The Orlando Magic overhauled their roster in the offseason, as only seven of the 19 players they'll bring to training camp on October 2nd were with the team in 2011/12. Though questions remain up and down the roster, arguably the biggest is which players will crack coach Jacque Vaughn's rotation at power forward and center.
Orlando's camp roster includes seven players who can man the pivot: Gustavo Ayón, Glen Davis, Al Harrington, Josh McRoberts, Andrew Nicholson, Kyle O'Quinn, and Nikola Vučević. Further, Justin Harper and Hedo Türkoğlu can shift from small forward to power forward if necessary. How Vaughn will choose to divide 96 minutes between all those players is a serious question.
Davis, a five-year veteran, seems likely to start at one of the power positions. In Dwight Howard's absence, he asserted himself at center at the end of the 2011/12 season and in the playoffs, cutting his share of mid-range jumpers and choosing instead to work closer to the basket. For this reason, Orlando Pinstriped Post has long held that Davis' best position is center. His postseason usage rate of 27.7 percent led all Orlando players, and though he posted a mediocre True Shooting percentage of 48.1, he nonetheless carried a huge load for the Magic.
But Ayón and Vučević are no slouches. Neither is the type for whom any coach would choose to run plays, but their ability to score without the ball is an asset. As Tom Habsertroh of ESPN Insider noted in August, Ayón ranked 11th among 75 qualified players in scoring efficiency as the roll man in pick-and-roll action. Given Jameer Nelson's proficiency in running the pick-and-roll, the Mexican big man should have plenty of opportunities to duck in for easy hoops in his first Orlando season. On the other side of the ball, his activity level as a help defender will prove a boon for a team without a bona-fide rim protector.
Vučević, for his part, could also contribute, especially on the boards. John Hollinger points out that the USC product ranked among the top third of centers in rebounding rate as a rookie. As with Davis, though, Vučević's efficiency is a concern: his inability to draw fouls--he attempted only 34 free throws in 812 minutes in 2011/12--coupled with his affinity for the mid-range jumper can make him an offensive liability at times.
What role Harrington might play isn't immediately clear. The 14-year veteran can stretch the floor at either big position and is a versatile scorer, but his poor rebounding and defense will make it difficult for Vaughn to play him. And if Orlando wants the rookies Nicholson and O'Quinn to develop, it may need to cut Harrington's role or ship him elsewhere in a trade.
McRoberts may not have a role to play either. Though he's an above-average athlete and passer for his position, he doesn't have a real specialty, and he disappointed in the 2011/12 season with the Los Angeles Lakers. McRoberts' usage rate of 10.5 and per-36-minute scoring mark of 6.9 points would have ranked last on the 2011/12 Magic squad--behind even the notoriously-afraid-to-shoot Chris Duhon--and he's not a great rebounder either. Though his $3.1 million salary for 2012/13 is fully guaranteed, according to ShamSports, it wouldn't be terribly surprising if Orlando attempted to buy him out, given that it has 19 players in camp and only 15 roster spots to use.
If I had to guess, I'd say Davis and Ayón will begin the season in Vaughn's starting five, with Harrington and Vučević getting the bulk of the backup minutes. We'll certainly monitor this situation throughout the preseason.
Were you Orlando's coach, how would you allot playing time for your bigs? Let's hear it in the comments section.
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