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Friday, March 8, 2013

SDH Presents the NBA's Worst to First for January and and February: 29. Orlando Magic

Overall Win/Loss Record (as of February 28th) :  16-42 (fourth place, Southeast Division)  

This Month:

Team Statistics and League Rank (as of February 28th)
  • Points Scored: 94.0 (24th)
  • Points Allowed: 99.9 (21st)
  • Team FG%: .452 (12th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .461 (22nd)
  • Team FT%: .767 (11th)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .337 (28th)
  • Rebounds per game: 42.7 (13th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 42.1 (15th)
  • Turnovers per game: 14.6 (12th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 12.1 (30th)

Individual Statistical Leaders (as of February 28th)
  • Scoring (ppg): Arron Afflalo (16.7)
  • Rebounds per gameNicola Vucevic (11.4)
  • Minutes per game: Arron Afflalo (36.4)
  • Assists per game: Jameer Nelson (7.4)
  • Field Goal Percentage: Andrew Nicholson (.528)
  • Free Throw Percentage: Jameer Nelson (.900)
  • Three Point FG Percentage: E’Twaun Moore (.364)
  • Steals per game: Jameer Nelson (1.3)
  • Blocked Shots per game: Nicola Vucevic (1.1)

Worst Player of the Month: Hedo Turkoglu

Both owner Rich Devos and team GM Rob Hennigan must be thinking the same thing--soon they will rid themselves of the onerous contract of Hedo Turkoglu.  Since returning to the Magic, Hedo has been nothing but a blight with a bloated contract--a dinosaur from a past age.  Now he currently is spending the final year of his contract sitting on the bench while earning his guaranteed $11.8 million and the Magic do not seem to be missing him one bit.  In the eleven games he has played, Hedo contributed next to nothing as he only averaged just 2 points per game while shooting an abysmal .264 from the field.  There certainly will not be any tears shed or long goodbyes once the season finally ends and both him and the Magic finally part ways--the only tears that will be shed will be those of joy as the magic can finally remove that financial dead weight of their backs.    
First Player of the Month: Moe Harkless

Nothing much was expected from this 19 year old Saint John's product when he was packaged in the three team trade that shipped Dwight Howard out of Central Florida and on that sinking ship otherwise known as the Los Angeles Lakers. Nonetheless, Moe Harkless has been quite the pleasant surprise for this rebuilding Magic team.  For the past four months, Harkless went from a being a long term project being given sparse minutes for playing time to becoming a full time starter.  His minutes and production increased each month from just 4.6 points per game in November to 11.5 per game in February.  His rather impressively rapid development has certainly has made him a key figure for the team's front office     

After two months of staying moderately respectable in the NBA, the Magic have finally slipped and fallen to the bottom with only the lowly Charlotte Bobcats there to cushion their fall.  The Magic entered the new year with a solid 12-19 record and finished the first two months of 2013 with just four wins to their credit.  Orlando started January losing four straight before they stopped the bleeding by winning two of their next three against the LA Clippers (1/12/2013) and the Indiana Pacers (1/16/2013).  Unfortunately the Magic could not hold onto the momentum as they would finish the month of January losing every game and continued losing in the month of February dropping five straight before ending the slide with a win against the Portland Trailblazers (2/10/2013).  The Blazers win lost its luster the following night as Orlando would drop another five before ending that streak with a big win against the Philadephia 76ers (2/26/2013) then ending February on a sour note losing their last game to the Sacramento Kings by a whopping 24 points (2/27/2013).

Regardless of their rather poor showing in January and February losing most of their games by ten or more points, the Orlando Magic did show signs of life in a few of them and possibly could have had them if they had managed hold on.  They started the new year with a heart breaking loss to the Chicago Bulls (1/2/2013) losing by just one basket followed by three hard fought losses against the New York Knicks (1/5/2013), Portland Trailblazers (1/7/2013), and the Denver Nuggets (1/9/2013).  Orlando managed to hold on until the Knicks pulled away in the fourth quarter beating them by eight points, then fell to the Blazers in overtime, and suffered the sting of a painful three point loss to the Nuggets.  The upset win against the Clippers helped soften the blow of losing so closely in the previous four and despite getting shellacked by the Washington Wizards (1/14/2013), they bounced back by grabbing another big upset against one of the Eastern Conference's best, the Indiana Pacers. Unfortunately the Magic would suffer two heart breakers by the Charlotte Bobcats (1/13/2013) and the Dallas Mavericks (1/20/2013) losing by a total of twelve points followed by two more gut wrenchers at the hands of the Toronto Raptors (1/24/2013) and Detroit Pistons (1/27/2013) losing by a four points combined.
If they had managed to stave off the Knicks, Blazers, Bobcats, and Mavericks fourth quarter run, and the ball would happened to have bounced their way against Chicago, Toronto and Detroit, it would have been a whole different story for the Magic.  Instead of finishing January with a loathsome 14-31 record, they probably could have been 21-23 and be within an earshot of the final playoff berth.  Winning those games would have certainly given Orlando a boost in self esteem heading into February as they would have had the added confidence, but they came in as losers and were thus treated like losers.   While the Magic had their hearts broken in January, they would have their spirits and hopes shattered the following month as their opponents simply manhandled them beating Orlando by an average margin of 15.8 points.  Among their eleven embarrassing losses in February, the only game that Orlando put forth a respectable effort was the game against the Memphis Grizzlies where the Magic would lost by just six points (2/22/2013) while the rest simply mopped the floor with them.

Nonetheless, having such a poor showing in both January and February actually helped the Magic than hurt it as they would receive a greater chance of locking the number one overall pick come draft day.  Although they would have been most certainly guaranteed the first overall pick regardless looking at the history of the past two, at least there will not be as much suspicion from conspiracy theorists saying that the draft was rigged in Orlando's favor.  And despite resting second to last in the NBA standings, no one can really refer to the Orlando Magic as a "doormat" because the number shows the complete opposite.  In fact for a team that has lost their star player and currently sport one of the youngest and most inexperienced rosters in the league, the Magic still manage to execute rather efficiently on the offensive end shooting a rather high .450 field goal percentage,  And despite  allowing their opponents to shoot a higher field goal percentage, they have only managed to beat the Magic by a mere five points per contest thus far this season.

That is quite remarkable considering that no one would have given Orlando a chance in hell after they had given up one of the greatest big men who currently plays for what many considered as virtual nothing.  The players that the Magic picked whom many have not given much credit have been proving many of their haters and critics wrong as they have performed way better than anyone could have expected or hoped. All three players that the Magic have received during that trade have already stepped in the starting lineup and have become major contributors to that team.  The biggest and most surprising contribution most certainly will be Dwight Howard's replacement at the center position, Nicola Vucevic, who has been having a phenomenal season in just his second year averaging 12 points and 12 boards per game while leading the team in blocked shots per game as well.  Add the impressive contributions of their two rookies Andrew Nicholson and Moe Harkless along with them receiving the number one overall pick in the NBA Draft, the Magic's future looks rather bright to say the least and will certainly be turning head come next season for sure.