Rebuilding in the NBA is just as natural as the jump shot. Sometimes it can be an easy transition, but other times it could be a nightmare, especially when you do it in the absence of Dwight Howard.
In the aftermath of the three-team trade which sent Howard to Los Angeles, on paper, it appeared that the Magic didn’t get much in return for Howard. Trading away the NBA’s best center, the Magic received Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic, Arron Afflalo, Moe Harkless, Christian Eyenga and Josh McRoberts.
In terms of star power, Orlando didn’t get much in return, but they did receive players who are scrappy, players who provide leadership, and players who possess an unlimited potential to shine.
In hindsight at 14-25 the trade isn’t looking that bad. Jameer Nelson, J.J. Reddick, and Arron Afflalo have emerged as the leaders on the team that is filled with young talent. Vucevic is giving them solid minutes and there is an overall semblance of solidarity and unity on this Magic team.
Vucevic’s 29 rebounds against the Heat set a franchise record for most rebounds in a game and he’s averaging 11.3 points and 10.8 rebounds this season.
Even though they are 11 games under .500 (14-25), the Magic are the eighth best in the NBA as far as assists per game as a team. This team is sharing the ball and is playing together. They couldn’t care less about who scores, as long as they win. Orlando is 19-21 this season when five or more players score in double figures. This season the Magic are averaging 93.3 ppg, and are currently shooting .453 from the field; that ranks tenth in the NBA this season.
Since the 2008-2009 season, the Magic are 72-4 when shooting 54 percent or better from the field, including 5-2 this season. The Magic are 3-10 in their last 13 games, however those games have been decided by four points or less.
When asked about the Magic’s inability to close out close games, Head Coach Jacque Vaughn replied: “At the end in the locker room, I told our guys that this is about different challenges throughout the course of the season and everyone wants to win. It’s what makes us competitors. Do I reference the score? No. Do I reference specifics in the game and how we stayed together throughout the course of the game; how we communicated and adjusted with each other? Those are the things I’d mention.”
Vaughn has tinkered with the starting lineup many times this season using 13 different starting lineups. Recently he has dabbled with the lineup by taking Maurice Harkless out of the starting lineup and replacing him with DeQuan Jones. This move gives the Magic starters more of a scoring punch as opposed to the one dimensional defensive-oriented Harkless.
Furthermore, Harkless has a flawed offensive game, he has only scored in double figures once, by tallying 10 points on November 13 against the Knicks. Even with a flawed offensive game the upside of Harkless is really high. He is extremely athletic with a defensive game that reminds many of the coaching staff of a young Tayshaun Prince.
This Magic team has a lot of work to do to improve the rest of the year. Finishing at .500 would be considered a successful season. They have proved that they will do anything to win, and they have a bond that cannot and will not be broken; not by trade rumors, or even a rebuilding process.
The theme for this season is clear and that is, we will stay together at all cost, wins or lose.