Denton: Examining the Magic's Point Guards

Nelson, Oladipo, Moore, Price

By John Denton
August 19, 2013

ORLANDO – With the start of training camp slightly more than six weeks away, it’s time to start breaking down the Orlando Magic’s roster for the upcoming season.

The Magic are loaded with a dynamic mix of veterans (Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis, Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Maxiell), a promising young, returning core (Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic, Maurice Harkless and Andrew Nicholson) and a prized rookie (Victor Oladipo). Though likely to be in another developmental season, the Magic feature the kind of rapidly improving talent base that have many experts feeling that Orlando will make major steps this season.

It will be interesting to see how second-year head coach Jacque Vaughn uses his wide-ranging personnel as he mixes and matches lineups throughout the upcoming season. Will he use Oladipo, the second overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft, as a point guard, shooting guard or both? Will Tobias Harris, a revelation late last season after arriving in Orlando, continue to play power forward or switch back to small forward? Will the addition of Jason Maxiell and the healthy return of Davis make the Magic a better defensive team? And will Vucevic, one of the NBA’s top rebounders last season, evolve into a go-to scorer in the post this season following a summer of arduous work to improve his game?

In time, all of those questions will be answered. For now, all we can do is look ahead to the Magic’s bright future and count down the days until the Oct. 1 start of training camp.

To pass the time, OrlandoMagic.com will break down each position on the Magic roster over the coming weeks to assess the strengths and weaknesses and burning questions at each spot on the floor.

Without further ado, today we take a look at the point guard position:

PROJECTED STARTER

  • Jameer Nelson (6-0, 190, nine NBA seasons): A fixture at point guard in Orlando for nearly a decade, Nelson ranks third in franchise history in games played (583). He figures to remain the starter on a young team in need of direction and leadership. Staying healthy has always been difficult for Nelson and it won’t be any easier this season as he approaches his 32nd birthday. Nelson actually had a solid season last year, averaging a career-best in assists (7.4 apg.) and his highest scoring output (14.7 ppg.) in four years. He will be pushed for playing time this year and could ultimately surrender his starting job to Oladipo.
  • RESERVES

  • Victor Oladipo (6-4, 215, NBA rookie): The college star shooting guard will see plenty of time this season at point guard because of his ability to hound opposing ball handlers and his knack for getting into the lane off the dribble. He showed those traits in the summer league when he got to the free throw line 40 times in four games and looked at ease in the spotlight of running a team. His jump shot and ability to handle ball pressure will be tested early and often, but he figures to have the quickness, smarts and work ethic to become the kind of guard who can be a major difference-maker for the Magic.
  • E’Twaun Moore (6-4, 191, two NBA seasons): Moore can play either guard position, but he is better suited off the ball where he can spot up for shots. He even played some small forward at times last season when Vaughn went to a small-ball lineup to get more shooting on the floor. Moore had a great start to the season, but he tailed off badly after suffering a nasty elbow injury. He must play with more confidence and conviction this season less he be shuffled out of the primary rotation.
  • Ronnie Price (6-2, 190, eight NBA seasons): Price was signed this offseason to provide some veteran leadership and steadiness at the point guard position. He’s played for Sacramento, Utah, Phoenix and Portland in his NBA career and one of his primary responsibilities in Orlando will be to assist Oladipo’s learning curve at the point guard position.
  • KEY QUESTION: Can Oladipo limit the turnovers, knock down open shots and get into the lane to create for others as a point guard for the Magic?

    ANALYSIS: Considered Orlando’s best leader for years, Nelson will be in the role now of mentoring and helping Oladipo become a well-rounded player. Oladipo will play some at shooting guard and some at point guard, meaning that Afflalo and Nelson will likely retain their starting jobs for this season. Nelson showed last season that he still has plenty left in the tank, but he must find a way to remain healthy the entire season. In many ways, the education and development of Oladipo will be priority No. 1 this season for the Magic. He has the drive to be better, the work ethic and the talent – factors that should ensure him of steady growth. Assuredly, the Magic will ease him into the point guard position so as to not overwhelm the rookie. Moore can also play both guard slots and when staying aggressive he is a valuable piece for the Magic. But if he slumps like he did last season he could be shuffled out of the mix on a young team that is getting better. Price is a break-glass-if-necessary option at point guard and it will be interesting to watch him work with Oladipo.

    FINAL THOUGHT: Point guard is arguably the NBA’s deepest and most dynamic position what with Tony Parker, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Steph Curry, Rajon Rondo, Mike Conley, Deron Williams, John Wall, Damian Lillard, Ricky Rubio and Steve Nash manning the position. The Magic should be competitive at the point with the gritty Nelson and a blossoming Oladipo. Also, give the Magic front office credit for thinking outside the box by taking Oladipo, a cat-quick and rangy college shooting guard, and turning him into a ball-hawking point guard in the NBA.

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    Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Magic and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

     

     

     

     




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