It doesn’t seem possible that the Magic have already completed over a quarter of their 2017-18 schedule. Let’s re-visit who on the roster has been pulling their own weight and who needs to start playing better sooner rather than later.
As a teacher who is used to assessing on a regular basis, this is right up my alley! Included in this report are statistics from the last ten games along with some comments from yours truly that hopefully explain why I graded the guys the way that I did.
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 for statistics goes to Basketball Reference and NBA.com as always. Enjoy!
Aaron Gordon (10 GP), Grade: B-
Gordon is continuing to play hard, I will give him credit for that. He’s putting up numbers still, even though it’s not really making a difference in the outcome of the game (-11.7 when he’s been on the floor the last ten games). I really didn’t hold his outside-shooting numbers against him too much this time around. Obviously, the rate at which he was knocking down shots from deep early in the season was unsustainable. Everyone realized that. But shot selection is still a problem for me with Gordon.
To be honest, his defense has been a problem for me as well. Gordon has gotten bullied a little bit in a couple tough match-ups of late (Draymond Green, Taj Gibson, Thaddeus Young come to mind).
Best game in this stretch - 26 points (11-18 FG), 9 rebounds @ Minnesota (11/22)
Evan Fournier (10 GP), Grade: D+
We should know by now what we get with Evan Fournier. The man can get as hot as a pistol and carry a team for stretches at a time, and then he can get like this. I know a lot of Magic fans think Fournier should have been the one moved to the bench in an attempt to switch things up recently, not Terrence Ross.
Evan’s numbers in his last ten games support that argument. The problem with Fournier going cold for long periods is that he also struggles defensively (compared to Orlando’s two other primary wings). I still think keeping Fournier in the starting lineup is the right call. When he’s right, Fournier offers much more upside than Ross (and he still plays a better floor game offensively). You just have to let him shoot his way out of this.
Best game in this stretch - 16 points (5-10 FG) @ Golden State (11/13)
Nikola Vucevic (10 GP), Grade: C+
Ah yes, everyone’s favorite whipping boy. Look, I will tell you - Vucevic has not been good. When your center is shooting less than 45% from the floor, even in a ten game stretch, that’s a major problem. Couple that with the fact that he gets to the line about as often as I take my trash to the curb (once a week, maybe twice if it’s been a crazy week), and you have less than ideal offensive production (50% TS%, woof).
But his defense really hasn’t been as god-awful as people have made it out to be. A narrative about Vucevic was created many seasons ago, and rightfully so. I get it, but if your being honest, his average to slightly below-average defense hasn’t been any worse this year than quite a few other Magic players.
I’m just telling you, I knocked him more for his offense than his defense (or lack thereof) this time around.
Best game in this stretch - 25 points (11-19 FG), 13 rebounds vs. Indiana (11/20)
Terrence Ross (10 GP), Grade: B+
The last time I dished out progress reports, Terrence Ross was playing very poorly. It’s really nice to see he’s turned things around a bit. Honestly, he had no where else to go but up.
Ross has been shooting it as well as anyone of late. The problem is, Ross still doesn’t do a whole lot of anything else while he’s on the court. I think his scoring ability will be beneficial for the Magic in the second unit. If Fournier keeps stinking for another week or two, I could see Vogel inserting Ross back in the starting lineup. For now, I think he’s good where he’s at (coming off the bench).
Best game in this stretch - 22 points (8-14 FGA), 6 rebounds @ Minnesota (11/22)
Elfrid Payton (9 GP), Grade: C
Payton has been serviceable his last couple games, that’s honestly what saved his grade from being a little worse off than it is.
I also realize he’s been working his way back from an injury, I took that into consideration. But Payton needs to pick it up, and quickly. Payton is a notoriously slow starter to begin seasons, but the Magic have zero time to wait for him to hit his stride. He’s turning the ball over at an alarming rate. And here we are in Payton’s fourth year of his NBA career; he still seems to struggle with pick-and-roll defense (positioning, switching, etc.).
Best game in this stretch - 22 points (9-17 FG), 9 assists @ Philadelphia (11/25)
Jonathon Simmons (10 GP), Grade: B+
I think Simmons has been pretty rock-steady. You can count on Simmons to get to the rim (and the free-throw line) when shots aren’t falling. If the Magic are going to try and climb their way out of this hole they’ve created for themselves, affording Jonathon Simmons a larger role might be the best way to go about doing it.
Best game in this stretch - 17 points (7-11 FG) @ Phoenix (11/10)
D.J. Augustin (6 GP), Grade: C-
It’s nice to have D.J. Augustin back, for additional depth if nothing else. Like Payton, Augustin showed a lot of rust when he first came back from his absence. Roughly 15 PTS per/36 since his return is not shabby, he’s shooting the basketball at an acceptable rate. Augustin is a veteran though; he shouldn’t be turning the ball over like he’s been doing. The Magic are just not getting great point guard play at the moment.
Best game in this stretch - 14 points (5-10FG) @ Philadelphia (11/25)
Bismack Biyombo (10 GP), Grade: B+
Biyombo has been solid as of late, no complaints here. Biyombo is blocking shots, he’s challenging and altering shots at the rim. I’ve really liked his effort.
I know people are calling for him to replace Nikole Vucevic is the starting lineup. I’m just not sure that’s the answer.
Best game in this stretch - 8 points (4-4 FG), 7 rebounds @ Golden State (11/13)
Marreese Speights (10 GP), Grade: A- (Top of the Class)
Let’s be honest here. The team has lost nine games in a row; I had no clue who I was going to award with the distinction of being “Top of the Class”. So why not #MoBuckets? He hasn’t played a ton of minutes, sure. But he’s averaged over 25 PTS per/36 over his last ten games.
I don’t think it’s sustainable whatsoever to play Speights in the front-court alongside Biyombo. Neither of those guys are who you want defending stretch-4’s on the perimeter. Yet over the last couple of weeks, it has sort of worked. With Speights on the floor, the Magic have pretty much been even (+/-) with their opponents. That’s incredibly superior to what just about everyone else on the roster has done. So for now, keep letting it fly big fella.
Best game in this stretch - 19 points (8-12 FG) @ Denver (11/11)
Incomplete: Mario Hezonja, Jonathan Isaac, Arron Afflalo, Shelvin Mack