The Magic are one of several teams in the league that are focused on developing their young players while focusing their efforts on building through the draft. Ever since Dwight Howard left town, the Magic have decided to stockpile young assets and to obtain as many draft picks as possible. They do have some good young talent, but they have a thin roster overall and their poor record shows it as they come in at 11-32 on the year. The Lakers have been playing much better of late and put forth a solid effort, particularly in the second half, in last night’s loss to the Heat.
Frontcourt: Magic center Nikola Vucevic is one of the most underrated big men in the league, and has a bright future. He will not play tonight due to a concussion. Glen “Big Baby” Davis, who Laker fans are familiar with from his days in Boston, started at center most recently for the Magic when Vucevic was out. Big Baby is a player who brings good energy each night. However, he is best suited to be the first big off the bench on a good team. He struggles with his efficiency in a starting role, as he is undersized in the post. He is having a solid year overall, averaging 13.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Look for the Lakers to go to Pau Gasol early and often to exploit the match-up against the undersized Davis.
Tobias Harris puts up nearly identical numbers to Davis (13.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game). Harris is a player that Magic management holds in high regard due to how young he is (just 21 years old) and his skill set. He has the potential to be a dangerous stretch four in the league for many years in that he is capable of playing both inside and out, although he has struggled from beyond the arc this season.
Backcourt: The strength of the Magic is in their backcourt. They start veteran point guard Jameer Nelson as well as shooting guards Aaron Afflalo and rookie Victor Oladipo. Nelson is as steady as ever, averaging his usual 13 points and 6 assists per night that have been the norm for him for the last eight years as the Magic starting point guard. Oladipo, the second overall pick in last year’s draft, is the one to watch for the Magic in this game as they are banking on him to be a franchise-type player. Oladipo was viewed by several experts as the most “sure” thing in the 2013 draft, as he already has a solid skill set while still having considerable upside. Oladipo possesses lockdown defensive potential and excellent athleticism in getting to the basket. He’s averaging 13.7 points, 3.9 assists, and 4.4 rebounds per game as a rookie and is in a two-person race with the Sixers’ Michael Carter-Williams for Rookie of the Year.
While Oladipo is the future, Arron Afflalo is the present. Afflalo is a top ten shooting guard in the NBA and is having a career year. The former UCLA Bruin is averaging 20.2 points a night while being very efficient (46% from field, 42% from three, 83% from the line). He cannot be left alone beyond the arc, and whoever draws the assignment on him will have to stay attached on all screening action. Afflalo excels coming off of screens to catch and shoot. He is the number one concern for the Laker defense in this one.
Keys to Lakers Victory:
Defensive Energy: Coming off a game last night, the Lakers can ill afford to come out flat against the Magic. The Magic have youth and athleticism on their side in this one. After a terrible defensive effort in the first half against the Heat in yesterday’s game, the Laker weak-side defenders did a much better job of helping and recovering in the second half. They must carry that effort over to tonight’s game.
Limit Turnovers: The Magic are a limited group offensively, as they do not have a typical go-to player. They rank just 23rd in the league in points per game as a unit. The Lakers need to do a good job of protecting the ball so that it does not lead to run-outs and easy buckets for the Magic, who struggle to score in the half-court. The Lakers have had trouble taking care of the ball lately. They are now sixth-worst team in the league as far as turning the ball over (15.7 per game).
Feed Pau: Since he was taken off the trading block, Pau has simply been on a tear. He looks motivated again and is showing that he remains one of the most skilled bigs in the league. He has six straight games over 20 points and has been dominating the glass as well, with his season average on the boards up to 10 a night. With Vucevic out, Pau should have a huge advantage down low against the Magic.
Orlando Magic (11-32) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (16-27)
4:00 PM PST, January 24, 2014
Amway Center, Orlando, FL
TV: TWC SportsNet
Radio: ESPN Radio 710 ESPNLA
Magic Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Jameer Nelson
SG: Victor Oladipo
SF: Arron Afflalo
PF: Tobias Harris
C: Glen Davis
Key Reserves: PF Andrew Nicholson, F Maurice Harkless, G Doron Lamb
Lakers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Kendall Marshall
SG: Jodie Meeks
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Ryan Kelly
C: Pau Gasol
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