Monthly Archives: June 2017

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.

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If Blake Griffin Leaves LA, Blame CP3

Blake Griffin and Chris Paul haven’t always gotten along. Photo Credit: NBA.com

If Blake Griffin leaves the LA Clippers and Chris Paul stays, it’s an indictment on CP3.

The Clippers can offer him the most money. He’s already playing in the second largest market in the U.S. The team has also won .600 percent of their games the last six seasons. So what other reason does he have to leave?

Let me put this in relationship terms. For example, when a man or woman ends a relationship or gets dumped, their friends will say “they weren’t good enough for you.” When the next relationship ends they may say “that’s okay, it wasn’t the right time for you.” After another breakup you might hear, “don’t give up, your perfect match is closer now than ever.”

At a certain point, a true friend should pull that man or woman aside and say “you may be the problem.” I’m looking at the Halle Berry’s, Brad Pitt’s, Elizabeth Taylor’s and Tom Cruise’s of the world. That’s where Paul is now. Head coach Doc Rivers and Clippers owner Steve Ballmer need to pull him aside and say “It’s you.”

Paul has a reputation around the league for being difficult to play with. It was rumored that he was the reason DeAndre Jordan initially signed with the Dallas Mavericks in 2015. According to several reports in the days after the center signed with the Mavs, Jordan grew tired of Paul’s constant barking, petty gestures and freezing him out of the offense.

Current Clipper free agent JJ Redick appears to be a lock to leave this summer. He and Paul have had ugly open disputes on the court during their time in LA. In fact, their dislike goes back to their days as ACC rivals when they played for Duke and Wake Forest.

If Griffin chooses the Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets or Boston Celtics, all of whom have been rumored to be interested in him, he’s stating clearly he no longer wants to play with Paul. All things considered, those teams aren’t definitively better with him than the Clippers are.

Paul is a future Hall of Famer, and at 32 years old is still a top three-point guard. He is a winner no doubt. He has proved it over the course of his 11-year career with both the New Orleans Hornets and now Clippers. The franchise has never enjoyed the level of success it has currently until he arrived. Therefore there’s no reason to leave that team unless you can’t stand the guy tabbed as the franchise player.

The Righteous May Bend, But Won’t Break

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree.”  ~ Psalms 92:12

The imagery I have from this scripture is very vivid. I can see a palm tree bent over backwards under the pressure of strong winds from a tropical storm or hurricane. I can see the top of the tree is barely inches off the ground as the base of the tree stays firmly planted into the ground.

When the storm is over, several other types of trees have their limbs sprawled around, are snapped in half or completely ripped from the ground at the roots. Meanwhile the palm tree is standing upright and looking stronger then ever. Actually, the bending of the tree helps strengthen its roots in the ground.

The writer of this Psalm was intentional in using the palm tree as an example of a righteous person because this is what happens to us while going through the rigors of life.

People who do the right thing are often the target of vile opposition. They bear the brunt of their boss and co-workers verbal and professional attacks. Their kindness is taken advantage of by loved ones and friends. Everywhere they turn there seems to be trouble.

But people who do the right things must continue to stay on that path. Because like the Psalm says, they will flourish like the palm tree. When the storms of life and the wrath of their enemies passes, not only will the right standing be stronger, but also better prepared to handle future storms and antagonizing people.

You will learn how to better navigate through the rough moments and when they come, you’ll be better equipped because of your past experiences.

I also believe the good Lord will make your walk more appealing to those watching, thus making you a walking testimony of His greatness and care for those who remain close to Him.

Don’t stop doing what’s right. Your strength depends on it.

The Worse Draft Picks & Draft Night Moves In Magic History

The NBA Draft is a time of hope for struggling franchises and their fans bases.

The hope is that with one pick, or many, fortunes will change and fans can expect their team to be one of the sixteen competing for the Larry O’Brien Trophy next spring.

The Orlando Magic has had impressive luck in the lottery in terms of getting the top pick (1992, 1993, 2004). Those picks allowed them to draft Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber and flip him for Penny Hardaway as well as three first round picks, and Dwight Howard.

Those players have defined the Magic franchise in their 28-year history. But outside of those three, they haven’t been nearly as magical with their other picks.

With the draft finally here, I looked back at the worse picks and draft night moves in franchise history …

MARIO HEZONJA (SF), 5th PICK IN 2015

You can’t call Hezonja a bust, yet. So I’m not saying he’s a bad pick like the others on this list. Orlando drafted him because they believe he can be a knock down shooter with the versatility to play three positions. Draft experts said he’s the one guy in the class that could win a dunk contest and the 3-point shootout. In his two-year career he’s only averaging 16.5 minutes player per game. As far as his shooting, he was eleventh on the team in 3-point percentage (.29%) in 2016-2017.

Hezonja hasn’t lived up to being a top 6 overall draft pick. Photo Credit: ESPN.com

What hurts Hezonja is he went one pick after Kristaps Porzingis. Boy, if only the New York Knicks and Phil Jackson would’ve made skipping him one of their many mistakes. But, what also hurts the Magic is Devin Booker went 13th to the Phoenix Suns after he openly campaigned to be selected by the Magic. Booker looks primed to be an All-Star after ascending to be the Suns best player in only his second season.

I get that the Magic already had Victor Oladipo at shooting-guard, but considering the ill-advised move to trade him to the Oklahoma City Thunder, it would’ve lessened the blow if Booker was on the roster. Orlando SORELY needs Booker’s shooting ability.

AARON GORDON (SF/PF), 4th PICK IN 2014

Double-0 AG has shown flashes in his time in central Florida. He’s also a fan favorite for his dunking exploits. The upcoming 2017-18 season is going to be a make or break for him. I think it’s a bad pick because who was selected after him. Zach Levine went number 13 to the Minnesota T-Wolves. Dario Saric, who Orlando selected with their second pick (14th overall) before trading him to Philadelphia for Elfrid Payton, is a combo SF/PF and a better shooter than Gordon. He is also more athletic than some “experts” thought entering the draft process. Saric is a key cog in the 76ers “process” and likely could be the 2016-2017 NBA Rookie of the Year.

DANIEL ORTON (C), 29th PICK IN 2010

Orton, a 6’10” center out of Kentucky, played in sixteen games in his one season with the Magic. He only lasted three seasons in the Association. Much like Gordon, the selection of Orton is a bad move because who Orlando could have selected.

Hassan Whiteside went four picks later (33rd overall) to the Sacramento Kings. Coming into the draft, Whiteside was said to be immature, which led to him being bounced around and out of the league before catching on with the Miami Heat. Of course Dwight Howard and Marcin Gortat were still on the roster, but Whiteside would’ve benefit from playing for Stan Van Gundy and a team fresh off of back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals appearances and an NBA Final.

Clearly depth at that position was a focus, this would’ve solidified that need, especially when you look at how they moved Gortat later that year.

On the other hand they could have selected a playmaking wing. Lance Stephenson should have been considered, especially with the loss of Hedu Turkoglu to free agency the previous summer. The Indiana Pacers drafted Stephenson with the fortieth pick.

FRAN VAZQUEZ (PF/C), 11th PICK IN 2005.

This may be the worse overall pick in team history. There’s not much to say about him since he never played an NBA game. The power forward/center combo choose the Spanish league over playing in the Association.

Danny Granger went six picks later to the Indiana Pacers. He became an All-Star.  If you wanted a post player, you could have chosen David Lee, out of the University of Florida. Lee went thirtieth to the New York. He also became an All-Star and NBA Champion.

JERYL SASSER (SG), 22nd PICK IN 2001

Sasser, a 6’6″ shooting-guard from SMU, played eighty-two games in his two-year NBA career. Orlando desperately needed backcourt help at both positions. Darrell Armstrong, Dee Brown and Jaren Jackson, in their seventh and eleventh seasons respectively, were their key rotational players. Six picks after the Magic selected Sasser, the San Antonio Spurs drafted Tony Parker, three picks after that, the Golden State Warriors picked Gilbert Arenas.

CURTIS BORCHARDT (C), 18th PICK IN 2002.

Who? Exactly!

The seven-foot center was traded to the Utah Jazz for power forward Ryan Humphrey out of Notre Dame. Humphrey played thirty-five games for Orlando before he was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies along with Mike Miller. He was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies along with Mike Miller after only playing thirty-five games. Giving up Miller was a terrible move by itself, especially since he just won Rookie of the Year in 2001. In return the Magic received Drew Gooden and Gordon Giricek. Orlando also gave Memphis a 2003 first round pick, and a second round rick in 2004.

As with most of these draft mistakes, it’s amplified by whom they could have drafted. Tayshaun Prince went twenty-third to the Detroit Pistons. Carlos Boozer went in the second round with the thirty-fifth pick. Both became All-Stars, either of those would have improved the Magic drastically.

KEON CLARK (C), 13th PICK IN 1998

The Magic won’t get killed for this pick because the LA Clippers selected Michael Olawakandi first overall. Many call him the biggest number one overall bust in league history.

Nevertheless, Orlando still blew this pick. Nazr Mohammed would have been a better choice. He went 29th overall to the Utah Jazz.

Orlando should’ve selected two power forwards who eventually spent significant time in a Magic uniform in Pat Garrity (19th overall) and Rashard Lewis (32nd overall). Al Harrington, the prep star out of St. Patrick’s high school in New Jersey, was also available. Harrington went twenty-fifth to the Indiana Pacers and played in 981 games in his sixteen-year career.

JOHNNY TAYLOR (SG), 17th PICK IN 1997

Taylor played only seventeen games with the Magic. He was traded to the Denver Nuggets in 1999, and back to Orlando in 2000.

STANLEY ROBERTS (C), 23rd PICK IN 1991

Roberts was the man in the middle before Shaq came along the following draft. Roberts played only one of his eight seasons in central Florida, appearing in only fifty-five games. However his and the team’s overall poor play is how the franchise ended up with enough Ping-Pong balls to win the draft lottery and select Shaq the following draft.

So as you can see, Magic management has been consistent at one thing, getting this draft thing wrong. Hopefully new General Manager John Hammond and President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman can bring some of the fortune they’ve had in their others stops to the 407.

Remember, as important as it is whom you pick, it’s going to be exacerbated by whom you could’ve or didn’t select.