The Orlando Magic have had a couple of rough seasons. They also now have a young, talented squad. In order to become a playoff contender once more, they will need several of these players to step up. But who has the most upside?
Let's take a closer look at each player to find out who indeed has the most upside.
You may have noticed a prominent name missing. Where is Arron Afflalo?
He has improved his game consistently throughout his career. However, Afflalo isn't a 25-plus PPG and five-plus APG player. And age will start catching up with him sooner or later.
The 28-year-old has missed games due to injuries in all but one of his six seasons. Make that seven now. This has to do with his aggressive playing style, which he relies on for his success.
His upside is very limited.
One has to wonder how healthy he can stay and how much the Orlando Magic will rely on him with all the talent they have acquired recently. Add to that a top pick in the 2014 NBA draft.
Suddenly, Afflalo's future becomes somewhat uncertain.
For a player to be considered, he must have decent stats in the ongoing campaign. It is no good having someone average six points and four rebounds and think about how he could double his production next season.
You probably guessed that these stats were not taken out of the blue. Nicholson has settled below these numbers and seems more likely to ship out of Orange County during the offseason than to live up to his potential.
Harkless' seven points and 3.2 rebounds per game are also far from spectacular.
At least he shows effort on defense and, with 45.7 percent, scores much more efficiently than Nicholson. Still, he isn't a major factor for this team, and his future largely depends on who Orlando drafts.
That leaves three players in contention: Harris, Oladipo and Vucevic.
All three of them have already proved themselves in the course of their young careers.
After joining the Orlando Magic, Harris' production improved drastically. Hopes were high that he could prosper even more this season, but so far his numbers have declined marginally. Part of that may be that he cannot find his role, being caught between the 3 and the 4.
Jacque Vaughn may want to give the youngster a proper job description and choose a main position, so Harris can settle in. Once he does, he can become a very important player for this team. He won't be a franchise player but at least a household name and potential All-Star somewhere down the road.
Vucevic has surprised some fans by averaging a double-double his second year in the league. This season, the 23-year-old has shown his critics he is for real by repeating this feat. At the same time, he increased his free-throw percentage from 68.3 percent in 2012-13 to a respectable 78.1 percent.
That is indeed impressive.
It actually borders on the incredible, considering his rookie campaign saw him shoot an embarrassing 52.9 percent from the line. Dwight Howard may want to take lessons from Vuc.
However, his overall performance has stagnated. It seems he has hit a plateau and will only improve minimally from here on out.
That being said, if he can keep up this level of play, Orlando fans will love him—and rightfully so. The young center being such a force certainly helped forget the whole Dwightmare.
Nonetheless, Vucevic simply doesn't have a lot of room for improvement left.
That leaves Oladipo.
Why Victor Oladipo?
The rookie has shown flashes of brilliance followed by decisions that make people doubt his sanity. He tends to take too many bad shots, and the sheer amount of turnovers could drive any fan and coach crazy if this team was competing for a playoff spot.
This simultaneously makes him the prime candidate for a breakout season.
He has great athleticism and is already one of the best perimeter defenders, averaging 1.6 steals per game. He needs to improve on his shot selection and taking care of the ball. However, those are things that are considerably easier to teach than speed or defense.
Oladipo feels he has matured after the first half of the season. In his own words, he is "no longer a rookie," as reported by John Denton at NBA.com.
And there has been improvement as of late.
He is taking better shots from the field, connecting on 41.7 percent of his attempts from downtown, compared to 31.3 over the course of the season. His turnover woes also seem to be less of a problem, too.
Thinking back to November 16, maybe you witnessed Oladipo mishandle the ball more often than the entire opposing team, the Dallas Mavericks. He lost the ball nine times, compared to Dallas' eight turnovers.
No. 5's stat sheet should see a clear increase across the board in his second year—apart from the TO column, hopefully. It also depends on whether the Magic will compete for a playoff spot or not. If they choose to have another season dedicated to improving their young talent, playing time and lineups will keep changing. This won't allow players to get into a real groove.
Oladipo can be the franchise player for the Orlando Magic.
It depends on how good he becomes at playing under control while staying aggressive. The rookie has shown a lot of potential and will become better each passing season. He gets a lot of playing time, and his coach trusts him. The situation is ideal for this young player. Watch him improve considerably over the next couple of years.
Victor Oladipo will be a perennial All-Star by 2015-16.
How's that for an upside?
You can follow @KurtJonke for more on the NBA in general and the Orlando Magic in particular.
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