The Washington Wizards waste no time in getting on with their schedule, taking on the Orlando Magic on the road at 7 p.m. on Comcast Sports Net. To preview the game, we talked to Zach Oliver of SB Nation sister site Orlando Pinstriped Post to get to know the Magic a little more.
1. What are your main takeaways from Tuesday's loss against New Orleans?
I think the biggest thing to take away from Tuesday night's loss is that the Magic still have work to do. New Orleans threw a couple of haymakers in the third quarter that landed and the Magic were just unable to recover. They seemed to really fade from some of the things that they said they wanted to do, mainly pushing the pace, and it seemed to have an impact.
Orlando's "smalls" also need to do a better job of helping Nikola Vucevic and company on the boards. New Orleans seemingly won all of the 50/50 balls and were just so much more active, which allowed them to grab 26 offensive rebounds. Vucevic can only do so much on the boards, and if he isn't getting adequate help, the team is going to be in trouble, especially against another strong frontline in Marcin Gortat and Nene.
My final big takeaway is that they need to stop switching everything while defending screens on the defensive end. There were countless times that one of Elfird Payton, Ben Gordon or Luke Ridnour were fighting with Anthony Davis or Ryan Anderson down low. It didn't work out well for the Magic, and I'd imagine it would cause them a bunch of issues against Gortat and Nene tonight.
2. The Magic made a couple of moves in signing veterans Channing Frye and Ben Gordon that were surprising for a rebuilding team. What are your views on these moves?
The moves were surprising, yes, but moves that the team needed to make. With the departures of Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, Doron Lamb and E'Twaun Moore, the Magic were in desperate need of some outside shooting. That being said, the Ben Gordon signing was clearly much of a surprise, considering his issues in Charlotte the last few seasons.
Channing Frye on the other hand was a guy that could end up being great for the team. With Payton and Victor Oladipo, who are going to be attacking the basket a lot, having a guy like Frye opens up so much on offense for them and for guys slashing to the basket. Add in the fact that Frye is a fantastic locker room guy, and the Magic got everything they needed and wanted. I think the Frye move could turn out to be a very good and impactful one -- once he's healthy and on the floor, that is.
As for Gordon, I'm still scratching my head some. I get why they did it; he's a 40 percent career three-point shooter and assistant GMs Matt Lloyd and Scott Perry have both worked with him before. He's put in a lot of work, sometimes getting to the gym a few hours before everyone else and putting up shots. But if the shots aren't falling in games, does he get discouraged? Does he get pouty and cause issues in the locker room? It could turn out to be a good move, but with his struggles the last few seasons, I'm not sure Gordon will be able to find that Sixth Man of the Year guy inside him again.
3. As you may know, there was a little spat between the Wizards and the Cavaliers this preseason about the best backcourt in the league. The Magic have a very young promising backcourt themselves in Payton and Oladipo. What do you see as the ceiling of this pair?
It's hard to say what their ceiling is right now, as they've yet to play an actual NBA game together. That being said, with their defensive pedigrees, they could turn into one of the best defensive backcourts as time wears on. They're both pesky on-ball defenders and both will jump into passing lanes and do whatever they can to wreak as much havoc while out there.
Offensively, they have a little bit of a ways to go. At this point, Payton uses his quickness to get to the rim and attempt a floater or try to get a layup and/or dunk. He can knock down the jumper on occasion, but it needs work to become a more consistent weapon for him.
Oladipo is somewhat in the same boat as Payton. He's going to get most of his points by attacking the basket, but he has a nice pull up elbow jumper and is a bit further along than Payton is with his shooting. His biggest thing, which he mentioned a few times last season, is working and developing his left hand around the bucket.
So, overall, these two are going to be very good defensively, but could have issues offensively, especially right off the bat. They both have a lot of room to grow, however, and with some time, they might be able to toss their name into that discussion for best backcourt, though the likes of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are going to be tough to catch for the best.
4. Maurice Harkless got a DNP-CD against the Pelicans. What is your thinking on why Jacque Vaughn didn't put him in the game?
I'm really not sure, to be honest. If I had to take a guess, it would be that Jacque didn't like the matchups that Maurice would've drawn against the Pelicans. Maurice has put in a lot of work since last season, and during the preseason it really showed with his play, especially on the offensive end.
With the depth that the team has on the wing, it could be hard for Harkless to find a ton of minutes. However, he should be playing over Willie Green and should be cutting into Ben Gordon's minutes. He's much more of a small forward, but he can be used at shooting guard for spurts. With Oladipo out for the foreseeable future, Harkless should see some minutes there.
5. What do the Magic need to do differently tonight to beat Washington?
I hinted some at it in my answer to the first question, but they really need to push the pace. They have the players to get out and run and cause problems for the opposition, and with Washington coming in on the second night of a back-to-back, it should be one of their areas to really focus on. They scored just 10 points on the break against the Pelicans, and that's not how this team is going to win basketball games.
They also need to do a better job on the glass and defending the paint. New Orleans scored well over half of their points in the paint, 64 of 101, and outscored the Magic 32-19 in second chance points, thanks in large part to a +10 differential in offensive rebounding. Orlando has one of the best rebounders in the league in Nikola Vucevic, but he needs help.
There's a lot of things that I'll be looking at during tonight's game to see if the Magic can address them and fix them some, but the ones I have mentioned above are arguably the biggest ones for them to work on tonight.
Bonus question: Do you get Kanye West's "Heartless" in your head every time you hear Maurice Harkless's name, or does that wear off with time?
It wears off, very fast, especially when you don't listen to Kanye. I'll still hear it from people from time to time, but overall I try to ignore it.