Denton: Examining the Magic's Power Forwards

Davis, Nicholson, Harris, Maxiell, Osby

By John Denton
September 9, 2013

ORLANDO – With the start of training camp three 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, 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 power forward position:


  • Tobias Harris (6-9, 226, two NBA seasons): The Magic uncovered a hidden gem last February when they traded for Harris, who had rarely played for the Milwaukee Bucks. In his 27 games with the Magic, Harris averaged 17.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.37 blocks a game. He had nine 20-point games and two 30-point games for the Magic, while also corralling double-digit rebounds nine times. Harris is usually a matchup nightmare for opponents because he is too big for small forwards and too quick for power forwards. He comes into games with an aggressive mentality and he can pile up points in a hurry – something the Magic will need once again this season. Clearly, he has already become one of the building block pieces for the Magic.

  • Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis (6-9, 289, six NBA seasons): The Magic were a solid club last season when Davis was healthy, racing to an 11-10 start while also ranking in the Top 10 in the NBA in defensive efficiency. But that early success came crashing down when Davis first separated his shoulder and later broke a bone in his left foot. He needed a second surgery on his foot in July – one that will likely keep him out of action in training camp as he works to rehabilitate his foot. Davis showed great maturity last season, becoming more of a leader and controlling his emotions. Before getting injured, he was in the midst of his finest season in the NBA while averaging 15.1 points and 7.2 rebounds. When he can get back healthy, he will instantly make the Magic a better defensive team because of his ability to clog the lane and his toughness.
  • Jason Maxiell (6-7, 260, eight NBA seasons): Orlando signed Maxiell away from the Pistons this summer because he can play both power forward and center and provide some much-needed physicality down low. Despite being undersized at 6-foot-7, Maxiell makes up for it with incredible strength and a nasty streak. He put up some of the best numbers of his career last season in Detroit while averaging 6.9 points (his second-most ever), 5.7 rebounds (a career-best) and 1.3 blocks (another career best). The Magic are also hoping that his no-nonsense, tough demeanor will rub off on some of the team’s young players.
  • Andrew Nicholson (6-9, 250, one NBA season): Nicholson has backed up a solid rookie season by working hard to strengthen his body and improve his game. He was a regular at the Magic headquarters early in the offseason while working to add muscle and strength. He has spent much of the past month playing impressively in the FIBA Americas Championship with the Canadian National Team. The hope is that his added muscle and added experience will make him a better defensive player this upcoming season. Nicholson proved last season he can provide instant offense by averaging 7.8 points a game off the bench. He had two 20-point games and 28 games where he scored in double digits. If he is improved defensively, he should push for reserve minutes at power forward.
  • Romero Osby (6-8, 240, NBA rookie): The Magic made a tender contract offer to Osby, meaning they control his rights whether he actually plays in the NBA or overseas this upcoming season. Orlando selected Osby with the 51st pick of the June NBA Draft out of Oklahoma. He is a bit undersized as a power forward, but he makes up for it with great strength, toughness and a willingness to fight inside. As a senior at Oklahoma, he averaged 16.0 points and 7.0 rebounds a game. He is expected to get a look in training camp, and his future with the Magic could come down to whether or not he can play small forward as well as power forward.
  • KEY QUESTION: With Glen Davis expected back early in the season, how will the Magic successfully mix playing Tobias Harris, Jason Maxiell, Andrew Nicholson and Davis at the power forward slot?

    ANALYSIS: The Magic will have a variety of options at power forward with which they can play big or small. Harris showed star potential last season and gives the Magic a power forward who can score from the block, off the dribble or from the perimeter. Davis and Maxiell are tough bangers who will provide some veteran know-how. And Nicholson should once again give the Magic some instant offense off the bench. Mixing and matching these players will sometimes be a challenge, but it helps that Harris can play small forward and Davis and Maxiell can also spend time at center. Harris will likely begin the season as the starter at power forward, but he could move back to small forward to accommodate the return of Davis. Regardless, the Magic should be well-stocked at the position regardless of what kind of lineup is needed.

    FINAL THOUGHT: Harris will play big minutes because of his ability to score and impact the game in a variety of ways, but the Magic also must get Davis and Maxiell on the floor because of their defensive grit and rebounding toughness. Finding the right rotation for these three players – they all three could play together in certain situations – should make the Magic a vastly improved team along the frontline.

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