O'Quinn needed some time to work his way into coach Jacque Vaughn's playing rotation. Jason Maxiell opened the season as Orlando's starting power forward and Andrew Nicholson served as Maxiell's backup. Glen Daviss return from injury only further limited O'Quinn's opportunities to earn meaningful minutes.
But as the season wore on--as the team effectively encased Maxiell in glass only to use him in case of emergencies, as Nicholson struggled with his shot as Orlando expanded his game to the three-point arc--O'Quinn began seeing more playing time, primarily as a backup to Nikola Vucevic at center. The second-year big man rewarded their patience with intelligent play on both ends of the floor. O'Quinn played within his clearly defined role on a nightly basis, very rarely extending himself beyond his talent level. That's precisely what all teams, regardless of their standing in the league-wide hierarchy, ask of their complementary players.
Ultimately, O'Quinn started the Magic's final 19 games, switching between power forward and center based on Vucevic's health. Those starts included a 20-point, seven-rebound performance against the Chicago Bulls and a 14-point, 13-rebound, four-block outing against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Based on Magic fans' comments on this site, O'Quinn's development stands as one of the brightest points in a 59-loss campaign.
What went well
Though his per-36-minute numbers remained basically unchanged from his first season, O'Quinn played more confidently and assuredly than he did as a rookie, and he did so against stronger competition.
On offense, O'Quinn operates from the high post as a screener, facilitator, and safety-valve jump-shooter. He's proficient in all three areas, particularly as a passer to baseline cutters. That passing ability, which he told OPP in December he honed as a role-player in high school and in college as a way to prove himself, helps a Magic offense ping the ball around and find open looks, an important feature for a team which lacks any top-flight, one-on-one shot creators.
As a mid-range shooter, O'Quinn ranked above the league average, according to NBA.com/stats: he connected on 41.8 percent of his long two-pointers, besting the average mark by a 1.7-percent margin. Given that he attempts nearly half of his shots from that distance, he'll need to maintain or improve upon that figure in order to keep defenses honest and to remain reasonably efficient.
One could argue that O'Quinn ranks as Orlando's best interior defender due to his combination of shot-blocking ability, brute strength, and willingness to communicate; no Orlando player shouts more loudly or points more demonstratively than O'Quinn. Orlando's defensive rating--that is, its points allowed per 100 possessions--improves by 4.3 with O'Quinn on the floor.
That improvement is no coincidence: NBA.com's player-tracking data show that opponents shot just 46.2 percent at the rim with O'Quinn defending, ranking him eighth among the 71 players who logged at least 60 games and averaged four such defensive opportunities per game. O'Quinn succeeds in this area because blocks shots, yes--just ask Dwight Howard--but he also alters them thanks to his length and great instincts.
We'd be remiss if we didn't mention that O'Quinn rebounds like a monster: he snared 25.2 percent of available defensive rebounds when he was on the floor, a testament to his strength and hard work.
What didn't go so well
O'Quinn still fouls a helluva lot, averaging five personals per 36 minutes. Not all of them come on the defensive end, either: he committed 22 offensive fouls, or one roughly every three games.
I'm curious to see how O'Quinn addresses his other shortcomings, particularly offensively. We noted above that he takes a large volume of his shots from mid-range, the least efficient zone in the game, at least for most players. To boost his efficiency, he'll need to improve as a finisher inside. To be clear, his 62.9-percent shooting in the restricted area bests the league average by three percentage points, but he sometimes finds himself in trouble in putback situations when opposing bigs swarm him. He lacks the explosion necessary to elevate over them, and his long arms only occasionally compensate for that athletic shortcoming.
The Magic have the opportunity to guarantee O'Quinn's 2014/15 salary--at a bargain, league-minimum cost--over the summer, and there's no reason why they wouldn't. As far as we know, O'Quinn's done everything the coaching staff has asked of him, and he remains a productive and useful player, one who'd assuredly serve as a third big man on almost all of the league's teams.