, Orlando's starters looked mostly overmatched on the defensive end.
It is just one game, but Vaughn also has said that no one will be handed a starting job. His goal in the first game as well as during training camp is to see early on who plays better with which players and what combinations are more effective.
We do know that it is possible some early changes must be made to avoid complete defensive meltdowns like we saw in the first game.
Winner No. 3: Tobias Harris
So far, so good for the high-upside Tobias Harris.
His added weight in the offseason looks to have done nothing but help Harris on both ends of the floor. He made his presence felt on both ends of the floor in week one in both training camp and the Pelicans game. His line for the contest was 17 points, nine boards, two assists and a block in just 25 minutes.
Alongside Oladipo and Nicholson, the three of them went hard on both ends of the floor. They all came off the bench in one of Vaughn's predetermined rotations, and the team was markedly better with them on the floor.
Early indications say that Harris' explosion at the end of last season is not a fluke. Very little can be attributed to him not starting at power forward in the game, as it was likely just Vaughn's plan to get him on the floor with a certain lineup.
We didn't need one measly preseason game to reaffirm that Harris is this team's most talented player, but that is exactly what we got anyway. He is a legitimate breakout candidate this season.
Loser No. 3: Kyle O'Quinn
Not to single anyone out, but Kyle O'Quinn was the player most responsible for Orlando's ineptitude on the defensive end against the Pelicans.
He was severely dominated on both ends of the floor by Anthony Davis. O'Quinn missed three of his four shot attempts and had just three rebounds to go along with his four turnovers and five fouls in a team-high 29 minutes.
Davis chewed him up all night long with mid-range jumpers and by attacking the paint on his way to an 11-for-11 performance at the line. It was surprising enough to see O'Quinn in the starting lineup at all, but after this performance his stay there could be shortlived.
He had arguably the most disappointing performance of anyone on the Magic roster in the game. If O'Quinn is unable to get his act together, he could find himself sliding down the bench very quickly with the great performances of Harris and Nicholson.
O'Quinn was probably a bit out of his comfort zone covering Davis anyway, but he was still completely outclassed. Let's hope he can get it together moving forward.