Hey all, a common theme I've seen on this site recently is people wondering whether the magic should give youngsters like Harkless, Nicholson, O'Quinn and Vucevic more minutes as part of developing them into solid contributors/tanking for a lotto pick and relying on some of the vets less.
Given that these four players are widely seen as the only current members of the magic with a shot at still being on the team when/if the Magic return to relevance down the line, developing them and getting them some valuable experience is rather important.
Early injuries to players like Nelson, Hedo, and Harrington have thrust players like E'twaun Moore, Nicholson, Harkless, and even Dequan Jones into a surprisingly large portion of the rotation. For the most part, these players have delivered enough to leave optimism for their further development. However, I think it may be best for certain players at our deepest positions to instead be sent to the D-league to get even more playing time and experience that otherwise will be going to the vets when the roster returns to health.
Right now the depth chart is thin at the wings: Hedo is out which has left Harkless starting at SF and Afflalo or McRoberts backing him up. Obviously Harkless is not yet ready to play a position as offensively oriented as NBA starting SF. He's been efficient and decent defensively as Evan recently noted but lacks the jumper and the confident offensive game to prevent opponents from simply playing off of him. When Hedo returns in a month or so Hedo will return to the starting lineup most likely with Afflalo still getting backup SF minutes due to the need for JJ to get minutes at the 2. Once Hedo returns, assuming good health and an ability to play at least 25 minutes a game those backup minutes should all go to Afflalo/McRoberts and Harkless should be sent to the D league rather than getting maybe 8minutes a game as a third string SF. Harkless could get a month and half of solid playing time in the D league which is exactly what he needs to develop that offensive game. If/when the magic make a trade at the deadline Harkless can get called back up if the minutes are available then, otherwise he can spend the whole second half of the year refining his offensive game and logging the minutes he needs.
At the power positions we will have an abundance of depth with the return of Harrington, as well as a real need to showcase Harrington for potential trade partners. Who does this leave out? Nicholson. One of our most efficient players, Nicholson I believe has already proven he is a NBA quality rotation player, yet Harrington is even more so and there are the minutes for baby and Gustavo Ayon to consider. Nicholson and O'Quinn should get sent to the D league as well to get their minutes once Harrington returns, as a rotation of Vucevic, Glen Davis, Harrington, Ayon and McRoberts is certainly deep enough to last the rest of the year. Again Nicholson/O Quinn may only be sent down temporarily as the Magic may move one of the above veterans before the deadline thus freeing up minutes.