Our third installment of Progress Reports returns after the Orlando Magic just finished their first .500 or better stretch of ten games (5-5). As a teacher, assessing is of course something that is right up my alley! Included in this report are statistics form the last ten games along with some comments from yours truly that hopefully explains why I graded the guys the way that I did.
The Magic have now completed just over thirty-five percent of their 2016-17 schedule and have yet to make a ton of noise in the Eastern Conference. Let’s visit who on the roster has been pulling their own weight as of late, and who needs to start playing better sooner rather than later.
In the comments section below, please feel free to agree or disagree with any of my assessments, or simply just let me know if this is something that interests you. Credit, as always, goes to Basketball Reference and NBA.com in compiling these stats. Enjoy!
Evan Fournier (10 GP), Grade: A- (Previous Grade: B)
Ho hum, another very consistent ten game stretch for Fournier, at least offensively. To his credit, I really haven’t seen a ton of the peaks and valleys type play I was accustomed to seeing with Evan in the past. His playmaking has come on really strong as of late as well, without a corresponding negative uptick in turnovers to boot. He must raise his level of play on the defensive end to receive a superior grade from me, but still, not much to complain about here.
Best performance(s) in the last 10 games: 12/13 @ Atlanta, 12/14 vs. LA Clippers
23 points (11-15 FG), 6 assists, 0 turnovers, 2 steals
24 points (9-17 FG, 2-4 3PA), 8 assists, 1 turnover
Serge Ibaka (10 GP), Grade: A- (Previous Grade: A-)
Ibaka shot a combined 8-25 on back-to-back nights against the Wizards and Celtics a couple weeks ago, but has been very solid otherwise. I noticed Ibaka struggled a bit matched up against the Clippers frontline, but he’s certainly not the only one who’s ever been victim of that occurrence.
Ibaka’s shooting efficiency from behind the arc is no fluke, his percentage and volume from downtown has been a pleasant surprise all season. He’s cleaning up some shots at the rim from the weak-side, but he’s still not rebounding at a very high clip (hasn’t for years).
As the trade deadline looms closer in a couple months, I think the question becomes more prevalent by the day. What are the Magic planning to do with Serge Ibaka? Can they really afford to roll the dice and allow him to hit unrestricted free-agency? Will they shop the veteran for the right price? Injuries around the league are piling up, will the Magic look to cash in on Serge’s solid play as of late? Houston was supposedly in the market for a big even before Clint Capela went down for an extended period of time. The Clippers will be without Blake Griffin for a significant amount of time. Do those franchises have enough to offer something enticing to Orlando?
Best performance in the last ten games: 12/4 @ Detroit
21 points (9-11 FG, 2-4 3PA), 7 rebounds, 4 blocks, 4 assists, 3 steals
Elfrid Payton (10 GP), Grade: A (Top of the Class)(Previous Grade: C-)
Now that’s how you respond to a poor grade on my previous report, thanks for reading Elfrid!
If this wasn’t the best ten game stretch of Payton’s carer thus far, it’s got to be at least in the conversation (how about that per/36 A/TO mark in his last ten games). I think Frank Vogel has really found something in Payton coming off the bench. His lack of shooting aptitude is not nearly as detrimental to the team when coming off the bench (because he has more success getting in the lane against lesser competition). Payton is able to serve as a literal spark plug and really force the action with his accelerated pace of play as a reserve.
Payton seems to be playing better basketball against lesser competition, he has a chance to become a very solid to above-average back-up NBA point guard. Moving Payton to the bench doesn’t help solve Orlando’s lack of a franchise PG problem, but in a reserve role is where Payton probably belongs. The team is more balanced with Augustin starting, and the Magic can move forward in looking for the franchise PG via the draft, through free agency, or by making a trade.
Best performance(s) in the last ten games: 12/6 @ Washington, 12/13 @ Atlanta
25 points (9-12 FGA, 3-3 3PA), 9 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocks
26 points (9-12 FGA, 3-3 3PA), 14 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals
Nik Vucevic (7 GP), Grade: B (Previous Grade: B+)
Another solid stretch for Nik in the last ten games (mind you, he missed three games due to various injuries that he’s been playing through). Kudos to Nik for being so professional since his move to the bench. You would hope all pro’s would just be “professional” without being recognized for it, but of course this often doesn’t happen.
Vucevic, and his rebounding ability specifically, was especially missed in the Denver and Los Angeles home games last week. Nik’s per/36 rebounding numbers continue to be monstrous in 2016. And man, what is with this guy when he plays the Heat? Wow.
Best performance in the last ten games: 12/20 @ Miami
26 points (11-20 FGA), 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, +6
Bismack Biyombo (10 GP), Grade: B (Previous Grade: B-)
Finally, a ten game stretch where Biyombo’s FG% ends up back where it should be for a guy who only attempts shots from three feet or less. And Biyombo wasn’t quite as turnover prone in this stretch as he’s been throughout the year; hopefully his TO% will return to his career norms. Now his free-throw efficiency on the other hand...
I do recognize that Biyombo played through, and is still playing through, a shoulder injury. I factored that into his grade this time around, I’m sure Coach Vogel greatly appreciates Biyombo’s efforts while hurt (especially since Nik missed time).
Best performance in the last ten games: 12/6 @ Washington
14 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists
Aaron Gordon (10 GP), Grade: C+ (Previous Grade: C-)
Aaron’s grade may look a bit lower than you would expect, but I took into account how inflated his overall numbers are due to his one outrageous game against the Clippers. Take that contest out of the question, and you’re looking at a number of other dud performances (Boston, Toronto, etc.).
I’m sure that Gordon is at least a little frustrated that he’s been losing fourth quarter minutes to Jeff Green pretty frequently as of late. Aaron just has to keep working, hopefully that trend will not continue for very much longer. Continuing to take pride on the defensive end, running and forcing the issue on the break, and making good decisions within his skill set in the half-court offense will go a long way in helping Vogel feel confident in playing Gordon 30+ MPG.
Best performance in the last ten games: 12/14 vs. LA Clippers
33 points (13-21 FGA, 4-8 3PA), 7 rebounds
Jeff Green (10 GP), Grade: C+ (Previous Grade: D-)
A couple positive notes regarding Jeff Green (I know right). Is it possible, was Green the only positive +/- player Orlando had in the last ten games in the regular rotation?
Green has been playing through his best ten game shooting stretch in his Orlando tenure, which isn’t saying much (but is still a welcome sign).
I think we all realize that Green is what he is. He’s on a one year deal, he doesn’t factor into any long-term plans the organization has. He’s basically auditioning for another team this year, or at the very least next summer. To be fair, this past stretch shows exactly what a good Jeff Green can be. A veteran scorer off the bench who can go for double-digits on any night, who is a volume shooter and sometimes shows relative efficiency (but not often), is kind of who Jeff Green is. Any takers?
As always, days until NBA Trade Deadline: 63 days
Best performance in the last ten games: 12/6 @ Washington
20 points (6-9 FGA, 1-2 3PA, 7-8 FTA), 3 rebounds
D.J. Augustin (10 GP), Grade: C- (Previous Grade: B)
The Magic give up a couple things with D.J. in the starting lineup. Payton is the superior defensive player of the two, and he’s not even good at defense. Augustin get’s torched pretty regularly on that end. The team also gives up some play-making ability for others, but that’s not nearly as worrisome or evident.
A knee-jerk reaction to insert Payton back into the starting lineup is still very unnecessary in this situation. Augustin is out there to shoot and score, obviously he hasn’t been successful in either of those areas as of late, but his spacing is still needed in theory. The kind of player Augustin is balances Orlando’s rotations, and Payton seems just fine right where he is. Keep firing away D.J., shots will start to fall.
Best performance in the last ten games: 12/16 vs. Brooklyn
17 points (6-14 FGA), 6 rebounds, 4 assists
Head Coach Frank Vogel, Grade: B- (Previous Grade: C+)
In my last report, I talked about how up-and-down Vogel’s first season in Orlando has been, and nothing has really changed. The team secured some solid wins (@Detroit, @Atlanta) in the last ten games, four on the road in fact. But the team also went 1-4 in their last five home games, including two embarrassing 30 point losses to playoff teams (Boston and Toronto).
The team has improved offensively in the last ten games; they’ve found a way to score 105 points or more in six of their last ten games. However, who knows what’s happened to that elite defense they showed at the end of last month? The Magic have given up 110 points or more in seven of the last ten games. Overall, the team has scored on average 108.2 points and given up 113.8 points per game in this past ten game stretch (-5.1 overall, pretty much what kind of team they’ve been all year).
So I guess what I’m saying is that it’s been more of the same for Frank in this past stretch. To be fair, 5-5 is technically the best the team has done in a ten game stretch this season. Couple that information with the fact that Basketball Reference would expect that the team would be more like 10-20 at this point based off of player performance, and you have an improved report for Vogel this time around.