The Orlando Magic open training camp Tuesday with plenty of shooting guards and small forwards, but few of them have much appeal. The one-two punch of Arron Afflalo and J.J. Redick, each of whom is coming off a career-best season in terms of scoring, at shooting guard lacks star power, but is nonetheless enviable for its combination of efficiency and versatility at the offensive end.
Small forward is a different story. There, Orlando employs either veterans with limited skills (Quentin Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu) or exceptionally raw youngsters who simply aren't ready to contribute at the NBA level (Christian Eyenga, Maurice Harkless, Justin Harper, DeQuan Jones).
Türkoglu figures to start at small forward almost by default, but he's coming off one of his worst professional seasons. The 12-year veteran averaged barely more than one point every three minutes, shot only 35.3 percent on three-pointers while taking more than half of his shots from that distance, rebounded seven percent of available missed shots, and posted the worst turnover rate of his career. The latter point is particularly troublesome for Türkoglu, who's made a living in this league by playing point forward at 6-foot-10, causing matchup problems.
Richardson is even more limited. Ostensibly a floor-spacer, the DePaul product has shot only 31.5 percent on threes in his two seasons with the Magic. He may be Orlando's best perimeter defender, thanks to his size and physicality, but his poor offensive game makes it difficult to justify playing him on a regular basis. He ought to be an end-of-quarter specialist at this stage of his career.
And yet Türkoglu and Richardson represent Orlando's best options at the three, which says plenty about the state of the roster.
Eyenga made just seven appearances in his sophomore campaign, and didn't offer much promise--apart from the occasional slam--as a rookie in 2010/11. Troublesomely, He hasn't dominated in his stints in the NBA D-League: though he's shot 50 percent in his 33 D-League games, he's scored only 11.5 points per game in 27.3 minutes. He's not a great rebounder despite his athleticism, and as one might expect from a 23-year-old with little NBA experience, he's still figuring out how to defend at this level. There's no guarantee he'll make the Magic's opening-night roster.
Harper is also a question-mark. Being a rookie in the lockout-shortened 2011/12 season put him behind the proverbial eight-ball, and he didn't impress in his exceptionally limited playing time. Playing mostly at power forward, Harper shot 9-of-31 from the field, including 2-of-13 on threes, and earned only one free-throw attempt. In summer-league play, the Magic shifted him to small forward, but the results didn't offer much optimism. The former Richmond Spider, for whose Draft rights the Magic traded two future second-round picks, shot 34.9 percent from the floor and 28.1 percent fron three-point range and finished with more shot attempts (63) than points (61).
Jones scarcely has a snowball's chance of earning a spot on Orlando's opening-day roster, despite being a holdover from the summer-league squad. In his four seasons at Miami, Jones averaged only 4.6 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. He's strictly camp fodder.
Harkless has the most upside of any of Orlando's wings, but he may not get many chances to contribute in his rookie season. He's recovering from sports-hernia surgery and will miss training camp. In his lone collegiate season, Harkless played positions two through five and stuffed the stat sheet, so it's easy to understand why Orlando insisted on his inclusion in the four-team Dwight Howard trade in August. But the 19-year-old will have to make up a lot of ground once he's healthy enough to take the floor.
One way coach Jacque Vaughn can offset his team's talent deficiency at small forward is by shifting Afflalo to the three for a few minutes each game; he'd almost certainly have to make that move anyway in order to get Redick enough minutes, but it's not an ideal solution. At 6-foot-5, Afflalo is undersized for small forward, and though he has a reputation as a strong defender, the data tell a much different story: Synergy Sports Technology rated him as the league's single-worst defender, with a minimum of 500 plays defended, in the 2011/12 season.
In short, Orlando begins the season with one of the weakest wing rotations in the league. Were you the coach, how would you allocate playing time?