240 minutes. 240 minutes is the most basic essence of basketball. These 240 minutes decides who touches the floor and who sits idling by. 240 minutes is the amount of minutes played by a team in an NBA game.
The Orlando Magic have undergone a complete makeover this off-season, and now huge questions about playing time exist. Who are the starters? Who’s playing what position? Who’s on the outside looking in? The real answer — with Jacque Vaughn‘s philosophy of “There are no real positions outside of Center,” — is hard to tell. Vaughn has shown that he’s more than willing to play unconventional lineups, most notably his fondness last year of running a three shooting guard, two power forward lineup. (Oladipo, Moore, Afflalo, Harris, Nicholson/Davis). However, this season with what could be considered more talent, the former floor general has many things to consider. What do you do with future building blocks Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton? Did you pay Ben Gordon 4.5 million to sit on the bench? Channing Frye is going to play but how much and how does it affect Andrew Nicholson and Tobias Harris? Well i’m going to take a crack at answering those questions.
Victor Oladipo PG/SG (36 MPG): As much as I don’t want to see Oladipo play point guard, I believe the Magic want to continue to play him on the ball as much as possible. Oladipo will likely see some minutes at shooting guard and depending on the development of Elfrid Payton you could see Oladipo play more shooting guard than point. That said, I believe that’ll be towards the latter part of the season rather than earlier.
Evan Fournier SG (26 MPG): The Magic traded their leading scorer and arguably best player last season in Arron Afflalo for Fournier. With that in mind, Orlando must have a plan for him. Fournier can shoot and space they floor well, and said that when he initially talked with the Magic after being traded that he was told he’d have the ball in his hands more than he did in Denver. So expect him to share ball handling duties with Oladipo at the start of games.
Maurice Harkless SF (30 MPG) : A lot of people may not like this but I do not believe Aaron Gordon is anywhere near ready to start in the NBA. Harkless is an improving three-point shooter and has shown flashes of being a lockdown defender. This will likely be a make or break year for Harkless in regards to his long term viability with the Magic.
Channing Frye PF/C (24 MPG): The frontcourt for Orlando is absolutely loaded. Frye was signed to a pretty nice sized contract and 24 MPG might be low but this is a tough spot. However, one would expect Frye would start thanks to his ability to space the floor and match up with bigger PF’s on the defensive end, rather than Tobias Harris.
Nikola Vucevic C (32 MPG): Vucevic is the unquestioned starting Center here. Kyle O’Quinn is no slouch and is definitely the superior team defender and might steal some minutes, but Vucevic is a much more confident offensive player and has shown flashes of being an elite center.
Tobias Harris PF/SF (24 MPG): Harris is going to be Orlando’s Sixth Man and is an efficient scorer who can do damage against slower 4’s. Combine that with Orlando’s offensive ineptitude off the bench and this is likely a good move for both the player and the team. Now while I feel 24 minutes isn’t enough PT for Harris, but Orlando’s crowded frontcourt is going to make this a difficult situation. I find it hard to believe that Harris will be happy with this amount of playing time, hopefully the Magic will find a way to manage this situation well.
Elfrid Payton PG (22 MPG): Payton will be Orlando’s main guard off the bench almost a second sixth man of sorts. Payton offers Orlando something unique which could expand his role greatly, and that’s the ability to create for others. The downside to Payton is that his jumper is still rather ineffective and he would likely hurt floor spacing on a team that’s already lacking floor spacing. So the question becomes can he still create effectively while clogging up the paint? Sure sounds like a Rajon Rondo debate to me.
Aaron Gordon SF (18 MPG) : Once again this is controversial, but I don’t really see how Aaron Gordon can start at this stage of his development. Many people (myself included) thought Gordon was going to play undersized tweener 4 but in retrospect he doesn’t really have a 4’s skill set in any aspect. Orlando played him at the 3 in Summer League and then went out and signed Channing Frye to start at the 4. Gordon should be a good defender off the bat but offensively he’ll need to live off of others. Honestly, slotting him 18 MPG might be generous considering you’re taking those minutes away from guys like Harris, Frye, and O’Quinn but he was the fourth overall pick in the draft.
Kyle O’Quinn C/PF (16 MPG): Kyle O’Quinn is the perfect backup Center, maybe even too perfect. He’s a great rim protector, has a solid mid-range jumper, can pass the ball, and is a very good rebounder. O’Quinn is one of my favorite players on this team and he deserves more minutes than Orlando can afford to give him. He’ll become a free agent next year and while he’s extremely close to his teammates, I think he’ll be looking for a starting gig next season. Don’t be shocked if Orlando trades him before the deadline knowing that it is likely to lose him.
Ben Gordon SG (12 MPG): I’m still really curious about this signing, Gordon was brutal in Charlotte last year, he’s going to steal minutes from younger players and he was paid handsomely to do so. On the flip side there’s definitely a nice reward, if Gordon ends up playing well, his playing time could increase and the team could try to flip his expiring at the trade deadline for an asset. Gordon has been a great shooter throughout his career and that will likely be his ticket to earning and keeping his playing time.
Luke Ridnour PG (0 MPG): Obviously at some point Ridnour will get minutes, whether it be in a blowout or due to injury but I don’t expect him to play when the team is at full strength, similar to what Ronnie Price‘s role was.
Willie Green SG (0 MPG): Green I don’t see playing at all outside of blowout situations. If there are injuries i’d expect somebody like Devyn Marble to pick up the slack in minutes. Green is here to be a presence in the locker room not to play much basketball.
Andrew Nicholson PF (? MPG): It makes a whole lot of sense to let Drew play in D-League. The Magic have a deep frontcourt and Drew won’t gain much experience by sitting on the bench. The best case scenario here is that he develops and dominates D-League competition while increasing his trade value. At this point I believe a trade is going to be best for both Orlando and Nicholson and putting him in the D-League may be the best way to make that happen.
Dewayne Dedmon C (? MPG): Dedmon is a very valuable player, he’s a big man with a non-stop motor and great size. On the downside Dedmon is also very raw and that’s why the D-League is a great option for him. Dedmon has previously played in the D-League and it certainly helped him develop as a player. I see no reason to not continue that trend since he won’t play much with Orlando barring a trade or injury.
Devyn Marble SG/SF (? MPG): Marble was signed to a contract that has the first season fully-guaranteed recently so you have to expect Orlando has a plan for him. With PT hard to come by on the NBA team you’d have to believe that plan is to send him to the D-League and have him polish his game.
As you can see the Magic have a lot of options to choose from as far as minutes go, particularly in the front court. My personal opinion is that you’re going to see a lot more traditional looks as far as rotations go this year thanks to Rob Hennigan supplying Jacque Vaughn with a much more balanced roster. What do you guys think?