Each week, Tyler Lashbrook will let loose on whatever Orlando Magic subjects capture his interest. Welcome to Ty Tuesday. - ED
The Orlando Magic's 2013/14 season officially ended last Wednesday. Let's review what we saw on the court.
Overall, the entire year felt like a wash: The Magic lost 59 games, totaling 119 losses over the last two years, by far the largest mark of any team in the NBA. Coach Jacque Vaughn used the back end of the season to experiment with different lineup combinations and casual observers likely stopped caring right after the All-Star Break, maybe even before then.
But that's a short sighted way of viewing the 2013/14 Magic. This was the second year in a long rebuilding process, one that will likely continue past next season. Nine current roster players logged over 1,000 minutes. The tenth guy was Glen Davis, but you guys know how that ended. Playing young guys minutes and seeing how they progressed was the purpose of the season. So, let's look at the numbers...
Who got better as the season progressed?
Tobias Harris, for sure. The third-year forward had a weird start to the season. He battled an early ankle injury and looked both rusty and out-of-shape when he returned to the floor. But the dude absolute killed it after the All-Star Break.
Pre-All-Star, per 36 minutes: 15.3 points | 8.4 rebounds | 1.6 assists | 50.7 percent True Shooting
Post-All-Star, per 36 minutes: 20.2 points | 8 rebounds | 1.7 assists | 58.4 percent True Shooting
Tobias balled out. I'm not really sure what else to say. His ankle felt better, he was playing more as the power forward with Davis gone, and he was in a position to take advantage of his offensive skill set. He registered a 114 offensive rating. Carmelo Anthony registered a 113 offensive rating and this was arguably one of the best seasons of his career.
Victor Oladipo improved, too. After the All-Star Break, Oladipo averaged 13.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists, while shooting 38 percent from deep, a number more than acceptable for a shooting guard. His True Shooting rose from 50.8 percent to 52.7 percent, still slightly below league average, and that was with a 1.3 percent uptick in usage.
Aesthetically, Oladipo was more poised as he began to understand the layers of NBA defense. He still struggled as a lead guard: He would dribble too far into the teeth of the defense and have nowhere to go with the ball; he still picked the ball up too early; and he never developed his left hand, though I imagine that's more on the slate for the summer.
Still, Oladipo enjoyed slight bumps in efficiency across the board as the season wore on. One could argue that April was his best month, when he actually played the fewest minutes per game (23.6) of any other month, probably because Vaughn wanted to lower the wear-and-tear on Oladipo's body.
In those eight games and 23.6 minutes per, Oladipo thrived. Morph those numbers to a per-36 line and this is what Oladipo produced in April: 18.3 points, 4.7 assists and four rebounds on 55.9 percent True Shooting and 46.8 percent from the floor. What's more impressive is that his usage rate (26.9 percent) was the highest of any month of the season. He came off the bench and performed in limited minutes. If he can repeat that performance in increased minutes, he'll be a very good NBA player.
Kyle O'Quinn was another beneficiary of the All-Star Break. The second-year big man played only limited minutes in a reserve role before the break, but came to his own in the latter part of the season, starting 19 of the last 22 games and performing well with increased time.
In April, starting all eight games and averaging just over 25 minutes a night, O'Quinn averaged 11.8 points and 7.1 rebounds. He also registered 57.1 percent True Shooting, four ticks over league averaged, even with a season high 22.7 percent usage rate. Orlando could actually run offense through O'Quinn at the high post: He's a nifty passer and he's patient enough to let plays develop around him. If you leave him, he's just crafty enough to take a huge hop step, pump fake and take the easy bucket.
He is, however, more fit as a center as he isn't quick enough laterally to defend mobile power forwards. He'll never start over Nikola Vucevic, but he's a very good back up center and deserves another contract from the Magic. If Orlando doesn't pay up, someone else will. O'Quinn is, quite frankly, an NBA player.
Allow me to preface this: Arron Afflalo should have been an All-Star. He was a better, more efficient scorer and creator for his teammates than both DeMar DeRozan and Joe Johnson, yet was left off the team, likely because Orlando wasn't winning and individual players are judged by team wins for whatever reason. What Afflalo accomplished in the first half deserves praise.
He scored over 19 points per game and registered a 110 offensive rating while constantly facing defensive schemes designed to stop him. Orlando's opponents wanted anyone else to beat them besides Afflalo. He faced help defense and went against opponents' best perimeter defender night in and night out and shot 42.5 percent from deep and scored efficiently (57.9 True Shooting) despite being forced into tough shots. He made shots, he got buckets and he deserved an All-Star nod, regardless of Orlando's record.
But he didn't keep that pace up. He couldn't. The season, and the burden of carrying an offense centered around him, wore him down. He shot just 42.4 percent from the floor over the last two months of the season and his defensive skyrocketed to 115 and 117 in March and April respectively. His defense has been a little overrated over the last two seasons, but it was a negative during the back of this season. What he accomplished early in the season was impressive and Magic fans should appreciate what he did, but it didn't last. It couldn't.
Jameer Nelson hit a stride in December and January, when he registered consecutively efficient scoring months. But he rock bottomed after the All-Star Break. His True Shooting dropped from 53.9 to 44.7, well below league average, and he posted a porous 114 defensive rating.
He still ran the offense effectively, earning over 7.5 assists through the season's last three months, but he shot just 25.5 percent from deep after the All-Star Break. I don't know what else to say. It wasn't good.
Another preface: Orlando played a TON of different lineups. I imagine Vaughn's thinking was that he would fiddle with different combinations to see what he liked and didn't like. Putting players in an array of different situations shows exactly what they can and can not do, depending on who is playing alongside him.
Only one lineup played 200 minutes; it played exactly 200 minutes. Only four other five-man lineups played over 100 minutes. Of those five most-used lineups, Davis played in three: Jason Maxiell played in one other and the fifth used Vucevic, O'Quinn, and Maurice Harkless in the frontcourt, with Nelson and Afflalo in the backcourt. Three of those lineups got ran out of the gym. The other two have Davis in them and thus have no bearing on the team's future..
So I had to cut the minutes played option down in order to extrapolate other examples. I decided to use 48 minutes as the threshold. That way, each lineup had at least a full game sample size of data. This is what I found:
There's one very effective lineup in the set of data: Victor Oladipo, E'Twaun Moore, Harkless, Harris and O'Quinn. In 58 minutes across 18 different games, that lineup earned an offensive rating of 113.4 and a defensive rating of 88.4, a stiflingly low number. That plus-25 net rating was good for ninth in the entire league for five-man lineups that played at least 58 minutes together, per NBA.com/stats.
Of those top nine lineups, Orlando's played the fastest pace at 104.41 possessions per 48 minutes. That isn't running up and down the floor; that's grabbing a rebound and sprinting down like the court is a 100 yard dash. When they ran, they scored. That group grabbed almost every board (86.2 percent of defensive rebounds), assisted on 62 percent of possessions, and registered a blistering 59.6 percent True Shooting.
But the sample size is still small: 58 minutes is quite a bit for the rapidly rotating Magic lineup, but it's still only 58 minutes. So what can we learn from it?
That the group was at its best in transition should come as no surprise. Harkless has long strides and is at his best when he 's gliding out on the wings. Harris can bring the ball up himself or run the wing and he constantly beats slow footed power forwards down the floor. Oladipo struggled creating in the half court, but he's built for transition: He's quick, agile and can finish around the rim when he gets a head of steam.
Moore has his limitations as a professional basketball player, but he's a career 35 percent three-point shooter and he can knock down two or three long balls in a row when he gets hot. When he runs in transition, he doesn't v-cut to the rim: He floats out to the wing or corner and opens up gaps in the transition defense. He has to be accounted for because he's a reliable spot up shooter.
Orlando obviously couldn't keep that type of pace up; the fastest team in the NBA, the Philadelphia 76ers, accumulated 101.6 possessions per game. This particular Magic lineup is three possessions above that. They couldn't keep that pace up long term, but it does signal a style that Orlando needs to emulate. The Magic have a stable of young, athletic players who are more comfortable in transition than they are in the half court. With Oladipo at point and Harkless and Harris on the wings, Orlando should look to pick up the pace.