Tonight the Utah Jazz continue their road trip, and face the Orlando Magic. Orlando, another small market team, has a nice young nucleus powered by rookie guard Victor Oladipo. But he's not the only up and coming star on the team. To talk about the Magic, and tonight's game against the Jazz we have Evan -- the main man at Orlando Pinstriped Post. We did a Q and A with him and my answers are up on their site over here. (I must say, Evan asks tough questions)
Without further ado, let's start our jam session.
1. Jazz fans don't follow much Eastern Conference basketball, and as a result, may be a little ignorant towards the season Arron Afflalo is having. Is he doing anything differently this year or is his performance just a product of playing time and role? I think he's an All-Star in the Eastern Conference this year. If that's going to happen, what seed do the Magic need to be by the selection date?
Evan: Without question, Afflalo's been the Magic's most pleasant surprise in the season to date. This is a guy putting up career-best numbers for the second straight season, but his first year with the Magic didn't seem like such a big success because his efficiency--which made him so lethal as a complementary player in his days with the Denver Nuggets--suffered so greatly.
The difference, I think, is his comfort level. In his first year in pinstripes, opposing teams had Afflalo at the tops of their scouting reports for the first time since he entered the league, and my sense is he wasn't entirely prepared for all that defensive attention. And coach Jacque Vaughn has said he needed that year to figure out what Afflalo could do. So the combination of adjustments at the team and game-planning levels has allowed him to thrive.
As far as his All-Star chances, I think he can punch his ticket to the game now. Yes, the Magic are lottery-bound, and coaches are usually loathe to select All-Star reserves from losing teams, but Afflalo's play to date has been so stellar that I don't think even they can overlook it.
2. What happened to Tobias Harris? He looked really good after the trade last year, and this year he can't get off the bench.
Evan: Harris sustained a high left ankle sprain in the preseason and missed the next month. He tested the ankle for one game in November, but re-aggravated the injury and thus needed more time off to rehabilitate it. He's back for good now and still getting back into a rhythm, as his 32.3 percent shooting so far this season indicates.
He's still a big part of the Magic's future and I don't worry too much about the time he missed.
3. How well are Nikola Vucevic and Glen Davis gelling as a front court tandem? The Utah Jazz seem lost at times when Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter are on the court at the same time. What is Jacque Vaughn doing that makes it work? Or is it just a product of their versatility, and not a coaching issue?
Evan: I think the pair work out okay, but that's just it: they're okay. Not great, not awful, just sort of there.
Vučević is a great rebounder and finisher inside, but he struggles to draw contact--though he's improving in that area--and as a result he's only slightly above average with regard to efficiency.
Davis is a different story. Since his days with the Boston Celtics, during which Doc Rivers asked him to become a jump-shooter to give the Cs' frontcourt some offensive versatility, Davis has fancied himself a more perimeter-oriented four. That's a polite way of saying he takes too many jumpers, given his inefficiency there. Then again, the Magic's offense stations him in the high post, and if Afflalo is out of the game--and sometimes even if he's on the floor--Davis is the guy the Magic count on to get them a bucket if there are five seconds or fewer remaining on the shot clock. Drawing the short straw in those late-clock situations compromises his efficiency somewhat.
I think Davis' best NBA position is center: he can hold his ground there defensively and, even though his height leads to opponents blocking his shots with startling frequency, he's still much more efficient on the interior than he is on the perimeter.
Davis and Vučević work together okay, but I do think that either Harris or Andrew Nicholson will serve as Vučević's frontcourt partner in the long term.
4. The Jazz are one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the league. Orlando is one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the league. How does this match up play out?
Evan: The answer to that question depends on the way in which Utah attacks the offensive glass. Does Tyrone Corbin send his wings in to crash, or does he have them get back in transition? Are the big guys boxer-outers or go-and-getters?
I'm inclined to give Orlando the edge here, because Vučević's length enables him to get a lot of rebounds even outside his area, but I'd need to know more about Utah's rebounding tendencies and style before I can answer with a better degree of certainty.
5. Victor Oladipo looks to be a major challenger to Michael Carter-Williams for Rookie of the Year. I'm not too humble to avoid bringing up Trey Burke into the discussion. All three fanbases are very happy with the production of these guys when they are on the court. What type of players do these teams need to surround these guards with in order to maximize their offensive talents? Do they need specialized talent, or do the games of these guards work with almost any type of roster?
Evan: I think Oladipo in particular needs floor-spacers: guys who can shoot the three to open up driving lanes for him. I also think he needs to play alongside a primary ballhandler who can run an offense more capably than Oladipo can; I'm not sold at him as a lead guard in this league, and I think five seasons from now he'll play primarily off the ball, while retaining the ability to make plays for himself off-the-dribble going to the basket.
The same principles hold true for Burke and Carter-Williams, though I think both are now and will always be point guards. Spacing in this league is more important now than ever, and the more shooters Utah and Philly give those guys, respectively, the better off they'll be.
I will say that Burke can thrive even in a more old-school NBA offense, because I think his pick-and-roll skills make him the most natural playmaker of the three
Thanks so much Evan, and please fans visit Orlando Pinstriped Post for all of their great content; not just for this game, but in general. They document everything! And you can check out my answers to Evan's questions here. Be sure to follow Evan on twitter @BQRMagic and their blog @OPPMagicBog !