On Monday night, the Orlando Magic were held to a dismal 61 points in a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Magic were without veterans Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, J.J. Redick and of course, Glen Davis who is out for the season with a fractured foot. But could these key pieces missing time and in Davis’ case, the remainder of the season, actually be a blessing in the long run for Orlando? The answer seems to be yes.
The Magic have lost 21 of their last 23 games and over the span, Orlando has had not one, but two losing streaks of 10 games or more. Things seemed to begin to go downhill for Orlando after Davis was injured the first time in a win over Washington on December 19th. Even after Davis’ return however on January 14th, the Magic were not winning.
Nelson has dealt with injury issues throughout the season while Redick missed his first game of the season on Monday night. Forward Hedo Turkoglu, who was in the lineup on Monday, has played in just 11 games and Al Harrington, another forward, has still yet to make his season debut for Orlando.
The Orlando Magic have been struggling regardless of who has been in the lineup. But with players like Davis healthy, there were fewer minutes available for players who appear to be intricate parts of Orlando’s future.
Rookie Andrew Nicholson, who was the Magic’s first round pick in 2012, saw a significant drop in minutes following Davis’ return. Nicholson moved into the starting power forward spot after Davis’ first injury back in December, but since the return of Davis, Nicholson had not played more than 20 minutes in any contest. During that span, Nicholson played less than 10 minutes five times and did not play at all in two of those games.
Since Davis’ recent injury, Nicholson is averaging nearly 24 minutes-per-game and averaging in double-figures scoring while shooting 56 percent from the field.
Maurice Harkless, another rookie, is playing his best basketball of the season although it began prior to Orlando’s injury woes. Prior to a January 28th loss to Brooklyn, Harkless had scored in double-figures just once this season. In his last five games, Harkless has done so three times while recording career-highs in minutes in consecutive nights. In Saturday’s 107-98 loss at Milwaukee, Harkless also recorded career-highs of 19 points and 14 rebounds. Over his last five games, Harkless has averaged about 32 minutes played along with 12.2 points and 6.8 rebounds-per-game.
E’Twaun Moore got the start at shooting guard on Monday night and has played point guard as well down the stretch of games for the Magic. Moore, who started in place of the injured Nelson earlier this season, tied a season-high with 18 points in Monday’s loss.
Moore is just 23 years old, but looks to have a promising future with the Magic. It is uncertain whether that future will be at point guard or shooting guard, but when given additional minutes, Moore has made the most of it. When Moore gets at least 29 minutes, he averages better than 12 points-per-game.
Starting center Nikola Vucevic has not had his minutes affected much at all by the recent injuries. Vucevic also seems to produce no matter who is playing with him. Vucevic, at the age of just 22, is one of just five players in the NBA to average better than 12 points and 11 rebounds-per-game. It is worth noting however that in each of the three games in which Vucevic scored a career-high 20 points, he did so with Davis out of the lineup and twice without Nelson.
Injuries are never good thing and losing the few veterans that play for a very young team will have obvious repercussions. But regardless of who has been playing, the Orlando Magic have not been winning since mid-December. With increased minutes for guys such as Nicholson, Harkless and Moore has not surprisingly come increased production. While the Magic are feeling the effects of growing pains for the time being, the increased minutes are familiarity for the younger guys should help them grow individually as players and develop a rapport with one another for down the road.
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