Nate Timmons: Tell me a little bit about Victor Oladipo. What do you like about his game and what needs to improve for the rookie?
Lashbrook: Oladipo is a ball of energy ready to explode at any moment. That creates good things: hounding defense, at times, and a quick first step when attacking the rim. And it creates bad things: turnovers and lots of them. He came to Orlando playing almost exclusively as a wing, but the Magic are transitioning him to point guard, where he's split most of his minutes. So he's playing against the best athletes he's ever faced on a nightly basis while learning to play the toughest position in the sport.
As you can probably imagine, he's struggled quite a bit in that transition. He doesn't really know how to run an offense and he often holds the ball for way too long because, well, he doesn't really know where to go with the ball. He gets blocked a ton when he gets to the rim and he struggles in creating for easy baskets for teammates when he drives.
I can't imagine that Oladipo is the long term solution at point guard, but I love how Orlando is using him. If he's going to struggle, and I imagine most everyone in the organization knew he would at first, then let it be the year where the wasn't much hope anyways. He is improving incrementally and if he can become a nice, secondary ball handler in the future ala Iguodala then that's great. If not, he'll at least have better ball skills moving forward.
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Timmons: What Magic player have you been most surprised by this season and why? Good or bad.
Lashbrook: Arron Afflalo. I loved him in Denver. He was the epitome of the 3-and-D type guys that are sprinkled throughout the league. But I was a little worried that he was the best return in the Dwight Howard deal. He struggled pretty bad in his first season; he was asked to do too much (creating offense, guarding the opposing team's best players, posting up, etc.). He put up his best raw numbers, but advanced statistics weren't very kind.
This season? Completely different. He's morphed himself from a spot up shooter to a guy you can legitimately make a case for as the third or fourth best shooting guard in the NBA. He can score off the dribble just as well as he can spot up, he can score with decent efficiency in the post and, this is most impressive, he's setting up teammates at a higher rate than ever. It's been a joy watching him improve.
Timmons: What is not being discussed enough about this Orlando team?
Lashbrook: The length of a rebuild. I think most Magic fans expect this team to snag a superstar or two in the offseason and be done with the rebuild but, uhhh, I'm not really sure that's possible. Most of the young free agents are restricted and there's only one or two guys who the Magic can draft and immediately become playoff contenders. Even then, the team will likely fight for a 7 or 8 seed only to get knocked out of the post-season.
Magic GM Rob Hennigan is practicing patience and is encouraging fans to practice it too. But I don't think most Magic fans really understand how long that patience will have to hold. This really isn't a team ready to win next year unless something dramatic happens. This is a team likely to go through two or three more rough years before finding wins. The hope is, however, that these rough years will translate into a decade long span of contending for titles.
Timmons: Andrew Nicholson was on the Nuggets' radar in 2012 and had Orlando not taken him at no. 19, the Nuggets were ready to grab him at no. 20 (this was confirmed by George Karl to me last season). Instead the Magic got him and Denver nabbed Evan Fournier. How is he coming along in a reserve role? Why is he only getting 18 minutes a night on such a young team?
Lashbrook: Nicholson is really, really good on offense. I advocated pretty hard for him to start at power forward before the season started. He shoots corner threes and posts up efficiently. There's an argument there that he's the best go to scorer aside from Afflalo. This year, he's improved mightily as a defender and rebounder--two aspects that haunted him last season.
Why does he only get 18 minutes a night? Beats me. There's a running joke on OPP of Jacque Vaughn's obsession with "matchups" and I'm sure that's one of the thought processes that goes into snubbing Nich on the bench. The power forward position is also really cluttered in Orlando, so that's another possibility.
Timmons: Let's talk a bit more about our guy Afflalo. Can it work with him and Oladipo there? Do the Magic need to pick one guy and get rid of the other?
Lashbrook: You know, I was all for flipping Afflalo for Eric Bledsoe this offseason, but now I could totally imagine Orlando holding onto him for the long run. His contract isn't too gaudy and he can actually play small forward for stretches alongside Oladipo. His numbers at SF are are pretty identical than at SG on both sides of the ball, but the sample size is kind of small.
It's easy to say the Magic should trade Afflalo. Oladipo is presumably the shooting guard of the future and Afflalo is simply in the way right now. But why would Orlando ship him out for less value than he's worth? That's bad business and Hennigan has shown an allergic reaction to bad business. Right now, I don't think there's much out there on the market that would equal what Afflalo would give in return. For now, I say run with it Magic!
Big thanks to Tyler for joining us to talk Magic ... hoops Magic, not magic magic.