With the draft rapidly approaching, there has been a select few power forwards that have been projected to be taken in the lottery, where the Magic hold two picks, at four and 12. Having a need at power forward, it is only natural that the Magic would consider some of these players. College standouts such as Noah Vonleh, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon would all be solid picks in this range, but the Magic could have a solution already on the roster in Kyle O’Quinn, who will be going into his third year with the team. Because of his defense and ability to pass the ball from the high post, he is an ideal fit next to the Magic’s low-post cornerstone, Nikola Vucevic. It also helps that Kyle O’Quinn has a beard so majestic that it can only be rivaled by the Vikings, and not the ones in Minnesota. Come on. Even Zach Lowe gave the beard some love.
Even though I could probably write an article dedicated to that beautiful mass of facial hair, I guess I have a point to make. So what makes O’Quinn, a second-round pick, better for the Magic than these names being mentioned at the top of the draft? The answer is simple, really. So simple that it requires only three letters – fit.
O’Quinn has been entrenched in head coach Jacque Vaughn’s system for both his rookie and sophomore seasons and that should not change going forward, given that he has improved over the course of his young career. O’Quinn’s numbers jumped across the board in 2013-2014, a product of more games played and more of a comfort in Jacque Vaughn’s system.
However, even though O’Quinn’s improvement has been almost as impressive as his beard, his value lies in how he can compliment Vucevic on both offense and defense. When playing with Vucevic, O’Quinn’s numbers improved in key categories such as assists, steals, rebounds and blocked shots. Even though his points per game decreased with Vucevic on the floor, he would not be relied on to be a scoring machine. Vucevic would take most of the scoring load in the paint, a role he has become accustomed to in his first two seasons in Orlando.
See? He just needs a bearded friend to help!
On the contrary, O’Quinn would essentially play a role similar to DeAndre Jordan in Los Angeles. No, he wouldn’t ruin Brandon Knight’s life. He would be a player that would not require plays drawn up for him. He would be relied on to just clean up the mess and score when he could. O’Quinn also excelled in the high post, making smart decisions to shoot if he had the shot, shooting 41.8 percent from midrange last year, or pass the ball to an open teammate, as he has shown an ability to excel at.
On defense, his role would be much more pivotal than on the offensive side of the floor. While Vucevic has the potential to be an upper-echelon center in the NBA, his struggles on defense have been no secret. The Magic have to compensate for that in some way. That is where O’Quinn has shown Orlando just what he is capable of. Last season, O’Quinn led the Magic in blocks with 1.28 per game and when given consistent starters’ minutes in April, his block total ballooned to 2.4 blocks per game over the course of eight games. This is only a small sample size of what O’Quinn can do on the defensive end of the court. With this kind of production, he can easily make up for Vucevic’s defensive shortcomings.
So why does O’Quinn deserve to be a starter? The numbers do the talking in this case. O’Quinn was undeniably better as a starter than when he came off the bench last season.
|Games Played||Points Per Game||Assists Per Game||Rebounds Per Game||Steals Per Game||Blocks Per Game|
Even though I’ve used this article to praise O’Quinn’s game, and rightfully so, he does have a glaring hole in his game. He seems to get into foul trouble more often than not, as he averaged 3.3 fouls per game in the month of April, the highest of any month of the season. However, while this number is high, I do not think it should cause concern for Magic fans. Remember, O’Quinn is still raw and has room to improve. As he matures and grows, he should gain a better instinct of how to defend without fouling.
Players like Vonleh, Randle and Gordon would be excellent fits in Orlando, but O’Quinn’s improvement on both ends of the floor bodes well for the Magic. They can focus on filling other holes, at point guard and small forward specifically, on the roster with their two lottery picks. It’s time to unleash the beard in 2014-2015 and let O’Quinn show what he can do given consistent starers’ minutes.