The Orlando Magic ranked just 15th in points per possession in the 2011/12 season despite employing, in Dwight Howard, one of the league's 16 20-point-per-game scorers. A major reason for their offensive struggles was their lack of a reliable, go-to offensive option. Howard's volatility rating of 37.1 percent was high for a volume scorer, but his mark was also the best on the team. In short, Orlando had few great offensive players, and none produced points on a consistent basis.
Volatility measures the likelihood that a given player will have an extreme offensive performance in a single game, when "extreme" is defined as one standard deviation from a given player's per-game scoring average. Howard's 37.1 volatility rating indicates he scored either one standard deviation above or below his 20.6-point average in 37.1 percent of his appearances.
In the August trade which sent Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers, Orlando acquired Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington, two offensive-minded players who could, in theory, offer more balanced offense than anyone in pinstripes did in 2011/12.
For the Denver Nuggets in 2011/12, Afflalo averaged a career-best 15.2 points per game, but with a volatility rating of 45.5 percent. Harrington, a 14-year veteran, scored a bit more consistently than Afflalo: the versatile big man averaged 14.2 points off Denver's bench with 39.7 percent volatility.
Neither of those players, then, would seem likely to remedy the issue at hand.
Nikola Vučević, the seven-footer Orlando obtained from the Philadelphia 76ers in the Howard deal, is another offense-first player; in fact, his usage rate of 19.6 percent with Philly exceeds Afflalo's 19.1 percent mark with Denver. But because Vučević is a jump-shooter who rarely draws fouls, he's a woefully inconsistent offensive player: as a rookie, he averaged 5.5 points per game with a sky-high volatility rating of 90.4 percent.
Here's a sobering thought: Glen Davis may be Orlando's best hope for reliable offense. Overall, the bruising big-man averaged 9.3 points per game on 66.2 percent volatility, but he took on a featured role in the club's offense when surgery to repair a bulging disk ended Howard's season early. In 11 late-season starts and five playoff starts, Davis averaged 17.2 points per game with a much more reasonable, but still unsightly, 39.9 percent volatility rating. If the 32-year-old Harrington regresses--a distinct possibility, if one puts any stock in John Hollinger's "Fluke Rule"--then it stands to reason that Davis could lead the team in scoring.
All told, the data point toward a miserable offensive season for the Magic. If they are to win many games in the first year of their rebuild, they'll have to do so with relentless defense.