Denton: Examining the Magic's Small Forwards

Harkless, Harris, Turkoglu

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, 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:


  • Maurice Harkless (6-9, 210, one NBA season): Harkless showed tremendous signs of greatness last season, proving why the Magic consider him to be a building block piece for the future. He got off to a slow start after missing all of summer league and training camp in 2012 because of a sports hernia. But once he moved into the lineup permanently he had flashes of brilliance. He had four 20-point games late last season, including a 28-point effort in Houston that left him two points shy of becoming the youngest Magic player ever to score 30 points. But his forte is his defense and ability to rebound the basketball. Harkless had one block in 38 games, at least two blocked shots in 16 games and incredibly he blocked four shots in a game four times last season. He had a steal in 50 games, two steals 22 times and a career-best six swipes against Oklahoma City in March.

  • Tobias Harris (6-9, 226, two NBA seasons): Harris is included here because of his dazzling versatility and his need to play big minutes at several positions for the Magic. He is a natural small forward, but he played almost exclusively at power forward last season in Orlando following his trade from the Milwaukee Bucks. Undoubtedly, he will play major minutes this season, but more could come at small forward because of the return of Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis and the addition of Jason Maxiell. In 27 games with the Magic last spring, Harris averaged 17.5 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.55 blocks a game. He had nine 20-point games and two 30-point games in a Magic uniform and he has the aggressive scorer’s mindset that Orlando desperately needs.
  • Hedo Turkoglu (6-10, 220, 13 NBA seasons): The veteran small forward is still a member of the Magic for now. His $12 million contract for this season is only partially guaranteed ($6 million), meaning his future with the Magic is still very much up in the air. Turkoglu suffered through a dismal 2012-13 season what with a hand injury in the first game and a NBA-mandated suspension late in the season. Turkoglu is determined to prove that he still has something left in the tank and he feels that he can help a NBA team with his ability to create for himself and others off the dribble. If Turkoglu’s time in Orlando is done, his legacy with the Magic is still set as he is universally thought of as one of the 15 best players in franchise history.

    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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    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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