Denton: Examining the Magic's Small Forwards
By John Denton
September 3, 2013
ORLANDO – With the start of training camp four 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 small forward position:
KEY QUESTION: After having his first full summer of work with the Magic to strengthen his body and sharpen his skills is this the season when Maurice Harkless shows off his massive potential?
ANALYSIS: Harkless and Harris have been fixtures at the Magic’s headquarters this offseason, both working diligently on their bodies and their games for the upcoming season. Harkless is already bigger and much stronger, and this season he must become a better shooter and playmaker off the dribble. Already an ace defensively, more will be asked of him on the offensive end of the floor. Harris proved last season that he could hold his own at power forward, but he’ll also play some small forward in bigger lineups. He has the size and quickness to be a matchup nightmare all over the floor, but his outside shot must improve. Arron Afflalo, Orlando’s likely starter at shooting guard, can also play some small forward to boost the Magic’s depth at this position. Rookie Romero Osby, a power forward at the University of Oklahoma, could also see some playing time at small forward because of his toughness and ability to score.
FINAL THOUGHT: While developing rookie guard Victor Oladipo is the top priority of the upcoming season, making sure that second-year forward Maurice Harkless progresses isn’t far behind. Much of the Magic’s success in the future is tied to the steady growth and improvement of Harkless, a prototypical small forward because of his rangy size and defensive abilities. Seeing Harkless shine and make major improvements would qualify the upcoming season as a smashing success.
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