Maurice Harkless - Douglas Jones - US Presswire
Slow starts have plagued the Magic throughout the season. Would moving Maurice Harkless back to the bench help the team?
In the closing moments of the Orlando Magic's blowout loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday, Magic color analyst Matt Guokas suggested that coach Jacque Vaughn might consider changing his starting lineup. Given that Orlando has already used seven different starting groups, maybe that's not the greatest idea; nothing Vaughn has used through 14 games has worked especially well, so what's the benefit of making a change? Deck chairs on the Titanic and all that.
But Guokas has a point: the Magic's current starting group of Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, Maurice Harkless, Glen Davis, and Nikola Vučević simply isn't giving Orlando much. Harkless is a reasonably efficient offensive player, but that's a product of his role: he hardly handles the ball, instead getting what points he can in transition and via putbacks. The Magic can't run plays for him, and essentially find themselves playing four-on-five at one end of the court.
In 45 minutes together--the third-most minutes of any Magic fivesome this season--the current starting group scores 92.1 points per 100 possessions while allowing 99.7. The latter number isn't a problem, but the former indicates a serious lack of offensive firepower. Together, that group shoots 42.9 percent from the field and has been outscored by nine points, or one point every five minutes.
I'm not sure how much longer Vaughn can watch the Nelson/Afflalo/Harkless/Davis/Vučević lineup get hammered every first quarter, and then have to use different combinations to scramble back. I'd suggest--as did Guokas--moving J.J. Redick to the starting five on a permanent basis. In the 52 minutes he's played alongside the Magic's four other regular starters, Orlando has outscored its opposition by 16 points, shot 52.5 percent from the field, and averaged 108.8 points per 100 possessions.
Starting Redick would, of course, deplete the Magic's bench, leaving the role of designated reserve scorer to E'Twaun Moore and Andrew Nicholson. That's the trade-off: is getting off to better starts, in theory, worth sacrificing depth?