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The Orlando Magic's Backup Small-Forward Conundrum

Orlando doesn't have a clear solution at small forward behind Hedo Türkoğlu.

Spruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE

The Orlando Magic open their season Friday night against the Denver Nuggets, but at least one key question remains unsettled: who will back up Hedo Türkoğlu at small forward?

One presumes Türkoğlu will get the nod at the three, surrounded by point guard Jameer Nelson, shooting guard Arron Afflalo, power forward Glen Davis, and center Nikola Vučević. How coach Jacque Vaughn will allocate minutes to his reserves is an open question, however, and small forward is the most obvious hole. Assuming the 33-year-old Türkoğlu plays 30 minutes per game--over the last three seasons, he's averaged 31.1--the Magic will need to divvy up 18 minutes to his backups. Where might Vaughn look?

As a matter of circumstance, Afflalo will need to play the three some, simply to open up enough minutes for Magic sixth-man J.J. Redick, who can really only play shooting guard due to his size (Orlando lists him at 6-foot-4) and what Redick himself terms is his "negative wingspan."

Can Afflalo survive a shift to small forward? He's listed at 6-foot-5, so he'll be giving up size to almost anyone he'd be assigned to defend. And unlike Jason Richardson, whom Orlando shifted from the two to the three in order to accommodate Redick in previous seasons--Afflalo lacks the athleticism and wingspan to offset that height differential. According to, Afflalo played 21 percent of Denver's small-forward minutes in 2011/12, surrendering to his opponents a 15.1 Player Efficiency Rating; at his more natural position, that number dips to 13.7.

Data from indicate that Redick and Richardson shared the floor for 11.4 minutes per game. If Vaughn uses a similar rotation pattern, he'd need to find roughly six more minutes for a backup three-man. Until Maurice Harkless is healthy, one assumes that's where DeQuan Jones can earn his keep. The undrafted rookie from The U averaged 10.4 points per game in the preseason.

Still, even after Afflalo gobbles up some small-forward minutes, the Magic will have to rely on, in Harkless and Jones, two unproven players to fill in for Türkoğlu. That's some tough sledding, but nobody ever said rebuilding this team would be easy.

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