Category Archives: NBA

Orlando Will Pick at the Dreadful Sixth Spot

The NBA Draft lottery provides new hope for struggling franchises. Photo Credit: NBA.com

The NBA draft lottery was held Wednesday night and the Orlando Magic will pick sixth in the 2017 Draft on June 26th. That collective groan you heard around 8:50 pm was from the central Florida area.

The disappointment is from early projections coming into the lottery expecting the Magic would get the fifth pick, where they’ve had some past success.

The sixth pick may have some Orlando fans doubting if a transformative player will be available. But with “experts” saying this is the deepest draft in several seasons, and the Magic having several needs–most notable an efficient shooting small forward that can be a versatile defender–hopefully there will be one available that can change the fortunes of the franchise.

For those fans that don’t think this 2017 pick will do much to help end the worst period in Orlando Magic basketball, I’ll be honest, I don’t blame them. There’s a dramatic difference, historically, in the one pick between fifth and sixth.

If you need evidence, here’s a look at some of the all-time greats, All-Stars, All-NBA performers and Champions that have been chosen fifth overall in the past thirty years.

  • 1987 – Scottie Pippen (Seattle Sonics; traded to Chicago Bulls)
  • 1988 – Mitch Richmond (Golden State Warriors)
  • 1991 – Steve Smith (Miami Heat)
  • 1995 – Kevin Garnett (Minnesota Timberwolves)
  • 1996 – Ray Allen (Minnesota Timberwolves; traded to the Milwaukee Bucks)
  • 1998 – Vince Carter (Golden State Warriors; traded to the Toronto Raptors)
  • 2003 – Dwayne Wade (Miami Heat)
  • 2008 – Kevin Love (Memphis Grizzlies; traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves)
  • 2010 – DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings)

Now look at the notables that were selected sixth overall in that span of time.

  • 1987 – Kenny Smith (Sacramento Kings)
  • 1993 – Calbert Cheney (Washington Bullets)
  • 1996 – Antoine Walker (Boston Celtics)
  • 1999 – Wally Szczerbiak (Minnesota Timberwolves)
  • 2001 – Shane Battier (Memphis Grizzlies)
  • 2003 – Chris Kaman (LA Clippers)
  • 2006 – Brandon Roy (Portland Trailblazers)
  • 2008 – Danilo Gallinari (New York Knicks)
  • 2012 – Damian Lillard (Portland Trailblazers)
  • 2014 – Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics)

See the difference?

Outside of Antoine Walker, Brandon Roy and presently Damian Lillard, those other sixth overall picks didn’t achieve their peak success with the team that drafted them. Majority of the players selected sixth in the last thirty years didn’t have more than a cup of coffee in the league and were nothing more than role players or all out busts. Remember these names?

  • 1988 – Hersey Hawkins (LA Clippers; traded to the Philadelphia 76ers)
  • 1989 – Stacey King (Chicago Bulls)
  • 1990 – Felton Spencer (Minnesota Timberwolves)
  • 1991 – Doug Smith (Dallas Mavericks)
  • 1994 – Sharon Wright (Philadelphia 76ers)
  • 1995 – Bryant Reeves (Vancouver Grizzlies)

I think you get my point. You can see how falling that one spot can set a franchise back even longer or propel it to greatness.

The Magic really needed to get the fifth pick, which they had two other times. In 2015, they selected guard/forward Mario Hezonja out of Croatia. In 2000, they selected Florida University guard/forward Mike Miller, who eventually went on to win NBA Rookie of the Year.

While the jury is still out on Hezonja’s career, Miller made an immediate impact helping the Tracy Mac-led Magic get back into the playoffs before being traded to the Grizzlies in his third season. Miller is still thriving in the Association in his eighteenth season.

Orlando hopes they can get some Magic and a reversal of fortune with the 2017 number six selection, and turn this franchise around to end its longest playoff drought in team history. Otherwise, this night will be remembered for sinking the franchise into a deeper sea of despair.

Russ is the NBA MVP. Case Closed!

Russell Westbrook has done the unthinkable and passed Oscar Robertson for the most triple-doubles in a single season. Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images

It’s no longer a discussion. The name Russell Westbrook should have been engraved on the Maurice Podoloff Trophy the moment his buzzer beating 3-point shot swished in to defeat the Denver Nuggets 106-105 Sunday night. He finished the game with 50 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists. That’s his third 50+ triple double of the season, which is the most in a career in NBA history. His overall case is just stronger than any in of the other candidates.

The Thunder are 33-9 when he gets a triple-double. So you know it’s not empty stats. The 42 triple-doubles in a season passed Oscar Robertson for the most in a single season in NBA history. Those 42 triple-doubles also helped him pass Wilt Chamberlain for 4th place on the all-time list. Two times this season he had streaks of 7 consecutive triple-doubles. He’s also the first player to record a triple-double without missing a shot. His 31.9 points per game average leads the league.

Westbrook’s current player efficiency rating (PER) of 30.58 is tops in the league this season by almost 3 points, and it would rank 16th on the all-time list for a single season according to Basketball-Reference.com. FYI, the highest PER for a season is 31.82 by Wilt Chamberlain in 1962-63. So Russ isn’t that far off.

Westbrook doesn’t have the same quality of teammates, as say his closest competitor for the award, James Harden. The Thunder were delivered the blow of losing arguably the second best player in the NBA in July, after they spent the month of June making trades for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to play with him and Kevin Durant.

Harden has the extra benefit of playing for the leading candidate for coach of the year in Mike D’Antoni. He also plays with two of the leading candidates for Sixth Man of the Year in Eric Gordon and Lou Williams. Two defensive aces in former champion in Trevor Ariza and an all-defensive team performer in Patrick Beverly surround him on the perimeter. The Rockets have a better system built around Harden and had a whole offseason to transition into it.

In 2014-15 when Durant missed 55 games with a foot injury, Oklahoma City didn’t even make the playoffs. Many “experts” predicted the same or a down to the wire fight for the eight seed without him in 2016-17. Westbrook has the Thunder solid in the sixth seed.

He doesn’t have the shooting and scoring around him like the other MVP candidates. OKC shoots 45.2% from the field. That is 14th in the league. They’re last in the Association in 3-point shooting at 32.7%. Only 3 other Thunder players are averaging in double figures, while Houston has five to play along side Harden.

Any other season Harden or even Kawhi Leonard would run away with the award. But, how can you not reward the guy who’s doing something that hasn’t been done, or come close to being replicated in fifty-five seasons?

Maybe it was Durant who was holding Westbrook back all these years when the pundits kept saying he was getting in Durant’s way.

If you thought the Thunder we’re going to easily make playoffs before the season began, you’re lying. Yet here they are. That’s because Russ has single handedly carried them there. Scary to think of what he and this team can become when they can build the team around him with complimentary pieces.

Robertson averaged a triple-double over the course of five seasons, and Russ could very well be in the midst of having a similar run and winning a couple MVPs to add to his trophy case. This could be just the beginning. Why Not?

Westbrook exits the Pepsi Center after notching his 42nd triple-double and 3rd 50+ point triple-double. Both NBA records. Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images

Here’s How You Solve The MVP Race, Give Out More Awards

The Maurice Podoloff Trophy shouldn’t be the only trophy handed out for a player having a great season. Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images

The 2016-17 race for NBA Most Valuable Player is as close as any we’ve seen in recent memory.  Four players have a legitimate claim that they deserve the award. Russell Westbrook who is doing something that hasn’t been done since 1961-62. James Harden who is having a redemption season leading the Houston Rockets to 50+ wins and the third seed of the Western Conference playoffs after they only won 41 games last season, finishing in the 8th seed and he didn’t make any of the three All-NBA teams. Kawhi Leonard who has ascended into the conversation as a top five player in the game in the absence of the retired Tim Duncan. And LeBron James, who like the most famous 23 he’s chasing, is still the best player in the game and showing no signs of slowing down.

It’s going to be a tough choice for those who have a vote. Should I vote for the guy who is exceeding expectations along with his team? Or should I vote for the guy who is having the best season statistically? What about the guy who is having a breakout season while replacing a first ballot Hall of Famer and the team isn’t missing a beat? What about the guy who is the most valuable to the entire League?

It shouldn’t be this difficult because they should have more options. The NBA should add more individual awards to specify what they’re voting for.

Here’s my idea.

Keep the Maurice Podoloff Trophy and award it as the Most Valuable Player in the way it was intended, to go to the player who was the most valuable to their team’s level of success.

For example, if you took Russell Westbrook off his Oklahoma City Thunder team this season it’s very likely that they would be on the fast track to earn the most Ping-Pong balls to gain the number one overall pick in the 2017 Draft. I guess I just told you who I hope wins.

But I also think there should be a Player of the Year award given to the player who is the best regardless of their team’s success. I’d call this the Michael Jeffrey Jordan Trophy. I even have an idea of what it should look like. Despite what many would believe it shouldn’t be the Jumpman logo. Save that for the kicks. Rather it should be the pose from “last shot” he made as a Chicago Bull to propel them to their sixth NBA title.

The reason why this award should be named after MJ is because there were several times, 92-93 and 96-97 in particular, where he was clearly still the best player in the game, but Charles Barkley and Karl Malone deserved to win the MVP award because they lifted their teams beyond expectations. Handing out a “Player of the Year” trophy is my solution to get past this so called “LeBron Fatigue” where no one wants to vote him for MVP because he has a real case to win it every season. So since he’s suffering the same fate that kept Jordan from earning more than five MVPs, name the award after the G.O.A.T. and give it to the best player in the league.

I’ll add another award. Since the NBA already has a Defensive Player of the Year award, how about create and Offensive Player of the Year award as well like the NFL. I’d bet James Harden would win this award in a landslide. And I’d vote for Kawhi Leonard to win his third consecutive Defensive Player of the Year award.

While I’m at it, I also think there should be an MVP given out at the end of both Conference Finals. This is my solution for those who for some reason want to wait until the end of the Finals to vote for MVP. I think that idea is absurd by the way. MVP is for the regular season. But the Finals MVP named in honor of Bill Russell shouldn’t be the de facto playoff MVP either. My solution, hand out the Larry Bird and Magic Johnson MVP trophy at the end of each conference final similar to the MOP in each region of the NCAA Tournament. This way the Finals MVP can be determined by just the seven game series that decides the title.

Several sports leagues already hand out several individual awards. So what I’m calling for isn’t that unprecedented.

Major league baseball does it.  In addition to the League MVP, they give out a League Championship MVP to the best player in each series before the World Series, and then they give out a World Series MVP.

For the season they give out the Silver Slugger trophy for best offensive player at each position in each league. The Cy Young Award for the Pitchers, Rolaids Relief Man award for the best relief pitchers in each league as well as the Reliever of the Year award. The Hank Aaron award goes to the top hitter in each league and there are many more.

The National Hockey League also hands out several individual awards to celebrate all the players who had special seasons. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

I know some will call this the equivalent of Little League giving everyone a participation trophy, but they’re wrong. This is a fair way to make sure all greatness is celebrated.

In some seasons the same guy will rightfully sweep all the awards I’ve created. But it would be very rare. Between the historic once in a lifetime season Westbrook is having, the impressive turnaround Harden and the Rockets have made, the ascension of Kawhi and the consistent greatness of LeBron, I hate to see one, two or three of these guys not acknowledged for what they’re doing.

Kawhi Leonard, You Remind Me of….

Kawhi has become the best two-way player in the NBA. Photo Credit: Chris Covatta/NBAE/Getty Images

The San Antonio Spurs are playing their first season in almost two decades without the greatest player in franchise history, Tim Duncan. Yet, they’re still a strong title contender pushing the Golden State Warriors for the top spot in the Western Conference, and that’s all thanks to already having the next leader of their dynasty playing at a high level.

Kawhi Leonard, the 2014 NBA Finals MVP, has ascended to superstardom in 2016-17.

Always known as a tremendous defender as the reigning two-time Defensive Player of the Year, with a vastly improved offensive game, Leonard has many saying he is the best two way player in the game. And that’s saying something when LeBron James appears to still be in his prime.

The two-time All-Star is averaging a career high in points (26.0), free throws made (6.7) and attempted (7.6), for a career high 88.4% shooting. He’s also had more 25+ point games this season (35) than he had his entire career before the season began. Two times he’s had scoring steaks where he scored 30+ points in four consecutive games, and from January 10th through the 21st he had a steak of 5 consecutive games where he scored 30+ points which included setting a career high of 41 points in a win at Cleveland.

Speaking of the defending World Champion Cavs. Kawhi has gotten the better of his matchup versus LBJ scoring 25 points against them in their second victory against them this season, a 103-74 blowout where Leonard sat out the last 10 minutes of the 4th quarter.

Watching his development has been a pleasure, especially since his evolution has reminded me of several players I cheered for growing up.

In this latest edition of my “You Remind Me” series…  I compare “The Claw” to a six-time NBA Champ, a key contributor to “Showtime” and a 2017 Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame finalist.

Michael Cooper was the “Showtime” Lakers premier perimeter defender helping them win 5 Championships. The 8-time All-NBA Defensive selection (1st-Team 5-times) is as decorated as any guard on the defensive end in league history. He could play against 1’s, 2’s, 3’s and some 4’s before that was even the norm. The 1987 Defensive Player of the Year was once called “the best defender he ever faced” by Larry Bird. His defensive prowess is something he and Kawhi have in common. Leonard is a much more advanced offensive player.

Scottie Pippen. “Pip” doesn’t get the credit he deserves for being one of the best all-around players in NBA history. Not only did he defend the Chicago Bulls’ opponents top offensive perimeter player, he was also Chicago’s second leading scorer during much of his career along side Michael Jordan. But the part of Pip’s career that is most similar to Kawhi’s is the season and a half he played without MJ. In 1993-94, Pippen finished second in the league MVP voting behind Hakeem Olajuwon. That season he averaged 22.0 points, 8.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 2.9 steals per game. Those averages led all Chicago Bulls players.

Tracy McGrady. Kawhi hasn’t had the explosive 60+ point night that T-Mac had yet, but this season he has shown he has the ability. If Coach Pop let him. McGrady averaged 19.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game on 44 percent shooting from the field in his 16-year career. The two-time NBA Scoring Champion could slash through the lane and posterize the giants that patrolled the paint, but also pull up and sink the elbow jumper and post up in the short corner. Leonard has diversified his offensive game with the help of Kobe Bryant and it’s showing. The way he gets his points in a variety of ways is what reminds me of T-Mac, especially his Orlando days. More summers spent working with Kobe and the historical explosive scoring prowess might rub off on him as well.

When the Spurs signed LaMarcus Aldridge as a free agent in 2015 the expectation was that he’d be the one San Antonio built their championship hopes around, but it’s Leonard who has taken the baton from the three Hall of Famers (Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli) that led them to their previous five titles.

Kawhi is no longer just a defensive specialist or cog in the San Antonio wheel. The Spurs will need his overall game to continue to flourish if they have any hopes of defeating that juggernaut in the Bay Area and raising more banners in the AT&T Center.

James Harden, You Remind Me of….

James Harden is leading the Rockets to heights not seen since the mid-1990’s. Photo Credit: Troy Taormina/USA Today

The race for the 2016-2017 NBA MVP race is a dead heat between four men. LeBron James who is clearly the best player in the League, Russell Westbrook who is having the most historic season seen in over five decades, Kawhi Leonard who has ascended to a superstar, and James Harden who is having a redemption season.

Harden is the leader in the NBA in assists per game (11.3) and second in scoring per game (29.5) with a real chance to become only the second player in Association history to finish the season number one in both categories (Nate Archibald, 1972-73). He can also be the first player in Association history to score 2,000 or more points, while assisting on 2,000 plus points in a season. He also averages 8.0 rebounds per game, so he’s doing it on both ends which has been the knock on him in his career.

Most importantly, the Rockets currently hold the 3rd seed in the Western Conference with 51 wins, after winning only 41 games last season and finishing with the 8th seed.

The Rockets All-Star is the leader to grab the Maurice Podoloff trophy this season after a dismal 2015-2016 season where he didn’t make one of the three All-NBA teams shouldn’t be much of a stunner. “The Beard” actually was the inaugural players selection for Most Valuable Player in 2014-15 the season when the writers selected Steph Curry to his first of back-to-back MVP wins.

Also, playing in offensive innovator Mike D’Antoni’s system has turned Harden and the Rockets into legitimate title contenders. The smooth lefty’s talent is on full display now that he’s been converted from shooting guard to point guard in the hypercharged offensive system. The same system that turned future Hall of Famer Steve Nash into a two-time NBA MVP.

Harden’s reemergance as one of the top tier players in the game has me watching him more closely. The more I do, the pieces of his game reminds me of a couple of players we’ve seen before.

A Hall of Famer, a future Hall of Famer and a former NBA Finals MVP.

This is latest edition of my “You Remind Me of”… which includes LeBron James, Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Russell Westbrook.

Chris Mullin is another smooth crafty lefty without explosive athleticism, but great playmaking ability for himself and others. Each play at their own pace and never let the defender get them out of their style. Mullin is mostly known for his precision shooting from mid-range to the 3-point line, but “Mully” could definitely fill up the stat sheet like the Beard does today.

In his five All-Star seasons from 1988-89 through 1992-93, Mullin averaged 25.8 points per game on 52% shooting from the field, while grabbing 5.6 rebounds and dishing 4.1 assists per game. For the young fans who don’t know, Mullin is a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Manu Ginobli. This comparison isn’t new to hear for hoop fans. Actually, this is one of the legends Harden has be known to say he modeled his game after as youth growing up in southern California. They both have that devastating, for defenders, euro-step. Although, Ginobli probably does his with more force and speed.

Another player that Harden reminds me of is 2004 NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups. He and Harden are both bigger than the average point guard (6’3″ 210 & 6’5″ 215 respectively) with the ability to post up and get easy buckets on the block, but also carry the responsibility to spread the ball around and decipher which teammate’s hot hand to ride.

Billups was the maestro for those Detroit Pistons teams that won an NBA title, was 48 minutes from a repeat, and played in six consecutive Eastern Conference Finals. “Mr. Big Shot” was Detroits best offensive player while making sure fellow All-Stars Rip Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace’s offensive talents were maximized.

The success of Harden’s team may give him the votes needed to win the MVP over his good friend Westbrook. But, I wouldn’t be mad if this one time the voters coped-out and split the award between them.

NBA Needs to Drastically Crack Down on “Resting”

I guess the Warriors schedule is too hard for a professional athlete. Photo Credit: NBA.COM

When the 2016-2017 NBA schedule was released and the schedule makers blessed us with a March 11th game where the San Antonio Spurs would host the Golden State Warriors in a late season push for the number one seed, it was expected to be the most interesting and viewed regular season meeting this side of each of the Kevin Durant versus Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder meetings. Especially after the 29-point manhandling the Spurs put on the defending Western Conference Champions on opening night with their new Big Four.

A potential preview of the 2017 Western Conference Finals was ruined when Warriors coach Steve Kerr decided to “rest” the healthy Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, with Kevin Durant already out with a Grade 2 MCL injury in his left knee, because Golden State was on the second night of back-to-back games and having played ten games in the last seventeen days (February 23rd to March 11th). Seven of those were on the road, and the last four of that streak in five days.

Add to that that Kawhi Leonard (concussion protocol) and LaMarcus Aldridge (minor heart arrhythmia) also missed the game killed any excitement the league was building by having these two juggernauts face off in primetime in the first season of their highly promoted venture with ABC/ESPN to broadcast the most compelling games of the week on Saturday nights.

Instead we got an unwatchable game that was a 20-point blowout at halftime, with a final score of 107-85 San Antonio, while the Warriors trotted out a bunch of dudes you wouldn’t watch play pick-up at the playground if you just happened to be walking by.

This was clearly Kerr’s attempt to throw up a middle finger at the Association and its schedule makers. He could have easily looked ahead and staggered resting his top guys earlier in the streak when they played inferior teams like the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, with an eye on a big finish to end the 10-game span at full strength against the Spurs. Instead he basically said “F*** You” to anyone who cared about the game.

It’s time for Commissioner Silver to do something drastic end this trend. This isn’t good for the sport, the fans and business.

Why should fans pay hundreds and thousands of their hard earned dollars on tickets, travel, concessions and merchandise at any NBA game with the thought in the back of their mind they may or may not get to see their favorite player play or favorite team at full strength?

And why should fans across the country, that can’t attend the game in person, continue to pay a premium for League Pass and carve out time in their schedule to watch D-League quality?

So here’s what Commissioner Silver should do, NEEDS to do.

First, reduce the schedule to 65 games, similar to the format from 2011-2012 when the league was in a lockout that delayed the season. I’m cool if the owners want to take some money back from the players because of this, serves them right. Just back loading key divisional and conference games that will affect playoff seeding near the end of the season like the NFL did a couple of seasons ago isn’t working.

Limit preseason games if you have to as well, and spread the 65-games out over late October to mid April, and eliminate back to backs as well as three games in four night deals, giving no coach or player an excuse to “rest.”

Finally, heavily fine players that aren’t active for any reason other then a disclosed and diagnosed injury if they continue to “rest”. Instead of levying a hefty fine on teams like the one given to the Spurs when Coach Gregg Popovich did something similar as Kerr against the Miami Heat in 2013, dock from their salary cap which will hurt their ability to build a competitive roster. That will fix it.

Resting healthy players is also an insult to the history of the game and past players that so many of today’s players say inspired them. As ESPN/ABC analyst Michael Wilbon, said on ABC during Halftime of the Spurs-Warriors game, “twenty years ago forty-four NBA players played all 82 games. Last season only 18 players played all 82.”

For more perspective, arguably the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan played every game scheduled in a season nine of his fifteen seasons, including his final season at age 39-40. He also played 81 and 80 games two other seasons. By comparison, LeBron James, the best player in today’s era, has NEVER played all 82 games and has only reached 80 games two times in his fourteen-year career.

Today’s players are supposed to have better nutrition and better training, so what’s the problem?

How healthy and great would Kobe Bryant have played at the end of his 20-year career if he took so many nights off?

This is another reason why Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, Tracy McGrady, Kevin Garnett and other legends of the game say today’s players are soft. And I’m starting to think they’re right.

Jalen Rose, Wilbon’s co-analyst on ABC’s Halftime show hosted by Sage Steele, also a 13-year NBA vet, pointed out that the Association is followed on Twitter more than any other sports league, the NBA also has thirteen current players followed on the social media site that are in the Top 100, while the NFL has none despite being the most popular sport in America. The NBA also has two current players in the Top 5 on the Forbes Endorsement list while the NFL has none.

NBA players are more popular and make more money based off their notoriety than any other sport. So figuratively and financially speaking, they’re spitting in the face of those who they’ve made their fame and fortune off of, the Consumer.

Mister Silver, you’re the only one that can fix it. You’re the most proactive leader in sports, so I trust that you will. Until then, hopefully when these two meet again on March 29th we’ll get something closer to what we expect to see come playoff time. But I doubt it. Got rest up for that playoff run.

Magic Use 3rd Quarter Explosion & Ross to Rout Atlanta

The Magic’s new acquisition, Terrance Ross, led Orlando with 24 points in their 105-86 win over the Atlanta Hawks. Photo Credit: Orlando Magic.com

The Orlando Magic has DESEPERATELY needed shooting and outside scoring all season. On Saturday night against the visiting Atlanta Hawks, they looked like that had never been a problem.

Who knew they might have found it by giving up the interior defensive player they highly coveted since Dwight Howard left five seasons ago.

Orlando held a three-point halftime lead at 49-46. In the third quarter, where they’ve struggled all season, they stretched that lead to 15 behind a 31-point quarter, while holding the Hawks to only 19. The catalyst behind the second half surge was Terrance Ross.

Ross, who was acquired before the All-Star break for Serge Ibaka, made General Manager Rob Hennigan look like a genius for that move Saturday night against the Atlanta. He played 35 minutes and scored 24 points on 10 of 15 shooting, 4 of 7 from 3 point range in Orlando’s 105 to 86 victory.

Late in the third quarter and into the fourth, the Magic ran several plays for Ross where he came off a pin down screen by a big and curled into the lane for a pull up jumper.

All this coming off a disappointing performance in his debut game in a blue and white uniform where he made only four shots on seventeen attempts.

The 26-year old former NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Champion didn’t just do it on offense end. Orlando’s new acquisition got his hands in the passing lane and created several turnovers. He had two steals and a block. Atlanta had 17 on the night leading to 26 Magic points.

The addition of Ross not only gives them the scoring punch they need, it also allows Aaron Gordon to play the power forward position — where he’s started the last two games — where he’s probably more suitable to play in today’s small ball style of the NBA. Gordon responded with 18 points on 7 of 11 shooting and several of his usual above the rim highlight plays.

After the game, Gordon told the Magic Live/Fox Sports Florida crew “I’m continuing to play on the perimeter just at the four position, it spreads the floor so much and I can pick and choose when I want to post up.”

Elfrid Payton was the beneficiary of having a spread court to roam through. Payton flirted with a triple-double dishing out 9 points, grabbing 9 rebounds while scoring 15 points. The offense was free flowing.

Nikola Vucevic looked liked his old self as he outplayed his predecessor, Dwight Howard, with 16 points and 14 rebounds. “Vooch” was able to play the pick and pop game he’s been so successful at during his time in a Magic uniform with Payton.

The spacing didn’t just help in the half court. Orlando played at a faster pace in the open court off Hawk misses and turnovers, scoring 27 fast break points. The youth movement was in full display against a quality opponent that has a lot to play for, and coming off a tough loss to the Miami Heat in south Florida the night before.

For one night, GM Hennigan looked like he may have solved the riddle that’s been holding this team back all season. Question now is, is it too late for a playoff push with 22 games remaining and 7 games back of the eight seed?

Probably so, but what this team needs is to build momentum going into the offseason. A strong finish will go a long way in setting the tone for the 2017-18 season.

The Magic have three days off to get some practice time before they host the New York Knicks Wednesday night at the Amway Center.