NFL Buckeyes (2017, Week 2)

Week two in the National Football League several Ohio State Alums didn’t fare as well as their alma mater did on Saturday evening.

Houston Texans 2nd-year WR Braxton Miller made his first trip back to the Buckeye state as a pro player Thursday night against the Cincinnati Bengals. He had 2 catches for 10 yards in Houston’s 13-9 victory, and also made a key block to spring quarterback Deshaun Watson for the only touchdown scored of the game.

Sunday a couple fellow Buckeyes faced off in the trenches in Western Pennsylvania. Pat Elflein of the Minnesota Vikings against Cam Heyward, Ryan Shazier and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Shazier had 8 tackles (5 solo) and 1 pass breakup, while Heyward had 6 tackles (4 solo), 1.5 tackles for loss and 2 hits on the QB in Pittsburgh’s 26-9 victory.

Indianapolis Colts Rookie Malik Hooker got his first career start and recorded his first interception and returned it 32 yards in the Colts 16-13 overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals. He also made 2 tackles and broke up another pass. Linebacker John Simon had 5 tackles (4 solo), 1 sack and 3 hits on the Quarterback. Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins had 2 tackles (1 solo).

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott had a game he’d like to quickly forget against Bradley Roby, Jeff Heuerman and the Denver Broncos. Elliott rushed for 8 yards on 9 carries, the worse performance of his young career. He also added 4 catches for 14 yards in the ‘Boys 42-17 loss. With 80+ yards rushing, Zeke would’ve broken Hall of Famer Marcus Allen’s 31-year old record for most consecutive games with 80 or more rushing yards. The record is 14. Meanwhile, Roby had 2 tackles and broke up a pass, and Heuerman made 1 catch for 15 yards in the victory.

San Francisco 49ers’ running back Carlos Hyde rushed for 124 yards on 15 carries against the Seattle Seahawks. 102 of those came in the first half alone. He also finished the game with 3 catches for 19 yards in the 12-9 defeat.

Mike Thomas, Ted Ginn Junior, Marshon Lattimore and Vonn Bell of the New Orleans Saints faced the defending Super Bowl Champion New England in the “Big Easy.” Thomas made 5 catches for 89 yards, Ginn had 3 catches for 24 yards, while on defense Lattimore had 7 tackles (6 solo) and 2 pass breakups, while his secondary mate Bell had 5 tackles (3 solo) in the 36-20 loss.

Closing out the weekend, Malcolm Jenkins of the Philadelphia Eagles had 5 solo tackles in their 27-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Kurt Coleman of the Carolina Panthers made 3 tackles (1 solo) in their 9-3 victory of the Buffalo Bills. San Diego Chargers reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year Joey Bosa had 5 solo tackles in his team’s 19-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

Detroit Lions starting offensive tackle Taylor Decker missed Monday Night Football against Eli Apple and the New York Giants with a shoulder injury. He was mistakenly acknowledged by ESPN Play-by-play announcer Sean McDonough as an alum of “That Team Up North”, which probably added more insult to injury.  

Apple, however, moved into the top cornerback spot with Janoris Jenkins out with an injury. The 2nd-year defensive back got beat on a 27-yard TD by Marvin Jones. He also had 5 solo tackles in the 24-10 loss.

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J.K., This is Your Team Now

J.K. runs 52-yards for his second touchdown against Army. Photo Credit: Ohiostatebuckeyes.com

Fifth-year Senior J.T. is NOT the focal point of the Buckeye offense. 

The Freshman J.K. is. He proved that in the Buckeyes 38-7 bounce back victory over Army.

Buckeye Nation learned how special Dobbins was in the season opener against Indiana when he rushed for a freshman debut record 181 yards, breaking a record set by Maurice Clarett in 2002. Dobbins was just as impressive against Army, going for 172 yards on 13 carries while getting into the end zone twice, one a 52-yarder.

Young J.K. is special like Ezekiel Elliott, the previously mentioned Clarett, Eddie George and dare I say Archie Griffin. Redshirt-Sophomore Mike Weber Junior has officially been Wally Pipped. Sorry, I’m not sorry.

The freshman is different. This is a man-child. He’s one of those rare backs that could’ve played in the NFL right out of high school, like Herschel Walker, Bo Jackson, Adrian Peterson, Leonard Fournette and Derrick Henry. At 5’10” 208 pounds, he’s got the power to run over defensive lineman, the wiggle and the break away speed to beat out defensive backs. 

Ohio State’s offense looks and runs better, pun intended, when they play through the freshman. The passing game opened up in the second half versus Army after Dobbins successfully ran over and around every Black Knight defender. J.T. Barrett rebounded from last week’s poor performance against the Oklahoma Sooners with a stat line of 25 of 33 passing for 270 yards and 2 touchdowns. Those Scarlet and Gray receivers were a lot more open when there were more defenders in the box and less in the secondary in coverage. 

Barrett may have 24 Ohio State passing records, and the B1G record for most touchdowns (107) responsible for in a career, but running the offense through Dobbins is the only way the Buckeyes will be able to run the table, win the conference and get back into the National Championship picture. Think of it like 2014 when Urban Meyer and then Offensive Coordinator Tom Herman ran through Zeke. 

There are several similarities to the 2014 story for this 2017 squad. An embarrassing home loss in a highly anticipated night match-up (Virginia Tech 21-35), followed by a blowout win. That season they also beat a Service Academy (Navy 34-17). Hopefully the coaching staff will follow the same formula by focusing the “O” on their supremely talented running back.

Thankfully for Ohio State fans, they’ll have three more seasons of Dobbins to be the lead dog. OSU is Running Back University once again.

NFL Buckeyes (2017, Week 1)

Rookies Marshon Lattimore and Pat Elflein share a moment after playing their first game as NFL players. Photo Courtesy: NFL snapchat

While Buckeye Nation attempts to process what happened Saturday night in the 31-16 loss to Oklahoma, several former Buckeyes made their 2017 debuts in the League.

Seven Buckeyes were selected at April’s draft, three in the first round. In all, 42 Ohio State Alums opened the season on NFL rosters.

The Indianapolis Colts have five former Buckeyes on their team. The New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys are tied for second with four each.

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is the most notable of the former Buckeyes. Elliott’s team faced off against his former 2014 National championship teammate cornerback Eli Apple and the New York Giants. Elliott rushed for 104 yards on 24 carries and caught 5 passes for 36 yards in “America’s Team’s” 19-3 victory. Apple made 7 tackles (5 solo) in defeat for the “G-Men.”

New York Jets 2nd-year linebacker Darron Lee collected 10 tackles (7 solo) and a sack in his team’s 21-12 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Pittsburgh Steelers Ryan Shazier and Cam Heyward made their return to the Buckeye State in their season opener against the Cleveland Browns. Shazier had 7 tackles (4 solo), while Heyward had a sack, a tackle for loss and 3 tackles (1 solo) in the Steelers 21-18 win over the Browns.

The Carolina Panthers and their three Buckeyes of Kurt Coleman, rookie Curtis Samuel and offensive lineman Andrew Norwell lined up against running back Carlos Hyde and the San Francisco 49ers. Coleman made 6 solo tackles in Carolina’s 23-3 win. Samuel was limited with an ankle injury. Hyde rushed for 45 yards on 9 carries and had 6 catches for 32 yards in the loss.

Terrelle Pryor Senior caught 6 passes for 66 yards in his debut with Washington against NFC East rival the Philadelphia Eagles. 9-year vet, Safety Malcolm Jenkins had 4 tackles for the Eagles in their 30-17 win in the Nation’s capital.

The Indianapolis Colts quintuplets of Bucks had a difficult opening day against the Los Angeles Rams. LA won by a score of 46-9. Jonathan Hankins had 2 solo tackles, John Simon collected 6 tackles (5 solo) and rookie safety Malik Hooker had 4 tackles (3 solo) in defeat. Tyvis Powell and Jake Mewhort didn’t register any statistics.

Several Bucks had to wait until Monday night to start their 2017 season. Ted Ginn Junior, Mike Thomas, Vonn Bell and Marshon Lattimore of the New Orleans Saints took on center Pat Elflein the Minnesota Vikings. Thomas caught 5 passes for 45 yards, while Ginn Junior made 4 catches for 53 yards and had one rush for 5 yards in the Saints 29-19 loss. Defensively Lattimore made 4 solo tackles in his NFL debut. Elflein the 70th overall pick (3rd round) in the 2017 draft made the first start of his career.

Joey Bosa and the Los Angeles Chargers went to Denver to face Bradley Roby, Jeff Heurerman and the Broncos in the second of the Monday Night Football double header. Roby had 5 tackles (3 solo), 2 passes defensed and a key interception in the Broncos 24-21 win. Tight end Jeff Heuerman had one catch for twenty yards to help progress a scoring drive. Bosa made 6 tackles (3 solo), and 1.5 sacks in defeat.

Enough With the J.T. Bashing 

I’m not proud to be a Buckeye today. It’s not because they lost 31-16 to the Oklahoma Sooners in “The Shoe.” It’s not because of the blatant disrespect by the very sensitive Baker Mayfield when he planted the OU flag into the middle of the field after their victory.

It’s because of how Buckeye fans have reacted in the wake of the loss. Especially towards quarterback J.T. Barrett. Or as I like to call him, Just Touchdowns Barrett.

Barrett struggled mightily versus the Sooners. That was obvious. He did so in his last three game, against the Indiana Hoosiers for a half last week, and the entire night against the eventual National Champion Clemson Tigers. I can’t ignore that.

But what I can say is it’s not entirely on him. Most fans don’t watch all twenty-two players on the field. Most don’t know how to read what’s happening and why. So all they pay attention to is the guy with the ball. And who has it the most? The QB. That’s why they unfairly get all the blame, and undeservedly get all the credit.

So let me tell you what I see. I’ve seen an offensive line that hasn’t given Barrett enough time to throw. Especially the right side of the line. I see wide receivers with elite speed, but poor route running not get separation from defensive backs, while also dropping touchdown passes on the few occasions they got behind coverage and J.T. had enough time to sling it down field. I also saw receivers not come back to the ball when it was thrown to them. There’s also been some lack luster play calling, no matter who the offensive coordinator is. Why hasn’t Urban Meyer been called into question for not making proper adjustments, a la Nick Saban.

 

Nobody’s talking those issues. But hey, I’m here to get folks to stop bashing J.T. so I’ll practice what I’m preaching by not bashing anyone else. So back to J.T.

What he is, is a great example of what us Ohio State Alumni want in a student-athlete. Let me repeat that last part. STUDENT-ATHLETE. He’s already earned his bachelors degree, while being the first three-time captain in Buckeye history.

On the field he’s been responsible for more touchdowns than any player in school history (104 as of 9/10) and most passing touchdowns (72 as of 9/10). He’s passed for over 6,800 yards, which is second in the OSU record books, and by the end of this season, if he stays healthy, will pass Art Schlichter (7,547) for first all-time. Most importantly, he’s led the Scarlet and Gray to 27 victories (27-5 record). He also holds 22 Buckeye records and two Big Ten regular season records.

Will he win a Heisman like Troy Smith? Probably not.

Will he play in the NFL like Art Schlichter, Bobby Hoying and Joe Germaine? Highly doubtful.

Will he lead a team to a National Title like Craig Krenzel or Cardale Jones? There’s still a VERY good chance.

Will he beat “That Team Up North” for a fourth consecutive season? I’m pretty confident he will.

Will he finish his career as the most accomplished QB in Buckeye history? Absolutely.

Stop talking about what he isn’t and celebrate what he is. They say you never know what you have until it’s gone. Next season when a new QB debuts for the Buckeyes, I can guarantee you at some point the same Buckeye fans will wish they had another J.T. Just wait.

  

Is Penny Hardaway a Hall of Famer?

Penny Hardaway is one of the most iconic NBA players on and off the court in the last 20 years, and should be in the Hall of Fame.

This weekend eleven basketball legends will be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. Iconic names like Tracy McGrady, Rebecca Lobo and George McGinnis to name a few, will take their rightful place in the hallow halls of Basketball Heaven. One name that isn’t in those halls, that should be, is Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway.

Hardaway was a unique talent. While he played fourteen seasons in the NBA, he’s most known for the six years he spent in central Florida. From 1994-2000, the 6 foot 7 inch point guard for the Orlando Magic displayed an ability to score in an explosive manner like Mike, while also being able to set up his teammates like Magic. His was a rare talent that could do it all, years before the LeBron James’, Kevin Durant’s, Giannis Antetokumpo’s of today.

He reached icon status off the court as well with his alter ego Lil’ Penny and his Air Penny signature shoe line with Nike.

But, injuries robbed him of his prime and longevity at being an all-time great. But make no mistake, there was greatness.

Let’s look at the resume: Four-time All-Star, three-time All-NBA, and 1993-1994 All-Rookie Team selection. 1996 Gold medalist. And when Shaq left the “City Beautiful” for the “City of Angels”, Penny kept carrying the Magic to the playoffs when everyone else thought they would fold.

In his six seasons with the Magic, he averaged 19 points, 6.3 assist, 4.7 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game. When he retired he was third on the Magic career list in assists (2,343)—now fourth, third in steals (718), and fourth in points (7,018)—now seventh.

For those of you who closely look at the advanced numbers, with Orlando, Penny had a PER of 20.2, a true shooting percentage of 56%, grabbed 7.3 rebounds on a 23.9% usage rate.

He also delivered when it counted most, in the playoffs.

In eight playoffs trips with Orlando, Phoenix and the New York Knicks, Hardaway averaged 20.4 points per game, 6.2 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 1.9 steals in sixty-four games.

But don’t discount the college career, because that’s also valued when a player is considered for the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. So many forget that it’s not just a professional basketball Hall of Fame.

Hardaway was a consensus All-American in 1993, twice awarded the Great Midwest Conference Player of the year (Conference USA) and has his number 25 jersey retired by the University of Memphis State. He did that before they became a national power and dropped the “State” from their name.

Penny’s impact on the Magic’s history is very similar to his former running mate Shaq. Together they led the Magic to their first ever playoff appearance (1994) and NBA Finals (1995). He also drew his share of the national spotlight with his Nike commercials starring Chris Rock as “Lil’ Penny”, Hardaway’s alter ego to promote his signature shoes which are still widely popular and sought after decades after their initial retail release.

If Penny were to get inducted, he would be the first Magic player to go in solely on their exploits in the black and royal blue pinstriped jersey.

Shaq is there for his contributions as a Los Angeles Laker. 2017 inductee Tracy McGrady will be going in mostly for his time as a Houston Rocket. And, if Grant Hill gets in—which he deserves to be—it will be for a combination of his collegiate career at Duke and the six years with the Detroit Pistons where he was LeBron before LeBron.

Longevity during your peak shouldn’t be the end all be all when determining if a player is HOF worthy. Penny’s time with the Magic alone should be enough to get him a coveted orange blazer. Not to be rude, but if Yao Ming can get inducted, you’re going to tell me PH1 isn’t a Hall of Famer? I’m not buying it.

2017 NFL Rookie Most Likely to…

The 2017 NFL Draft Class was full of star power and several of those members will light up the League real soon. Photo Credit: ESPN.com

The dawn of the 2017 NFL Season has arrived and a new crop of college stars are preparing to make their mark in pro football.

Teams put a premium on defense this past draft. 131 defensive players were selected to 118 offensive. 34 of those players were cornerbacks, the most of any single position, 5 in the first round. If you combine the 3 Safeties, defensive back was the most selected unit in the draft. In all 67 defensive backs were picked in 2017.

I’ve done this exercise the two previous seasons and I’ve hit on some already, some are close to happening, and I’ve missed VERY BADLY on one. My apologies to my fellow Ohio State Alum Joey Bosa.

As with any draft in every sport, the situation you’re drafted to is more important than when you’re selected. It’s fun and difficult to predict how these guys will affect their team’s success or failures. So, here’s how I see several of this year’s crop of rookies careers panning out.

Most likely to lead the NFL in passing yards…. Patrick Mahomes (10th overall pick/Kansas City Chiefs). Andy Reid and his staff moved up to select the Texas Tech QB. Everyone knows the Red Raiders offense is a hyper passing scheme that tends to lead to video game numbers that doesn’t necessarily transition to the NFL. But, Mahomes should be different because he’s no “check down Charlie” like current Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith. Mahomes has the arm strength to push the ball down the field and Reid, a west coast offense guy, who’s called plays for Donovan McNabb when the Philadelphia Eagles went to four NFC title games and a Super Bowl, Brett Favre when he won three consecutive NFL MVPs and Michael Vick when he revived his career after a stint in prison. Mahomes has a real QB whisperer in his ear.

Most likely to lead the league in rushing yards…. Leonard Fournette (4th overall pick/Jacksonville Jaguars). He will play with a quarterback, in Blake Bortles, that has led the league in turnovers with 63 since entering the League in 2014. Bortles struggled to hold on to the starting job in the preseason, with Coach Marrone going as far to say he preferred to not have Blake pass the ball.

The Jags coaching staff already believes in smash mouth defense and a ball control offense.  In 2016 the Jags running game averaged 4.2 yards per carry, which was 17th in the NFL, and 101.9 yards per game that was 22nd. Fournette alone will improve those numbers. He’ll have to if Bortles can’t shake the yips.

Most likely to lead the NFL in receptions, receiving yards and receiving TDs… Taywon Taylor (3rd round, 72nd pick/Titans). The ball is like a magnet to his hands. During his senior season with the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers he broke and set the school’s single season record for receptions and yards with 98 catches for 1,730 yards to go along with 17 TDs. He finished his career with a school record 253 catches for 4,234 yards and 41 TDs.

The Titans have a strong running game with DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry and Marcus Marriota running the read-option. What they need is a threat in the passing game and Taylor will provide just that.

Most likely to lead the league in sacks… T.J. Watt (30th overall pick/Pittsburgh Steelers). First reason, it is in his blood lines. He’s a Watt. Second, he plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 3-4 scheme that is only successful when it’s LBs blitz the QB. He got his first sack on Pittsburgh’s first defensive trip on the field in their first preseason game, he followed that up with another sack on the first play of their second defensive drive. At Wisconsin he collected 11.5 sacks in the 27 games he played. It’s what he does. Third, he’ll have the likes of Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt occupying offensive linemen to allow him to get free, plus with Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams and Bud Dupree playing alongside him, offenses won’t be scheming to stop Watt. Initially.

Most likely to lead the NFL in turnovers… Deshone Kizer (2nd round, Pick 52nd/Cleveland Browns). This organization has been snake bitten at the quarterback position since they returned to the League in 1999. Nearly 30 have started a game for the Browns in the last 18 seasons.

Cleveland is in the midst of a fire sale and don’t have much around Kizer at the skills positions. Their leading receiver from 2016, Terrelle Pryor, is in Washington and their second leading receiver, tight end Gary Barnidge, is still on the free agent market. The current leading receiver from 2016 is running back Duke Johnson Junior who had 52 catches for 514 yards.

Coach Hue Jackson has made the decision to start Kizer week one against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Therefore his growing pains are going to start early and he may very well have to shoulder the entire offense load. That’s not a good thing. Cleveland’s coaching staff and management is willing to suffer through his development, while investing in his future. He may fulfill this prediction of mine in season number one.

He will have to rely on guys who may not be on the roster next season as the team goes through a rebuilding period. It’s safe to say the turnovers will pile up, even it they aren’t entirely his fault.

Most likely to lead the League in interceptions (takeaways)…. Tre’Davious White (27th overall pick/Buffalo Bills). He hails from DBU better known as LSU, the same school that brought the NFL Patrick Petersen, Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne to name a few. The Bills still have a strong front seven that will put pressure on opposing QBs causing them to force some passes where they shouldn’t. Plus he plays in the AFC East where outside of Tom Brady, the quarterback play is VERY shoddy.

Most likely to be Offensive Rookie of the Year…. Christian McCaffrey (8th overall pick/Carolina Panthers). The Carolina Panthers will be attempting to lessen the workload on Cam Newton after his off-season shoulder surgery. Thus, they drafted McCaffrey in the first round to make use of his versatility. The Stanford alum is an all-purpose back that can contribute in the running, passing and return game. He’s going to get the most opportunities of any offensive player in this draft class.

Most likely to be Defensive Player of the Year…

Linebackers and defensive ends have dominated this award. Basically, pass rushers. The guy I really like is San Francisco 49ers LB Reuben Foster out of Alabama (31st overall pick/San Francisco 49ers). He never should have fallen this far, but, character issues hurt him.

The Niners used their two first round picks on defense (DT Solomon Thomas 3rd overall pick). While everyone is expecting new Head Coach Kyle Shanahan to rev up the offense, the San Fran D has drastically declined since the days competing with Seattle for the NFC West crown under Jim Harbaugh. Foster will rack up the tackles on a team that was the 32nd ranked defense last season. If he has the numbers and as a unit they continue to climb to a top ten team, many voters will point to him as the catalyst.

Most likely to be steal of the draft… Jake Butt (5th round, 145th pick/Denver Broncos) a nasty knee injury in Michigan’s bowl game is the reason he fell this far. Coming into the 2016 College football season, he was a projected first round pick. It was between him and Alabama’s O.J. Howard, who was selected in the first round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as to which was the better all-around tight end.

Denver has young QBs who will need a safety blanket in the middle of the field. He will be that. Plus, he will draw lots of one-on-one coverage with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders stretching defenses out deep down field.

Most likely to be a perennial All-Pro…. Ryan Ramczyk (32nd overall pick/New Orleans Saints)He comes from Wisconsin where they churn out as many All-Pro offensive linemen as the state does butter. Not really, but you get it. Joe Thomas of the Cleveland Browns, Travis Frederick of the Dallas Cowboys and Kraig Urbik of the Miami Dolphins to name a few.

Ramczyk will be charged with keeping Drew Brees up right so he can continue to pass for 5,000+ yards a season. One of the easiest ways to make an All-Pro team is to block for a QB that puts up historic numbers or a RB that is a top five rusher

Most likely to be NFL MVP…. Only six non-QBs have won the award in the last twenty seasons. The six players were running backs and one of them (Barry Sanders, 1997) shared it with Brett Favre. Therefore it’s not going out on a limb for me to predict a QB from the 2017 class will one day etch their name on the trophy.

With that being said, I’m going with DeShaun Watson (12th overall pick/Houston Texans). He’s a better version of Dak Prescott. No disrespect to the Dallas Cowboys quarterback and reigning Offensive Player of the Year. But, Watson has the same intangibles to lead a team and a better skill set. He’s shown it on the biggest stage in back-to-back National Championship games against a vaunted Alabama Crimson Tide team. His college coach Dabo Sweeney said he has some “Michael Jordan in him.” It’s hard to disagree after what we’ve already seen. The Texans are tailor-made for him to step in and lead them to glory.

Most likely to be Super Bowl MVP… Once again I’m going with DeShaun Watson. He has the number one ranked defense. The only thing that has been missing from the Houston Texans over the last three seasons has been a competent QB. Watson is more than competent and very capable of leading a team as he showed in college at Clemson. He’s a big gamer and his abilities will be even more amplified by a coach that’s already work with arguably the greatest QB of All-Time, Tom Brady.

 

A Free Agency Wish List For the Orlando Magic

Photo Credit: Kavis Peak 2016

The Orlando Magic’s pressing needs on draft night were shooting, scoring and perimeter defensive. The first two weren’t addressed. Hopefully those needs will be addressed in free agency.

The past regime was reckless with their spending on free agents. They always swung for the fences and missed terribly. Look no further than last summer’s signings of D.J. Augustine, Jeff Green and Bismack Biyombo.

There are no big fishes to chase this season. That is probably a good thing since the Magic has only $14.6 million in cap space.

However, there are several lower tier players that compliment a young core of Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon and Nik Vucevic.

Due to financial reasons, nabbing only one of these free agents is highly possible. Unless they can unload Biyombo’s massive anchor of a contract, then maybe two is possible.

TIM HARDAWAY, JR – (25 years old) 6’6″ 205lbs – RESTRICTED

Hardaway Junior is restricted so the Atlanta Hawks could match any offer he receives. THJ is a shooter with length to become a defensive standout. 2016-2017 was a breakout season for the 4-year pro. He averaged 14.5 points per game on 54% shooting on 2’s and 36% on 3’s. Most importantly he competes, on both ends, something that can’t be said about several guys currently on the Magic roster.

OTTO PORTER, JR  – (24 years old) 6’8″ 198lbs – RESTRICTED

Potter Junior was the Washington Wizards defensive stopper in 2016-2017. That’s the number one reason the Magic should be attracted to him. The second reason is because he finished fourth in the Association in 3-point percentage at 43.4%. Porter also shoots 58% on 2’s. He averaged 13.4 points per game, on ten shot attempts per game, for a team where he was the fourth option. If Orlando signs him, he adds much-needed shooting and allows the team to be an aggressive perimeter defensive team. He can play three positions in today’s small ball NBA.

JONATHAN SIMMONS – (27 years old) 6’6″ 195lbs – RESTRICTED

Any player from the Spurs system is all right in my book. Simmons is a defensive ace, with elite athleticism. He showed his offensive improvement throughout the 2016-17 season. That continued in the playoffs in the absence of MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard due to ankle injuries. His shot still needs improvement, but even at 27, Simmons has shown he still has room to grow. Adding him alongside Terrance Ross, Aaron Gordon and number six overall pick Jonathan Isaac, this could be one of the most athletic teams in the NBA. They should thrive in an up tempo style of play.

SHABAZZ MUHAMMED – (24 years old) 6’6″ 223lbs – RESTRICTED

Minnesota may no longer be an option for him since they have acquired Jimmy Butler. Muhammed will turn 25 years old during the season. He’s a bigger guard that looks to slash and attack the basket, but he also has shooting touch. Last season he shot 53% on 2’s and 34% on 3’s, on seven shot attempts per game. He could carve out a niche for himself as the sixth man in central Florida.

BEN MCLEMORE – (24 years old) 6’5″ 195lbs – UNRESTRICTED

“Experts” say he underachieved in Sacramento, but how much of that is on him when he played for the most dysfunctional franchise in the Association? There’s a reason they’ve been in the lottery over the past decade. Also look at how they fumbled the Boogie Cousins situation and their coaches.

McLemore has huge potential. He shot 38% for 3’s and 46% from 2’s on seven shot attempts, while playing only nineteen minutes per game in 2016-2017.

If you haven’t noticed a trend in my wish list, it’s young, long, athletic guards that can play two positions.

Free Agency tips off at 12:01 Saturday, July 1st. General Manager John Hammond and his staff should be on the phone with the agents of the guys I’ve listed. Adding one of these guys to what is already in the cupboard could propel the Magic to a place they haven’t been in five seasons.