And just like that, the Orlando Magic are officially a third of the way through their schedule. My progress reports are back for another season as well (third season featured on this site, I’m blessed). If you missed the first volume, Nikola Vucevic earned the highest grade in the class after the team’s first fourteen games due to his stellar shooting and solid defense. Let’s explore 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 Orlando’s last ten games played along with some comments from yours truly that hopefully explains 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. Enjoy!
Aaron Gordon (9 games played)
14.9 PTS, 7.6 REB, 2.9 AST
42% FG%, 39% 3PT%, 1.6 TO
Gordon’s offensive efficiency has dipped just a bit in recent weeks (50% TS% in last ten games). Shooting from behind the arc hasn’t been a problem, but his tendency to force mid-range jumpers (especially off the dribble) has reappeared in Orlando’s last few contests. That is a problem.
His net rating (-2.0) and +/- (-1.1) numbers in the last ten games aren’t too alarming, and he’s helping out on the boards. I would still like to see him attack the rim and get to the free throw line more often.
I like what I’ve seen this season from Gordon defensively. For the most part, I think he has accepted Steve Clifford’s preseason challenge to be an All-NBA defender. He’s not defending at that kind of level right now, but the effort has certainly been there.
Best game during this stretch: 12/4 @ Miami
20 points (3-3 3PTA’s), 13 rebounds, 5 assists
Nikola Vucevic (10 games played)
20.9 PTS, 12.7 REB, 4 AST
52% FG%, 34% 3PT%, 1.9 TO
Grade: A (Top of the Class)
For the second time in as many volumes, Vucevic earned Orlando’s highest grade from yours truly. Vucevic’s quest for his first All-Star berth has continued in strong fashion over the last ten games. He’s the only Magic player in the rotation with a positive net rating over that stretch (3.5), as well as the only regular with a positive +/-.
He leads all rotation players over the last ten games with a true shooting percentage of 59%, an offensive rating of 106.6, and just under 11.0 points in the paint per game (with the highest usage rate on the team during that stretch).
Even the part of Vucevic’s game that bothers me the most, his inability to get to the free throw line, hasn’t been as spotty as usual. Vucevic has attempted more free throws per contest (2.7) than anyone on the team over the last ten games. Nothing to write home about still, I understand that.
Best game during this stretch: 11/25 @ Los Angeles Lakers
31 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 blocks
Evan Fournier (9 games played)
13.2 PTS, 2.9 REB, 3.1 AST
40% FG%, 37% 3PT%, 2.1 TO
I will give Fournier credit where it is due: Coach Clifford has been consistently pleased with his defense throughout the majority of this season. I’m stopping well short of calling Fournier some kind of defensive stalwart, but the point alone is worth something when considering where his defensive play has been in the past.
It’s really been a struggle for Fournier to patch together a few successful games this season. He’s shot the ball (slightly) better over the last ten games than he did at the beginning of the season, that’s a plus. But still, 12 shot attempts to score just over 13 points over this stretch, that’s not ideal. Like Gordon, Fournier needs to mix in more shot fakes and try to get to the rim (and/or the free throw line).
Fournier missed Orlando’s game Monday against Dallas, but he will reportedly rejoin the team for their two games in Mexico City.
Best game during this stretch: 12/5 vs. Denver
26 points (8-15 FG, 6-10 3PTA’s), 8 rebounds, 4 assists
Terrence Ross (10 games played)
15.1 PTS, 2.3 REB, 1.7 AST
47% FG%, 38% 3PT%
Where would the Magic be this season without Terrence Ross? On most nights, Ross has served as Orlando’s only legitimate scoring option off the bench. I know a lot of people are wondering why Ross isn’t starting for the Magic, but their bench simply can’t afford to lose his shooting/scoring ability. Their bench has been pretty bad with his strong play; it would be an absolute mess without him.
Ross has easily been Orlando’s top perimeter shooter during this current stretch (the entire year to be accurate). His 58% TS% over Orlando’s last ten games trails only Vucevic among the Magic regulars. His net rating and +/- numbers are nothing noteworthy, but that has more to do with the company he’s keeping while on the court. It’s amazing what Ross has been able to do playing alongside Jerian Grant and the rest of the bench unit.
Ross isn’t giving the Magic a whole lot of ancillary numbers/contributions. In fairness, that’s never really what his game has been about. He’s on the floor to shoot the basketball and score the basketball; my man is doing that and then some.
Best game during this stretch: 11/26 @ Golden State
28 points (9-15 FG, 4-6 3PTA’s) in 27 minutes
D.J. Augustin (10 games played)
8.6 PTS, 2.0 REB, 5.2 AST
42% FG%, 34% 3PT%, 1.4 TO
Outside of a couple solid games, it’s been a struggle for D.J. Augustin over the last ten contests. Augustin has scored in double-figures just four times over Orlando’s last ten games. He’s connected on over 50% of his attempts in a single contest just four times over that same stretch of games.
Augustin has done a fine job taking care of the basketball in Steve Clifford’s offense (3.71 A/TO ratio). And it’s not like there’s anyone else on the roster that is worthy or capable of starting at point guard in his place. For better or worse, Augustin is Orlando’s floor-general.
He ranks second on the team (regular rotation players) behind Vucevic in net rating and +/- over the last ten games.
Best game during this stretch: 11/30 @ Phoenix
16 points (6-9 FG), 6 assists, 3 rebounds
Jonathan Isaac (10 games played)
9.0 PTS, 4.9 REB, 1.0 AST
42% FG%, 22% 3PT%, 1.5 TO
Isaac’s play has been all over the place. He’s a problem defensively for other teams, there’s no doubt about that. But he still bites on too many fakes, gambles too often, and seems to be fouling more than he should. I keep reminding myself, he’s still basically a rookie.
I would also like to see Isaac turn the ball over at a lower rate as the season carries on. His usage rate compared to his turnover rate over the last ten games is not an ideal situation. I’m not going to mention is shooting efficiency this time around, I know he’s still battling back from his latest ankle set-back.
Just the fact that Isaac has played in ten straight games (it’s actually been 13 games) is progress enough for now.
Best game during this stretch: 12/4 @ Miami
12 points (4-5 FG, 4-4 FT), 6 rebounds, 2 steals
Jonathon Simmons (10 games played)
6.3 PTS, 1.8 REB, 1.8 AST
38% FG%, 32% 3PT%, 1.1 TO
I wrote in my first volume of these progress reports a month ago that things could only get better for Simmons considering where he started this season at. At this moment, it seems that things have very much stayed the same.
Simmons has virtually no confidence in his shot right now. Defenders are laying off of him on the perimeter, but he still routinely puts his head down and tries to go by them. Over his last ten games, Simmons owns a true shooting percentage just under 47%. His net rating of -7.7 over this stretch is being dragged down by his less than sub-par defensive rating.
I’ve raised the question of whether Wes Iwundu might be better served getting Simmons’ minutes at this point. Neither guy is going to give the Magic much offense right now. but I like Iwundu’s defensive upside a little more.
The Magic need a village to beat the good teams in the NBA, it takes everyone contributing. Right now, Simmons is far from the player he was last year for the Magic. They need him to get going, he’s scored less than five points in six of these last ten games.
Best game during this stretch: 12/10 @ Dallas
18 points (7-10 FG, 2-4 3PTA’s) in 22 minutes
Jerian Grant (10 games played)
2.9 PTS, 1.8 REB, 3.7 AST
26% FG%, 27% 3PT%, 1.2 TO
It’s pretty simple actually, Grant has been bad. There’s just no way to sugar-coat it. If the Magic want to contend in the Eastern Conference, they have to get more from their backup point guard spot. Grant has been in a major funk over Orlando’s last ten games.
He caught fire from downtown for a stretch in November, but he has come back down to earth in a big way. His true shooting percentage is under 40% over the last ten games, his offensive rating of 92.0 (only Mohamed Bamba has a lower ORtg during this stretch) is equally as tough.
With five guys on the floor, you hate to pile on one player. Still, Orlando’s second unit has been less than optimal, and their productivity starts with Grant getting the offense running/organized.
Grant has scored more than five points in a game just once in Orlando’s last ten contests.
Best game during this stretch: 11/28 @Portland
6 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds
Mohamed Bamba, Wes Iwundu, Khem Birch, Isaiah Briscoe, Jarell Martin, Melvin Frazier Jr.
Okay Magic fans, lets hear it. Where did I go wrong? Am I too easy of a grader? My students would probably concur with that sentiment. Was I too harsh with anyone? Leave your comments below!