After a 2-0 start, the Orlando Magic have crashed down to Earth, losing each of their last four games and averaging only 77.5 points in that span. There are myriad causes for concern, especially with the undefeated New York Knicks coming to Amway Center for a game Tuesday night. Orlando Pinstriped Post offers a few ideas about what's gone wrong for the boys in pinstripes.
Arron Afflalo, E`Twaun Moore, and J.J. Redick have combined to hit 28 three-pointers this season, connecting on 41.1 percent of their tries from beyond the arc. The rest of the team is 2-of-12 from deep. They're doing what they can to keep the floor spread for Orlando's bigs and drivers, but it's just not enough.
Jameer Nelson is a deep threat, and he's hurt. So is Hedo Türkoğlu. The departures of Dwight Howard--who drew opposing defenses in with his inside scoring threat--and three-point marksmen Ryan Anderson and Jason Richardson--who combined for 4.6 made threes per game in 2011/12--meant the Magic would struggle from three-point land in the first year of their rebuild anyway. This shortcoming isn't a surprise. But it's contributing to Orlando's downfall: the Magic are minus-21 on three-pointers so far in 2012/13, and their lack of three-point threats will continue to enable defenses to shrink the floor and put pressure on the Magic's interior players.
The absences of Nelson and Türkoğlu hurt here as well, clearly, but so does Moore's inexperience running the point. He's been a pleasant surprise as a score-first lead guard, averaging 13.5 points per game on reasonable efficiency, but the scrap-heap pickup has proven inept at getting the Magic into their stuff.
Moore's Pure Point Rating of -2.35 would be unacceptable for a score-first perimeter player, let alone a point guard. Playing him alongside Redick helps a bit--Redick's own Pure Point mark of 5.07 would be solid for a point guard, and he's a playmaking two--but Moore simply can't log so many minutes at the one if Orlando's going to get its offense going. Ish Smith, Moore's backup, is averaging nearly two assists for every turnover, but his decision-making on fast breaks is just dreadful, and he's missed 14 of the 16 shots he's tried so far.
Put simply, the Magic need better play from their point guards, and they aren't likely to get it until Nelson, who's missed the Magic's last five games with a hamstring injury, returns to health.
This problem is primarily one of personnel--see the spacing section above--but it bears mentioning: 37.8 of the Magic's shot attempts this season have come from mid-range, the least efficient shot in basketball. Here, the term "mid-range" refers to any two-point shot that's not in a) the restricted area or b) outside the restricted area but in the lane.
Orlando's conversion rate on such shots? 31.9 percent.
The Magic can't waste so many possessions jacking from the worst spots on the floor from which to score. They've run some good stuff to free Redick and Afflalo for dribble-drives in that area, and those two have done a reasonably good job of getting to the rim when they can, instead of settling for pull-up twos off the bounce. But too often a ball-stopper like Glen Davis or Nikola Vučević catches the ball there and just jacks a jumper.
Not to belabor the points made in Friday's post about Davis, but the man simply cannot take so many shots. Sure, every team, even a bad one, needs someone to shoot. But the Magic can't continue to give Davis the green light. He's taking 4.5 shots per game more than anyone else on the team, but shooting only 39.3 percent from the field.
In the shot-clock era, Davis' inefficiency as a high-usage player is unprecedented, by about a mile. Since the 1954/55 season, no player has averaged 30-plus minutes per game with a usage rate above 30 percent and posted a True Shooting mark below 46.2 percent; Davis is sitting at 41 percent True Shooting.
Take a moment and consider that fact.
Magic coach Jacque Vaughn finally relented and inserted Redick into the starting group for Sunday's loss against the Nets. With Türkoğlu out, Vaughn first went with undrafted rookie DeQuan Jones at small forward, and then with veteran power forward Josh McRoberts. Neither player contributed much at either end, forcing Vaughn's hand. Redick started at the two, which move shifted Afflalo to small forward.
The Magic got only four points from their bench in an eight-point loss. The returns of Nelson, Türkoğlu, and Al Harrington--who's missed the entire pre- and regular-seasons in order to recover from offseason knee surgery--will restore balance to the Magic's rotation. But for now, Vaughn's second unit is composed of rookies Jones, Maurice Harkless, and Andrew Nicholson, as well as McRoberts and Smith. Of the five, only Nicholson's an accomplished scorer; the St. Bonaventure product is potting in 15.7 points per 36 minutes on an efficient 60.1 percent True Shooting.
It's difficult to win in this league playing with more than one or two non-scorers in one's rotation. Orlando has too many such players, at least for the moment.
As an aside, dialing Davis' minutes down and bumping up Nicholson's ought to help the Magic's offense. John Schuhmann of NBA.com pointed out Monday that Nicholson is averaging only 13.5 minutes per game despite his team's poor overall play. There's no reason for a player of his caliber to be logging so few minutes on a lottery team.
We'll have a better idea of who Orlando really is once it gets its full complement of players healthy, but injuries are part of the game, so it'd be foolish to chalk all of the Magic's problems up to bad luck. Even with one of the league's least talented rosters, and even with key offensive players injured, the Magic shouldn't struggle quite so much to score. It's up to Vaughn, his staff, and the players he has at his disposal to right the proverbial ship.