The playoffs are no longer a realistic target for the Orlando Magic, who've lost 21 of their last 23 games to dip into a tie for 13th place in the Eastern Conference. With the postseason out of reach for their team, Magic fans have turned their eyes toward NBA Draft prospects, as well as the state of Orlando's current crop of youngsters. The idea now is to focus on the Magic's future core.
Andrew Nicholson, the 19th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, is one such core piece. The four-year player from St. Bonaventure came highly touted for his refined low-post offense and reliable jump-shooting touch out to around the college three-point line. And in his rookie season, Nicholson has produced about as advertised, leading the Magic in points per 36 minutes (17.9) and shooting a crisp 52.9 percent from the floor.
And yet Nicholson, like the rest of Orlando's rookies, hasn't managed to earn consistent, heavy playing time. He ranks 10th on the team in minutes per game, at 14.8 overall. More worrisome for some fans, however, is that he can't get big minutes even when players in front of him get injured.
Glen Davis, the Magic's starting power forward, has missed 14 games with various injuries in 2012/13: 11 due to a sprained shoulder and another three, and counting, with a broken bone in his left foot. The latter injury may well rule him out for the rest of the season.
In the games Davis has missed, Nicholson has averaged 17.4 minutes per game. In the games Davis and Nicholson have both played, the former Bonnie is averaging 13.7 minutes. The modest uptick in minutes comes in spite of the fact that Nicholson has started 11 games in Davis' absence, compared to three starts for Gustavo Ayón, the only other player to fill in for Davis.
One would think that the rebuilding Magic, under the direction of first-year coach Jacque Vaughn, would be able to find more than just an additional 3.7 minutes per game for their promising, 23-year-old power forward prospect when their veteran power forward misses time with injury. But that simply hasn't been the case.
It's early yet, of course: the Magic have another 34 games to play after Monday's loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, and as the season wears on, it's possible that Nicholson will assume a larger role. But for the moment, fans are right to wonder why he hasn't played more often than he has.