Denton: Ten Burning Questions (Page 1)



By John Denton
September 28, 2012

ORLANDO – Change will likely be a constant theme of the Orlando Magic this season as the squad adapts to a new-look roster, coaching staff and management team.

But as new head coach Jacque Vaughn stresses, change can sometimes be a good thing.

Led by new GM Rob Hennigan and Vaughn, a Magic team with a core of returning players and several new faces is embarking upon a transition phase for the franchise. But, as Vaughn has said repeatedly, that doesn’t mean that the Magic don’t still expect to be highly competitive and progressing all season long. Vaughn, 37 and a head coach for the first time, wants no pity for his team being without Dwight Howard and said that the Magic are eager to prove themselves this season.

``A great message that I’ve tried to tell our guys is that this is not a woe-is-me era,’’ Vaughn said. ``This is an opportunity for us as an organization to keep moving forward. Our GM in place (Hennigan) will make some strategic moves to get good people in the locker room for me to coach. And our vision of winning basketball games has not changed at all.’’

The Magic will conduct Media Day on Monday and open training camp on Tuesday. After three two-a-day sessions, the team will fly to Mexico City on Friday to face the New Orleans Hornets on Sunday. The first preseason home game is Oct. 11 against Philadelphia and the regular-season home-opener is Nov. 2 against Denver.

With so many new faces both on the roster and along the sidelines, there are plenty of questions surrounding the Magic heading into training camp. In this story, we’ll take a look at the 10 most burning questions surrounding the Magic as training camp is set to begin:

1. What style will new Magic coach Jacque Vaughn employ this season?
Vaughn is a head coach for the first time, but he comes to the Magic with a wealth of knowledge from having played point guard and having played for some of the best coaches in NBA history. Vaughn admits that many of his traits as a coach will stem from what he learned from the likes of Jerry Sloan, Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers. Therefore, he’ll likely rely on a style where his team will play aggressively on both ends of the floor, but also unselfishly. The former point guard in Vaughn will also demand that his team has plenty of player and ball movement.

With Howard and Stan Van Gundy long gone, the days of the Magic’s four-out, one-in offense are also a distant memory. The Magic will be less of a postup team and more of one that relies on the penetration of the likes of Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo and Hedo Turkoglu. And defensively, the Magic will have to be a team that helps more and pressures the ball more because of the lack of a shot-blocker in the paint.

2. Who will emerge as the go-to scorer in key spots and late in games?
With a collection of talented and proven veterans, the Magic could evolve into a 2012-13 version of the 2011-12 Denver Nuggets this season. Last season’s Nuggets squad dealt with the loss of Carmelo Anthony by having six players average double figures and four more average at least 8.2 points per game. This Magic team could very well be constructed in similar fashion with Afflalo, Jameer Nelson, Glen Davis, Hedo Turkoglu, J.J. Redick and Al Harrington taking turns leading the squad in scoring.

In crunch time, I believe it will be Afflalo who will evolve as the Magic’s go-to scorer. He’s improved his game tremendously over the past four seasons, improving his scoring average each season. Also, he is fearless attacking the basket and can be the player the Magic can rely upon to get to the free throw line.

3. Can Glen "Big Baby’’ Davis pick up where he left off in the playoffs last spring and be a double-double threat?
Davis struggled early last season when he was beaten out by Ryan Anderson for the starting power forward spot. But Davis responded late in the season after Howard went down with a back injury and he moved to the starting center slot. Davis carried the Magic through the playoffs, averaging 19 points a game and holding his own against Indiana’s Roy Hibbert.

Davis spent much of this past offseason preparing himself to play 35-38 minutes a night. This is the first time in his five-year NBA career that he has a legitimate shot at becoming a full-time starter. The Magic also want Davis to play more under control with his emotions and actions, and thus far he’s evolved into a team leader with his work ethic over the summer.

4. Who will win the starting center job?
Nikola Vucevic, or Nick as he’s known to his teammates, was highly coveted by the Magic in the blockbuster trade executed back in August. After playing three seasons at USC, Vucevic was the No. 16 pick of the 2011 NBA Draft. And he 76ers believed in him enough last season to play him in 51 games and start him 15 games.

He’s a solid rebounder and defender in the post and seems to have a leg up on the starter’s job at center. Vucevic has a nice face-up jump shot and his size (7-foot, 240 pounds) will be needed to give the Magic some bulk on the inside.

Davis will undoubtedly play some center, and he might be better suited for that position because he’s better playing with his back to the basket as opposed to facing it. Gustavo Ayon played both center and power forward in New Orleans last season and will get some looks in the post because of his athleticism. Rookie Kyle O’Quinn, a second-round pick, impressed the Magic during the summer league with his toughness and ability and should compete for backup minutes at center.

5. How will the minutes and shots at shooting guard between Arron Afflalo and J.J. Redick be divided?
This will be one of the first difficult calls for Vaughn to make as the Magic’s head coach because he has two shooting guards who will likely command starter’s minutes with their play.

Afflalo is eager to continue his progress as a pro and show the fans of Orlando that he is a player that can be counted upon. It certainly won’t hurt his motivation that the Magic open the regular season against Denver, Afflalo’s former team and one that traded him away in favor of Andre Iguodala. The one knock on Afflalo is that he is sometimes too low key and too mellow and Denver coach George Karl constantly harped on him to be more of a vocal leader. Vaughn will certainly be looking to Afflalo to show the way for the Magic’s younger players.

Redick was one of the Magic’s best players in the playoffs last spring and has earned more minutes by steadily improving his game. Redick is also in a contract year and hopes to earn some long-term security from the Magic. He has worked tremendously hard all summer to improve his quickness and leg strength and is poised for a great season. And he’ll almost certainly want as many minutes as he can get to put up stellar numbers this season.

Afflalo will be the starter, but I could see both he and Redick being on the floor at the same time late in games. Afflao is an elite defender and can guard both shooting guards and small forwards. Meanwhile, Redick is an impressive pick-and-roll player who can take some of the ball-handling load off of Jameer Nelson’s shoulders. So look for Afflalo and Redick to play together a lot this season because of their versatility.

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