Andrew Nicholson was the prospect, the college star with an advanced offensive game. Kyle O’Quinn was the project, with limited basketball experience but a big man’s body. Their draft positions clearly show how much the Orlando Magic valued each player. Nicholson was drafted with the 19th overall pick. O’Quinn wasn’t taken until the 19th pick of the 2nd round (49th overall). If O’Quinn worked out, great, but Magic fans were excited for Andrew Nicholson.
After a year and a half in the NBA, it’s pretty clear that the gem of that Magic draft turned out to be O’Quinn, not Nicholson. While both players have struggled for playing time in Jacque Vaughn’s bizzaro rotations, it’s O’Quinn who’s made the most of those minutes. He’s rebounding at elite rates, scoring efficiently, and quickly becoming Orlando’s only menacing rim protector. Nicholson continues to entice with his smooth offensive game, but so far it’s been more aesthetically pleasing than particularly effective.
O’Quinn is staying within himself in the offense, hitting an efficient 51.3% of his field goal attempts. He doesn’t shoot a lot, less than 10 attempts per 36 minutes, but he’s on the court for his other skills. He’s pulling down a cool 11.6 rebounds per 36 minutes (close to Nikola Vucevic numbers), and more importantly, he’s swatting 2.3 shots per 36, the only Magic player to be over 2. On a team severely lacking in rim protectors, that importance can’t be overstated. He’s already an above average NBA player. His PER of 14.4 underestimates his value because of his lack of shot attempts. He’s got a Wins Produced per 48 minutes of .122 when the average player only has a WP48 of .100.
Nicholson is a different story. He’s regressed in his second year and despite a few new tricks, he’s not on O’Quinn’s level. He’s hitting 50.3% of his 2 point field goal attempts, and 31.3% of his threes. The three is new this year (he didn’t even attempt one last year) but until he hits at least 33% of them, he’s hurting his efficiency. He’s not the same defensive force O’Quinn is either. He’s averaging 8.9 rebounds per 36 minutes and only 0.9 blocks. For a player who’s offensive game is supposed to be his calling card, his below average 99 Offensive Rating is disappointing. (Consider that O’Quinn, the less heralded scorer, has an offensive rating of 103)
Now there are still major holes in O’Quinn’s game, namely fouls and turnovers. He averages 5.7 fouls per 36 minutes, an unsustainable rate that limits his playing time. Of course for a bench player foul trouble isn’t a major problem, and he’s their only real enforcer on the inside, but if he ever wants to earn more playing time he has to be more disciplined on defense. That comes with reps, and he’s cut his foul rate marginally from last year (6.0 per 36). His final flaw is turnovers. He’s averaging 2.6 per 36 minutes, an uptick from last year’s 2.1. He isn’t totally comfortable with the ball unless he’s shooting it immediately. Again, that will come in time.
It’s too early to call Andrew Nicholson a bust. His three point development is encouraging, and once he perfects it he will have much more value as a stretch 4. He needs to improve defensively, but so does everyone else on the Magic roster. Just because he hasn’t developed yet doesn’t mean he won’t, but so far he has fallen behind Kyle O’Quinn.
What do you think? Who’s the better prospect? Kyle O’Quinn or Andrew Nicholson? Let us know in the comments section below!