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Magic the NBA's least athletic team, analyst says

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A new metric that examines athleticism on the team and individual level indicates that Orlando is the league's least-athletic team

Maurice Harkless and Carmelo Anthony
Maurice Harkless and Carmelo Anthony
USA TODAY Sports

Bradford Doolittle of ESPN Insider unveiled a new metric for evaluating athleticism at the player and team levels on Wednesday, and that metric revealed that the Orlando Magic are the league's least athletic team overall. The metric, called ATH, "compares each player's percentage in rebounding, foul-drawing, blocked shots and steals to the league norms for a player of his height," Doolittle says. "The ratios are regressed for playing time and averaged together to create ATH, which is expressed as a number extended to three decimal points." An ATH rating of 1.000 indicates league-average athleticism, while a rating of 1.100 would indicate that the player or team in question is 10 percent more athletic than average.

The Magic's overall ATH score is 0.913, which is comfortably behind the New Orleans Hornets' mark of 0.926 for last in the league. Orlando's most athletic players are rookie forward Maurice Harkless, second-year forward Tobias Harris, and veteran big man Glen Davis. Entering Wednesday's games, Harkless ranked as the league's 120th most athletic player. No other team in the league had its most athletic player ranked so low overall; the Philadelphia 76ers, with gadget forward Thaddeus Young (85th in the league), came closest to matching the Magic in this respect.

Orlando has long been wanting athletically, even when it employed All-Star center Dwight Howard, who ranks as the league's most athletic player overall, though it's fair to wonder if the extent to which teams foul him intentionally overstates his overall ATH rating. Orlando preferred to surround Howard with knock-down outside shooters like Rashard Lewis and Jason Richardson and never paired Howard with a perimeter player who could drive the ball and create shots for himself consistently.

Adding Harkless and Harris via trade certainly helped the Magic's athleticism, but there's still work to do: that Orlando doesn't have a shot-creating wing with a high ATH score attests to that fact. Still, Harkless and Harris have at least channeled their athleticism to make a defensive impact: Harkless is averaging 1.8 combined blocks and steals per game, while Harris has posted 2.1 combined blocks and steals per game since Orlando acquired him at the NBA trading deadline.

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