Victor Oladipo was the 2nd overall pick of the most recent draft. What are some early season thoughts on the rookie?
Zach Palmer (ProSportsExtra) - Early on I like what I see from Oladipo. Offensively he's still very raw and the transition to point guard has been well, we'll discuss that later. His three-point shooting has suffered recently but I like his mechanics. He can attack the rim at will, however, he's struggled finishing at the rim getting blocked quite a bit. But as the game slows down it should help him react to shot contests. Defensively on the ball he's been excellent, off the ball he's making rookie mistakes such as missing a rotation or losing his man cutting to the basket.
Zach Oliver (Baller Mind Frame) - I've been impressed with him for the most part this season. He's had his struggles, as expected, but has been good for the most part. His shot is still a little inconsistent, and he's had some problems finishing at the rim, but overall he's been good. He's got the tools to be a lock-down defender, while still producing well on the offensive end. He's still playing a little fast, but it'll slow down for him more and when that happens, the rest of the league should watch out.
Philip Rossman-Reich (Orlando Magic Daily) - The first thing that stands out is his effort and energy on the floor. It is as advertised. He is constantly working and does not seem to get tired. Even that double overtime game last week against Philadelphia, it still felt like he could run through a wall -- making a shot, on the other hand... His energy has helped made him a reliable defensive player even as a rookie and he is continuing to learn and grow with each passing game. More importantly for where this team is at, Oladipo understands the long task ahead of him and seems to have taken to the professional approach exemplified in the locker room by the veterans.
Oladipo has a ton of offensive potential. It will come for him. He has this problem on the defensive end too, but it sometimes seems like he relies on his speed too much to make up for his mistakes. That worked in college but not in the NBA. It still seems like Oladipo is waiting for the game to slow down for him. He will get into the paint and over-rotate a lay up and fail to finish and he is still susceptible to trapping and pressure defenses. But the game is slowing down for him and he is getting better at these. And it is just December.
Tyler Lashbrook (Orlando Pinstriped Post) - Oladipo is a ball of energy with the innate ability to transform his body into a stream of random upper and lower case letters at any given moment. He's also, on the other hand, capable of turning the ball over at alarming rates and turning average rim protectors into Manute Bol. He hounds ball handlers on the defensive end and protects the rim with no avail to bodily destruction. He's fun, that's the simplest way to put it.
Speaking of Oladipo, he's been getting a lot of talk about playing at point guard this season and being the player with the most time handling the ball. How has that worked out so far? Is there potential to be a starting PG in the NBA or is it more likely he'll eventually be moved over to a role that involves less handling of the ball?
Palmer- Thus far I'd say Oladipo has struggled as expected playing point guard. There has been improvement from a turnover standpoint, however you can tell that he's just not all that comfortable running an offense. My biggest problem thus far with him playing point guard is that he constantly picks up his dribble so far away from the basket and Orlando's offense completely stalls from there. With that said, he has the potential to be a starting point guard the way Mario Chalmers is, that being I don't believe he should be a primary ball handler in the NBA.
Oliver- Personally, I like him more playing off the ball, but he could end up as a point guard. He's really put in the work and has shown improvements from the summer league & the start of the season. The turnovers are somewhat worrisome, but that's expected for a young guy learning a new position. If he doesn't work out at point, then you've potentially got a guy who can be a secondary ball handler a la Andre Iguodala.
Rossman-Reich- It is certainly a mixed bag for Oladipo. Defensively it is hard to tell much because he is often paired up with another point guard to relieve pressure on him offensively. So a Jameer Nelson-Victor Oladipo backcourt is not giving anyone much information on that end. Offensively, however, Oladipo has shown an eagerness to learn and a patience to work through his mistakes. His turnovers have slowly been creeping down as he gets more comfortable with the ball in his hands and his assists have gone up.
Is it something the Magic can do long-term though? Right now, it cannot hurt to try him out there. At the very least, he learns some playmaking skills and then can share them with whoever the point guard is long-term for this organization. The way the NBA is going, positions are less important than having guys who can get into the paint and create for others. Whether Oladipo is playing the 1 or the 2, the skills he is learning this year playing some point guard will make him a better player.
Lashbrook- He's unguardable at his first step, but he's not a very good ball-handler and fails to sometimes make the right reads in the offense. But it's his first time ever playing the position and he's playing against the best athletes he's ever played against on a nightly basis so all of this is expected. He's probably not the point guard of the future, but that's because he's pretty great playing off the ball.
Between Maurice Harkless, Tobias Harris, Andrew Nicholson, and Nikola Vucevic, which two are the most likely be kept long term? Who is likely trade bait?
Palmer- The easy answer here is Vucevic and Harris. However I'll say Vucevic and Nicholson. I would be shocked if Vucevic isn't a unanimous choice, walking 7 foot double-doubles aren't easy to come by. For me Harris doesn't have a big enough sample size yet to sell me on and Nicholson has shown dramatic improvement in just about every aspect of his game this year.
Oliver- I'd say Vucevic and Nicholson stay long-term right now. It's tough to say though because the team hasn't gotten to see Tobias in enough game action this season. That said, Vucevic and Nicholson have shown the most improvement so far this season, while Harkless has regressed some. I think it could change to Harris or Harkless, but Nik and Drew are my guys for now.
Rossman-Reich- Nikola Vucevic has proven in his absence just how important he is to this team. Vucevic has missed the last four games with a sprained ankle and the Magic's rebounding has cratered. I personally still worry about how much money some team will throw him in restricted free agency, but there are so few guys in the league who can guarantee you a double double and are younger than 25. Vucevic is improving everywhere on the floor in his third season -- particularly on defense -- and appears to be a keeper.
Nicholson, to me, is the player most likely to fit a "role player" and be able to fill in no matter who the Magic become. He is also the most finished product on the team among the young players. I might lean toward Nicholson as the second guy to keep. It might really depend though on where the Magic go in the 2014 Draft.
Lashbrook- Harris and Vucevic are the two best guys to build around. Harris is, at the very least, a spark plug off the bench and put up potential All-Star numbers. Vucevic isn't a great defender but he's made strides this season, which helps if he wants to be a long-term building block. Nicholson has the best chance to replace either as a long-term piece and looks, at his best, like he could be the third best big man on a championship team.
How is Jacque Vaughn in his second season as head coach? Vaughn has received a lot of criticism for his rotations; Do you feel this has to do with Vaughn or the roster?
Palmer- I.... I'm going to try and be fair to Vaughn and tell you that the roster imbalance, five combo guards and four power forwards, makes it hard to pick on Jacque for his rotations. That said, I can't justify why he plays Ronnie Price so much or why Kyle O'Quinn, Maurice Harkless and Doron Lamb can't get off the bench. I'll leave it at that before profanity takes over.
Oliver- -I'd say he's been up and down. There have been times where he's been really good, then times when there needs to be adjustments, but nothing is done. As for rotations, I think some of it has to do with injuries. He's doing what he can with what he has. Guys like Kyle O'Quinn and Doron Lamb were hurt by early injuries, but should get more time at some point this season. They'll find the right balance sooner than later and the guys can continue to grow together then.
Rossman-Reich- I think Jacque Vaughn has shown continued improvement in his second season. His guys play hard for him, first of all. There is no questioning the effort and the tone he has helped set int he locker room is something no one should overlook when evaluating Vaughn. Everyone knew this team was going to struggle, and so getting better effort and preventing the team from packing it in early or not even trying is a great accomplishment.Vaughn's biggest struggle is the balance between keeping the team on the floor that will help the team win games and developing the young players on the roster. That is not easy to do. Especially when there is an 82-game schedule and veterans management would probably like to see showcased for trade purposes.
Some of it is the constraints of the rosters. Some of it, though, is just befuddling. Like for struggling players, it is a long season. I suspect these issues get resolved as the year goes on. But that does not alleviate tanking concerns -- I'm sorry, "strategic losing" -- nor does it put the team in the best position to win games. It seems like he is trying too hard to straddle the line between winning and development without committing one way or the other at this point.
Lashbrook- Vaughn's stuck in this weird middle ground where no matter what he does, he can't make everyone happy. There are so many young guys on the roster, but only five people can play at a time (unless you're Louisiana-Lafayette) and that's something Vaughn can't escape. He's been very reliant on Jason Maxiell and Ronnie Price, which is throwing a lot of fans by surprise, especially when Doron Lamb and Kyle O'Quinn--two of Orlando's young guys--can produce nearly the same results.
The real issue is how he's using Harkless. Harkless gave Orlando great production early, but fell off a bit, was benched and now is barely touching the floor. It's just weird to see Vaughn utilizing three guard lineups and Jason Maxiell, rather than using Harkless, a versatile guy Magic fans were really looking forward to before the season started.
How close is this team to being a playoff team?
Palmer- Not close. The defense and the offense are both atrocious. Coach might not be up to par, but the roster certainly isn't up to par. To top it off don't be shocked if they trade Arron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson and get even worse. If they hit big in the draft and the young guys improve they're still 2 years at least away from competing.
Oliver- A year or two, I think. They need another piece or two. Point guard is still in flux, and no one knows which veterans will be here come season's end. Tobias Harris is also a question mark as of now. They'll get there soon, but it shouldn't be this season
Rossman-Reich- Much closer than their record suggests, even in the awful Eastern Conference. The Magic need a "star" player who can create offense for himself and for others. Maybe that is Victor Oladipo, I don't think it is. Maybe Arron Afflalo can take that leap. I think he is better as a second or third option who can create a little in 1-on-1 but is more of a catch-and-shoot guy and capable defensive player. Orlando needs its young guys to develop a little bit more before they can challenge for the Playoffs and they need that star. It might come in this year's Draft or they might have to go out and grab one in free agency when they have cap room in 2015. It is just going to take some patience to get there as these guys grow.
Lashbrook- Two years away, with next year being a possibility depending on who they nab in the draft. Orlando is very much on the right track and the East is pitiful, but I can't imagine the team using too much money next summer on borderline All-Stars in the offseason. The draft, with two first round picks, will say a lot about Hennigan's plan.
Twitter accounts of those involved:
Thanks to everybody involved! If you have a twitter I suggest giving them a follow, they're all awesome.
Zach Palmer: @OrlTankCommander
Zach Oliver: @ZOliver8812
Philip Rossman-Reich: @OMagicDaily
Tyler Lashbrook: @Lashy