2013-2014 NBA Preview: Southeast Division

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Oct 9, 2013; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo (5) is consoled by head coach Jacque Vaughn after their game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. The New Orleans Pelicans beat the Orlando Magic 99-95. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando Magic (27-55)

Here’s the point where the wheels come off in the Southeast Division. Orlando is in full tanking/rebuilding mode, and while they do have discernible talent on the roster, it doesn’t fit well.

Of the 6 best “assets” on the Magic roster, exactly 5 of them are swingmen, and that problem was compounded when they drafted Victor Oladipo in the lottery. Before we start on him, I will defend the decision to draft the “best player available” in this spot (as a pure rebuilding team), and he certainly was that in my estimation. The crazy part for Orlando is that they seem intent (at least in the early going) on trying Oladipo at the point guard spot, presumably to alleviate the logjam. This is insanity to me, as Oladipo struggled as a shot creator even from the wing spot, but at least he’ll see extended court time in an effort to deploy him as the defensive stopper that we all expect him to be.

The other wing guys are Tobias Harris, Mo Harkless, Arron Afflalo, and Doron Lamb. Harris is the “upside” guy of the group, and he averaged 17 points and 8 rebounds for Orlando after arriving in the JJ Redick trade. Scarily, Harris is only 21 years old, and if he can continue that level of play, that deal will become an absolute fleecing. Harkless and Lamb are both young and talented, but I can’t see an avenue to much playing time without injury. That is because Afflalo is being handsomely paid by the team to be the starting shooting guard, and I love his game. He had a down year in 2012-2013 thanks to some poor shooting (43.9% FG, 30% 3-point), but his career numbers are strong (46% FG, 38% 3-point) and I’d expect a rebound in that area, along with his normal hard-nosed defensive presence.

In the front-court, Orlando is counting heavily on Nikola Vucevic to duplicate his production from last year. The 23-year-old big man averaged a shocking 13.1 points and 11.9 rebounds per game last year, and was near the league-lead in the latter category to the end of the season. It doesn’t appear that his rebounding production is a fluke, but the numbers do make him look better than he probably is. Vucevic is a wretched defender (especially in the pick-and-roll) and the entirety of his offensive game comes from put-backs. Either way, though, he’s a steal at his price, and Orlando can move forward with him as a primary option at center.

There are 2 veterans on the roster who will see time, Jameer Nelson and Glen “Big Baby” Davis. Nelson was once an above-average point guard, but he has severe health concerns and his athleticism is dwindling as he gets up in age. Along with that, his field goal percentage took a nosedive to 39.2% last year, and that makes him a below-average player no matter what else he can do on the court. I do think he’ll claim the PG spot back when Orlando figures out that Oladipo isn’t a creator, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be even an average player. As for Davis, he’s a plus-defender at the 4 spot thanks to his general girth, but running the offense through him didn’t work out well last year, and he’s nothing more than a mid-range shooter on that end. I actually like “Big Baby”, but he’s got an injury past and a 44% shooting clip at 290 pounds. Yep.

Orlando won’t be a complete disaster at times, but they are far, far away from playoff contention. Even with Oladipo on board (who I love), there isn’t anything resembling a #1 NBA option offensively on this roster, but maybe they’ll get a chance to grab Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, or Jabari Parker next June.