The Orlando Magic are entering All-Star weekend riding high after their best stretch of basketball this season. Victories over the Oklahoma City Thunder and Indiana Pacers were spurred by the Orlando Magic’s emergent bench. Last week, we graded the Magic’s front office and starting line-up on their mid-season performance and now it’s time to evaluate that bench.
Maurice Harkless – B
Harkless’ season has been a mixed bag. His playing time and counting stats are down from last year with the arrival of Victor Oladipo and a healthy Glen Davis, but there are real signs of encouragement. After a slow start, his shooting has greatly improved of late and he’s hitting over 36% of his three-point attempts this season. His defense continues to be the best on the team, and he stood toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant and Paul George this week.
His grade isn’t higher because he is still too passive at times on offense, and spends entire games outside the flow. He’s been discouraged about his inconsistent playing time, but the reality is that he wouldn’t be getting 21 minutes per game on a contending team. He’s still only 20 years old and looks to be a foundational piece for the Magic.
Andrew Nicholson – D
Nicholson’s season can only be counted as a disappointment. The supposedly offensively gifted player has seen his FG% drop from 52.7% as a rookie to 43.9% this year. He did add a borderline effective three-pointer (30%) but it hasn’t made up for his interior struggles. His poor play has led to less minutes which has fed into his poor play. (And no, that wasn’t a typo) He’s trying so hard to prove himself in limited minutes that it seems like he hasn’t passed the ball since November.
These growing pains would be more tolerable if Nicholson wasn’t already 24 years old. While there’s still a productive player in there, he has been supplanted by Kyle O’Quinn as the Magic’s most exciting interior prospect.