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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

SDH Present the 2013 End of Season NBA's Worst to First: 26. Orlando Magic

Overall Win/Loss Record :  20-62 (At Season’s End),  fifth place Southeest Division

             
      

23
At Season’s End:

26
Team Statistics and League Rank (At Season’s End)

  • Points Scored: 94.1 (24th)
  • Points Allowed: 101.1 (24th)
  • Team FG%: .448 (17th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .463 (22nd)
  • Team FT%: .755 (15th)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .329 (29th)
  • Rebounds per game: 42.7 (12th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 42.8 (21st)
  • Turnovers per game: 14.0 (15th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 12.1 (30th)


Individual Statistical Leaders (At Season’s End)

  • Scoring (ppg): Arron Afflalo (16.5)
  • Rebounds per gameNicola Vucevic (11.9)
  • Minutes per game: Arron Afflalo (36.0)
  • Assists per game: Jameer Nelson (7.4)
  • Field Goal Percentage: Andrew Nicholson (.527)
  • Free Throw Percentage:  Jameer Nelson (.870)       
  • Three Point FG Percentage: Jameer Nelson (.341)
  • Steals per game: Jameer Nelson (1.3)
  • Blocked Shots per game: Nicola Vucevic (1.0)



Taking a Look back at the Season that Once Was . . .





SDH Worst to First Recap
Time Period
Wins/Losses
Rank
Change (+/-)
5-10
24
-1
7-9
23
+1
4-23
29
-6
At Season’s End
4-20
26
+3 
SDH Player of the Year:
Nikola Vucevic




Not many expected much from the 22 Swiss born when he arrived to Orlando courtesy of that mega trade that sent the Magic's one time star, Dwight Howard to Los Angeles to don the purple and gold.  At best they thought that  Nicola Vucevic would be a marginal player at best after having a decent yet rather unspectacular rookie campaign playing for the Philadelphia 76ers.  Imagine the shock and pleasure of Orlando fans when this same player comes out with a breakout season helping them to forget all about the drama and grief that Howard caused in seasons prior.  By season's end, Nicola finished it averaging a double double  of 13 points, 12 boards, and two blocks per game making him one of the top breakout performances of the 2013 season.  Despite playing on the team that finished with the worst record in the regular season, Magic fans have the optimistic hope that Vucevic's breakout season will be the first of many to come in the future.   
Analysis:

As with most teams that had traumatically lost their one time franchise player, the Orlando Magic went into immediate free fall going from one time playoff contender to complete train wreck in a matter of one season.  No one in Orlando or who watched NBA basketball had any allusions to the contrary when the regular season arrived, especially for what the Magic received in return after shipping their franchise cornerstone of the past eight years in center Dwight Howard.  In a huge complex trade that involved four teams, and more than ten players, the Orlando Magic said good riddance to both Dwight Howard and the distractions that he brought to the team with his on and off trade demands to the Los Angeles Lakers.  In return the Magic received a first round picks from each of the teams that worked with in order to get the deal done--one from the Lakers, the other from the Philadephia 76ers, and the third from the Denver Nuggets.  Orlando also got second year big man Nikola Vucevic from the Sixers with the rights to Philly's first round pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Moe Harkless, while Denver chipped in Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington in order to make the deal work in the end.  

Many had blasted the deal calling the Magic fools for not taking all star big man Andrew Bynum, who the Lakers initially offered for Howard instead choosing to take what amounted to low first round draft picks, two second tier players, and a couple of players who may or may not pan out in the league; however, as the season unfolded, it would be the Magic who would be the ones laughing as they would be the true winner of the trade.  The Los Angeles Lakers looked to be the biggest winner of the deal as they attained the biggest prize in Howard, but their season failed to live up to their elevated expectations by epic proportions.  What was supposed to be the start of a new championship dynasty turned out to be tragic comedy of errors filled with infighting, uninspired play and simply end with the Lakers finishing the regular season with egg on their faces.  Dwight Howard resulted in being more of a hindrance than a help for the Larry O'Brien Trophy aspiring Lakers as he allegedly clashed with teammates, most notably the Lakers team leader Kobe Bryant, and came into the season a shadow of his former self.  Los Angeles, who many expected to dominate the Western Confernce, spent the bulk of the season clawing and climbing desperately to stay affloat in the hotly contested Western Conference to earn the second to last playoff spot.  Upon arriving to the playoffs, the Lakers were quickly and humiliatingly eliminated by the San Antonio Spurs leaving Dwight Howard's future with the team uncertain as his contract expired at season's end making him an unrestricted free agents.

The 76ers would also suffer the cruel hand of fate as they claimed what was seen as the second prize in the deal in two time NBA Champion big man and All Star Andrew Bynum.  After being able to scrape to the post season for the past couple of years, Philly looked like a full fledged contender for the Eastern Conference title with Bynum, who had his best season as a pro the previous season, in the fold.  Unfortunately, their aspirations of glory would soon crumble to dust as Bynum would spend the entire regular season watching on their sidelines as he nursed an injured knee and his prognosis for both his knees and his future in the NBA became rather bleak.  Numerous sources in the media reported that Andrew Bynum's condition had deteriorated to a point that he will never be the franchise cornerstone that Philly had envisioned him to be in the next few years.  Philly may have to cut their losses and their relationship with Bynum and his deteriorating knees as he will become an unrestricted free agent at season's end leaving them with nothing to show for the major trade that was supposed to return them in the spotlight.

Denver seemed as the team that suffered the least as they would finish the regular season with the third best winning record in the West; however, they find themselves stuck with an overpaid and overrated player in Andre Iguodala who continued his uninspiring play with the Nuggets.  His play did nor raise any eyebrows with his less than stellar finishing just 13 points, 6 boards, five assists and a little over a steal per games and he will continue to do so for a while as Denver is essentially stuck with him as he will be owed more than 30$ million for the next two years.  Regardless of the team splendid regular season finish that earned head coach George Karl the award for Coach of the Year, the Nuggets finished the season the same way, eliminated early yet again in the first round, NBA playoffs--this time by the underdog Golden State Warriors, who had the sixth seed coming into the post season.  Gathering the collective failures of all the three teams that despite finishing last overall in the regular season, the Orlando Magic still proved to be the overall winner above all as all the players that they received far out-shined those that had been given up.

Both Arron Afflalo and Nicola Vucevic would go on to have career breakout season as Afflalo would lead the Magic in scoring before ending his season early due to injury while Vucevic made a case for winning the league's Most improved player of the Year Award as he too had an unexpectedly impressive breakout season.  Moe Harkless, who many did not expect to even play let alone contribute, also came up big for the Magic as he would finish among the top performers in the 2012 rookie class starting 59 of the 76 games he played while averaging eight points, four boards, and 1.2 steals per game (second on the team) in just 26 minutes of playing time.  Harkless' performance would not be outdone however, by the equally impressive by his fellow rookie teammate, Andrew Nicholson who also put up surprising impressive numbers averaging eight points, and two boards coming off the bench in just 15 minutes per game thus giving Orlando one of the deepest pools of young talent in the league.  And it is about to get deeper as Orlando will not only have the chance to grab more quality players thanks to their three first round picks, they also have a chance to acquire a potential franchise player as they will be pick second overall in the NBA draft. Altogether with the new faces and limitless potential, the future certainly look rather bright for NBA fans residing in Central Florida as they now have a team, who despite its youth and inexperience, has the tools to raise a few eyebrows in the the next few years and will certainly return to playoff contention sooner than anybody would have imagined.