On the NBA Beat Ep. 16a: Zach Oliver: The Magic “Just Lock Up” in Close Games Down the Stretch

After a promising 19-13 start under new head coach Scott Skiles, the Orlando Magic have fallen on very hard times this calendar year, dropping 11 of 12 contests. A stagnant offense has especially plagued this incredibly young team. Amid such horrible January struggles, Zach Oliver of SB Nation’s Orlando Pinstriped Post drops by to help explain the Magic’s current woes as well as to provide insight on the team’s wealth of young talent.

Sexy sound bites can be found excerpted below:

4:30-4:45: “A lot of people were a little bit lower on the Skiles hiring than I was because, you know, Skiles is going to come in, he’s going to coach them for a couple years, he’s going to whip them into shape, but then he’s going to lose the locker room and they’ll have to make a change. But at the same time, that’s exactly what this team needed.” 

5:33-6:23: “The thing that troubles me the most… is that they just lock up. They move the ball exceptionally well in the first two and a half, three quarters, getting quality looks, and then in the fourth quarter, guys just tense up and try to do it all on their own. To be honest, they really don’t have that guy that they can give the ball to in iso and say, ‘Here, we need a bucket go score.’ So that’s the biggest issue with them. Their defense is still an issue, especially late in games. Nik Vucevic, whom I think has done a better job in certain areas, still can’t protect the rim and the Magic guards have been unable to keep anybody in front of them.” 

11:27-12:20: “I think that they’re showing some good individual developments. Elfrid Payton, who was so timid to shoot the ball last season, his jumper might still break a backboard every once in a while, but it actually has improved and he’s shown a willingness to step up and take it, which is huge…He still gambles a little bit too much going for steals, but his on-ball defense is phenomenal. He could get a call for an All-NBA defensive team. So they’re still able to individually develop, but they’re just not putting it all together and I think this is where we get to the question of, ‘Do these pieces actually fit?” 

12:23-12:55: “With the trade deadline coming up, I’ve gotten a lot of questions like, ‘What do the Magic need to do?’ I think that they need to stand pat. With how bad they were last season, they’re a year behind in their rebuild… They’re figuring out which pieces are actually going to be here for the long haul. Then you go and try to make your big splash, maybe you go and look at a guy like Kevin Love if he becomes available in the offseason. Maybe you look at a DeMarcus Cousins, something like that. But I think you need to wait until the offseason to cash in your chips.” 

17:37-18:15: “With [Victor Oladipo] coming off the bench, they have better balance. They actually have a guy who they can give the ball to off the bench. Victor might not be the most gifted scorer, but he can go and get you 18-24 a night by himself. So that was big for the bench and it helped the defense a lot… Maybe the con is that he might have been sulking a little bit. I could tell once the move was initially made that he was upset with the change in his role, which is no surprise.” 

21:31-21:51: “[Tobias Harris’ situation is] like with Victor, almost, he’s doing a lot of good things, he’s been helping the team, but he’s not doing what they need him to do. They need him to score. It’ll come, I really do believe that, but it’s been a weird season for Tobias.” 

23:24-23:37: “Numbers-wise, they might say that [Channing Frye] has been a positive, to an extent, defensively, but it’s a matchup nightmare, especially next to Vucevic, with neither one being able to defend a chair.” 

24:55-25:50: “I think the guys have a tendency to shy away from contact… [Victor Oladipo] can get into the paint at will especially when he’s going downhill off a pick, but he won’t go into a defender’s body and draw contact. Elfrid Payton won’t go into a defender’s body and draw contact… They shy away from contact so much that when they actually go in and get contacted, they don’t get calls. It’s really bad when Nik Vucevic is only attempting… 1.5 free throw attempts per game. That’s bad.”

Music: “Who Likes to Party?” by Kevin MacLeod