Hoosiers In The NBA: Orlando’s Coaching Search Will Determine Oladipo’s Future

Welcome to offseason coverage of Hoosiers In The NBA! Today I am looking at Victor Oladipo’s Orlando Magic as they search for their fourth coach in three years. Please try to spread the word by liking it on Facebook or retweeting this on Twitter if you enjoyed it. Of course this is completely optional but it is greatly appreciated. Otherwise I hope you enjoy and for more coverage follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just look for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBA:


Even though it feels like he was just drafted yesterday, Victor Oladipo will be entering into his fourth season with the Orlando Magic this coming November. He’ll also be playing for his fourth different head coach.

After Scott Skiles stepped down due to  disagreements with management, the Magic are now in a dire position as they need to find a coach that can help the team build on the progress of last season. Before we get to potential replacements, let’s take a look at why the Magic are in this position.


Skiles’ entire tenure, from his campaigning for the job until he quit last week, has actually been very shaky in hindsight. Those mid-season lineup changes thought to be smart moves to help the Magic get out of a slump (such as moving Oladipo to the bench) now seem more like warning signs of a coach who didn’t quite trust his team. In fact, the midseason trades that sent away the young and talented Tobias Harris in exchange for veterans Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova were likely Skiles’ idea (he coached both in Milwaukee).

That trade may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back as it seems what ended up making Skiles leave was the fact that he and GM Rob Hennigan had very different ideas of how the team should be built. The Magic have been very patient trying to develop all of their young talent and thus want to reap the rewards. Meanwhile Skiles has always been a coach who not only preferred veterans but has a shorter than usual leash when it comes to rookies. Mario Hezonja was selected fifth in last year’s NBA Draft in hopes of giving the Magic a talented wing who would be a much needed three-point shooter, yet he ended up only playing 17.9 minutes per game this season (ranking ninth on the team).


It’s clear that the Magic want to stick with their young guys and thus the next coach needs to be someone who is good at developing players. The biggest name being attached to the Magic’s opening is former Indiana Pacers Head Coach Frank Vogel and honestly there might not be a better candidate.

While some players (like Oladipo) did make improvements on the defensive end, the team as a whole was still mediocre despite defense being Skiles’ expertise. While it’s possible that Vogel might not be able to fix the problem either, there’s no better defensive coach available than the man who made the Pacers a top 10 defensive team each of the last five seasons.

The main problem with hiring Vogel is that every team with an opening wants him. Unfortunately this puts the Magic at a huge disadvantage not because it isn’t an appealing job but because Orlando wants to take its time trying to find the next coach. Vogel, as well as potential candidate David Blatt, probably don’t want to wait for Orlando to make its decision unless they are guaranteed the job.

Instead it might be wiser to go after coaches that aren’t getting a lot of traction right now. The perfect example of that would be Mark Jackson. While many are split on just how good he is as a coach, there’s no denying that Jackson played a big role in developing the Golden State Warriors before Steve Kerr took them over the top. Orlando would provide a similar situation with its group of promising players. I doubt the Magic will reach Golden State’s success, but Jackson is more than capable of leading this team to the playoffs on yearly basis.


Yet the right answer for the Magic might be the least exciting option. Adrian Griffin is considered one of the most promising assistant coaches in the NBA and having coached in Orlando this past season, he may be the most logical choice of all. Despite all the turmoil, the Magic did improve last year under Skiles and his coaching staff, and it would make a lot of sense for Orlando to try and keep the same coaching staff even if the boss has left.

Similar to how a young quarterbacks tends to struggle when they have several offensive coordinators, younger NBA players can be hampered by having too many different head coaches. They have to simultaneously learn a new coach’s style while trying to adapt to playing on the professional level. Oladipo has had a pretty good career so far, but it’s very possible that he can’t reach his all-star potential because he has to keep learning new coaching styles. Griffin would bring some stability for a player who may need just that to take his game to the next level.

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Hoosiers In The NBA: Final Report Cards For 2015-2016 Season

NOTE: Hello everyone and welcome to a new edition of Hoosiers In The NBA on its new site! Please try to spread the word by liking it on Facebook or retweeting this on Twitter if you enjoyed it. Of course this is completely optional but it is greatly appreciated. Otherwise I hope you enjoy this latest edition and for more coverage follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just look for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBA:


With no more former Indiana Hoosiers left in the NBA playoffs, it’s time to transition to offseason coverage. Tomorrow I will kick things off by taking a look at Victor Oladipo’s Orlando Magic and their coaching vacancy.

For now let’s put a bow on this past season by grading the four former Hoosiers on how they performed during the 2015-2016 season. I’ll take a look at what each player accomplished and also what parts of their game they fell short on this season. The final grades are not measuring the overall quality of the player but are instead based on how the player did in relation to expectations. Without further ado, here are the end of the season report cards:

 


Eric Gordon: Guard, New Orleans Pelicans:

Season stats:

15.2ppg, 2.2rpg, 2.7apg, 0.96spg, 0.31bpg, 1.6tpg, 2.2fpg, 41.8% FG, 38.4% 3FG, 88.8% FT, 32.9mpg. (45 games)

What He Accomplished:

Coming off a season where he posted a career-low 13.4 points per game, it seemed that Eric Gordon was transitioning from being a lead player to role player. While team injuries may have forced it, Gordon proved this season that he can still be the team’s lead scorer if necessary. Despite playing 16 fewer games, he had the same number of 20+ points games (13) as he did last season. He also had the highest free throw percentage and the fewest turnovers of his career.

What Needs Improvement:

After shooting over 40% from three-point range for the first time in his career last season, Gordon failed to shot above 40% this year, making last season seem more like an aberration. While 38.4% is still very good, it isn’t the elite-level shooting that could have garnered him some good money in free agency despite his injury history. Speaking of which,  Gordon suffered a double whammy by missing nearly half the season due to injury, marking the fourth time in his eight-year NBA career he failed to play 60 games.

Conclusion:

It’s hard to properly judge Gordon or any member of the New Orleans Pelicans after all the bad injury luck (combined 531 games missed to injury). Gordon played well this past year and showed he still has something left in the tank, but his bad luck with injuries hit again and forced questions about his durability to resurface after a relatively healthy 2014-2015 season. In the end, I think they end up canceling each other out.

Season Grade: C

 


Victor Oladipo: Guard, Orlando Magic:

Season stats:

16.0ppg, 4.8rpg, 3.9apg, 1.61spg, 0.75bpg, 2.1tpg, 2.4fpg, 43.8% FG, 34.8% 3FG, 83.0% FT, 33.0mpg. (72 games)

What He Accomplished:

Having exceeded expectations offensively, it was the defensive side of the ball that Victor Oladipo needed to improve upon going into his third season. Under the direction of now former Head Coach Scott Skiles, Oladipo finally started showing why scouts thought he could become one of the premier defenders in the NBA. He also showed his versatility when he successfully filled the role of sixth man  for the Orland Magic during the early parts of the season.

What Needs Improvement:

Unfortunately Oladipo’s focus on improving his defense slightly diminished his offense output (he averaged 17.9 points per game in 2014-2015). The good news is that he did find a good balance toward the end of the season, especially during his 45-point performance against Cleveland. Yet the fact that his shooting numbers stayed the same (he shot 43.6% overall and 33.9% from deep last season) is a little concerning and will be the main focus for next season.

Conclusion:

Despite a dip in statistics, this was actually a very successful year for Oladipo. It cannot be overstated how much he has improved as an NBA defender and he should only get better. However, the biggest question going into this season is still unanswered, as we still don’t know whether Oladipo is an All-Star or just a really good role player. We’ll have to wait until next season to answer that question but the future still looks bright.

Season Grade: B+

 


Noah Vonleh: Forward, Portland Trail Blazers:

Season stats:

3.6ppg, 3.9rpg, 0.4apg, 0.35spg, 0.33bpg, 0.6tpg, 1.9fpg, 42.1% FG, 23.9% 3FG, 74.5% FT, 15.1mpg. (78 games)

What He Accomplished:

Despite still being very raw, Noah Vonleh was able to earn a decent amount of playing time and start 56 games for a Portland Trail Blazers team that finished with the fifth-best record in the Western Conference. He also got quite a bit more comfortable taking NBA three-pointers, attempting 46 after only trying 13 during his rookie season.

What Needs Improvement:

Did I mention he is still very raw? Despite playing almost five more minutes per game, his season averages barely improved. His performance remained mostly stagnant throughout the whole season despite being given many opportunities to improve.

Conclusion:

While Vonleh probably fell way below expectations, it’s important to note that the kid still isn’t even 21 years old. After getting shipped from Charlotte to Portland, you could argue that Vonleh had to go through another rookie season. However, it’s not a good sign that instead of adjusting as the season moved along he just maintained his level of play. Right or not, the expectations for next year will be high and the leniency will be low.

Season Grade: D+

 


Cody Zeller: Forward, Charlotte Hornets:

Season stats:

8.7ppg, 6.2rpg, 1.0apg, 0.78spg, 0.86bpg, 0.9tpg, 2.8fpg, 52.9% FG, 10.0% 3FG, 75.4% FT, 24.3mpg. (73 games)

What He Accomplished:

Cody Zeller’s standing with the Charlotte Hornets is so much better now than it was at the end of last season. Zeller needed to find a role to avoid being the odd man out and he definitely did. Thanks to a stylistic shift to a more up-tempo offense, Zeller’s speed, athleticism, and basketball I.Q. lend himself to being the perfect center for the Hornets. He also finally made over 50% of his shots for the first time in his NBA career.

What Needs Improvement:

Zeller saw a huge jump in the number of fouls he committed this season. While he’s still a very good defender, he’s not a rim protector and has accumulated the majority of his fouls because of this. There was also a decrease in the number of assists and while the number of rebounds did improve it could still be a little better.

Conclusion:

Unlike Oladipo, Zeller discovered his identity during his third NBA season and now can build towards perfecting his role. While the statistics may say he’s only contributing a little to the offense, the fact is that his screens and pick-and-roll play make this offense run perfectly. He still has a few things that he needs to work on but he definitely exceeded expectations by turning from a backup center fighting for a roster spot to a key part of the Hornets for years to come.

Season Grade: A-

 

Hoosiers In The NBA: Reviewing The Script To The Charlotte-Miami Series

I hope you all enjoy the game-by-game coverage of these playoffs and for more follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just look for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBAPlayoffs.

For today’s edition of Hoosiers In The NBA, I’m going to recap the “script” to the Charlotte-Miami series and map out how the series actually mirrored a five act theatrical play. Plus I’ll also review how Cody Zeller did in comparison to my projected stats.

As for the Portland-Golden State series, it should be an interesting one regardless of whether or not Noah Vonleh plays, but for the purposes of not rehashing this same topic (how does Vonleh find a way to play in this series) over and over again, this will probably be my last playoff update unless Vonleh’s role increases.

 


Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: (6) Charlotte Hornets vs (3) Miami Heat (Miami Wins 4-3)

Game 1: Miami 123, Charlotte 91

  • Cody Zeller’s Game Log: 9 points (3-4 FG)(3-4 FT), 7 rebounds, assist, personal foul, 20 minutes.

Game 2: Miami 115, Charlotte 103

  • Cody Zeller’s Game Log: 8 points (3-6 FG)(2-3 FT), 5 rebounds, 4 personal fouls, 14 minutes.

Game 3: Charlotte 96, Miami 80

  • Cody Zeller’s Game Log: 12 points (4-8 FG)(4-4 FT), 8 rebounds, block, 2 turnovers, 5 personal fouls, 26 minutes.

Game 4: Charlotte 89, Miami 85

  • Cody Zeller’s Game Log: 8 points (3-4 FG)(2-2 FT), 4 rebounds, turnover, 4 personal fouls, 21 minutes.

Game 5: Charlotte 90, Miami 88

  • Cody Zeller’s Game Log: 4 points (1-4 FG)(2-2 FT), 3 rebounds, assist, steal, turnover, 3 personal fouls, 21 minutes.

Game 6: Miami 97, Charlotte 90

  • Cody Zeller’s Game Log: 12 points (4-5 FG)(4-6 FT), 3 rebounds, 2 blocks, turnover, personal foul, 18 minutes.

Game 7: Miami 106, Charlotte 73

  • Cody Zeller’s Game Log: 6 points (3-7 FG), 7 rebounds, 2 turnovers 2 personal fouls, 17 minutes.

The Charlotte Hornets and the Miami Heat generated some compelling theatre during their series as the amount of twists and turns transformed a playoff series that had more blowouts than close games into one of the most interesting first round series in recent NBA history. So why not recap the series like it was a five act play? Here is the script:

ACT 1: The Heat On Fire – Game 1 & 2

  • The first act is primarily for creating exposition, but its other function is to introduce the conflict.
  • The exposition is straightforward and present before the series begins (it’s the playoffs and Miami has home-court advantage), but the conflict arises as a result of the Hornets getting run off the court during the first two games. The Heat combined to hit 93 of their 161 field attempts (57.8%), including 18 of 34 (52.9%) from deep in the first two games. The Hornets were now in the process of getting swept and, to add insult to injury, were now just one loss away from tying the record more most consecutive playoff games lost (13 by the New York Knicks).

ACT 2: Clifford Counters – Game 3 & 4

  • This act is called the rising action as the events of this act build up tension and draw the plot towards the climax.
  • Tension definitely began to rise for the Heat as what once looked like a possible sweep saw the series tied after four games. Charlotte Head Coach Steve Clifford made a great lineup change as he moved Cody Zeller to the bench to enhance the second unit, placing Al Jefferson in the starting lineup, and also started Frank Kaminsky at power forward, moving Marvin Williams to small forward. Both Zeller and Kaminsky had their best playoff games during game three as Zeller scored 12 and Kaminsky scored 15. Then in game four, Kemba Walker took over as his 34 points helped the Hornets even the series.

ACT 3: Courtney Lee’s Offensive Rebound – Game 5

  • The climax occurs in the third act as every building up to this point reaches a boiling point.
  • The climax (at least for the Hornets) happened when Courtney Lee grabbed a huge offensive rebound off of Walker’s missed 16-footer and hit the game-winning three-pointer with 25 seconds left. You could also argue that the climax was when Dwyane Wade rebounded a blocked Goran Dragic three-pointer and was unable to draw a foul as a 50-50 call went Charlotte’s way when the referees didn’t whistle Zeller for a personal foul.

ACT 4: Wade Refuses To Die – Game 6

  • The falling action follows the climax and details what happens after the climax and starts to wrap up the narrative.
  • I had to cheat a little bit here as game six could be considered either the climax or the falling action depending on which team’s point of view you are taking.
  • It’s a climax for Miami as the franchise’s greatest player refused to let his team lose by imposing his will on the game when it mattered most. Wade scored 10 of his team-high 23 points in the fourth quarter, but more impressively he made two three-pointers in the period after not making a single one in the last four months.
  • For Charlotte this game is the falling action due to the realization after the loss that the Hornets had just blown their chance to win the playoffs series. Sure they had just won in Miami during game five, but now the Heat had all the momentum after finally solving the new Charlotte lineup.

ACT 5: Dragic, Defense Dominate – Game 7

  • The last act is called the denouement, which basically is just a conclusion or resolution to the story.
  • With the final outcome never in doubt after halftime, a lot of people considered game seven to be anti-climatic. While not the exact opposite of the climax, the denouement is more focused on wrapping up the story and getting to the final point. So Dragic’s 25 points and the Heat’s overall defensive brilliance helped make sure that the conclusion of this series was as clear as possible.

It was a valiant effort for the Hornets as they look to be a team on the rise as long as they retain their key free agents (especially Nic Batum) this summer. One of the reasons this team will continue to get better is because of Cody Zeller, as he actually surpassed my expectations by a little bit during the Miami series:

  • Cody Zeller’s Predicted Stats: 6.5ppg, 6.1rpg, 0.83spg, 1.50 bpg, 47.0% FG, 28.3mpg
  • Cody Zeller’s Actual Stats: 8.4ppg, 5.3rpg, 0.43bpg, 55.3% FG, 81.0% FT, 19.6mpg

While the numbers are a little off, for the most part I was right about the role Zeller would have in this series. He provided some excellent defense and was able to help the offense function with his ability to set perfect screens. However there were two things that surprised me:

  1. Zeller actually was involved in the scoring more than I anticipated. I figured he’d get a few passes in the paint off of pick-and-rolls, but Zeller actually attempted about a half dozen mid-range jumpers and ended up making most of them. This was usually the result of him getting the ball wide-open at the top of the key after the passer was double-teamed. He was also very confident at the foul line as he actually shot better in the playoffs (81.0%) than he did during the regular season (75.4%).
  2. The other thing that surprised me was that Zeller didn’t play anywhere near as much as I thought he would. Granted I didn’t predict that Zeller would end up giving his starting spot to Al Jefferson, but Zeller ended up ranking eighth on the team in terms of minutes played with only 120 minutes logged. In comparison, rookie Frank Kaminsky played 190 minutes and Nic Batum (who only played five of the seven games, two of which he came off the bench) played 144 minutes. I understand why they ended up playing more (Kaminsky can play both power forward and center and Batum in Charlotte’s second best player) but the minutes gap still feels a little strange.

 


Western Conference Quarterfinals: (5) Portland Trail Blazers vs (1) Golden State Warriors (Golden State leads 1-0)

Game 1: Golden State 118, Portland 106

  • Noah Vonleh’s Game Log: 0 points (0-0 FG), rebound, 1 minute.

I predicted in my series preview that either Noah Vonleh would take Chris Kaman’s spot in the nine-man rotation or Portland Head Coach Terry Stotts would shorten it to an eight-man rotation. For game one at least, he seems to have chosen the latter.

Yet that doesn’t mean it still can’t happen. The Portland Trail Blazers need to make some kind of adjustment as the Golden State Warriors (even without Stephen Curry) were the better team by a sizeable (both in skill and length) margin.

Vonleh could potentially start in the same role he had for most of the season (start both halves and determine playing time from his performance) and thus give Portland a legit power forward instead of playing two small forwards. I admit Coach Stotts could also go with Ed Davis in this situation but the starters do have experience playing with Vonleh which would bring some familiarity.

 

Hoosiers In The NBA: Portland-Golden State Preview

I hope you all enjoy the game-by-game coverage of these playoffs and for more follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just look for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBAPlayoffs.

Western Conference 1st Round: (5) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (1) Golden State Warriors

Regular Season Series: Warriors won 3-1

Playoff Series: 0-0 (1st game is Sunday at 3:30pm)

Probable Starting Lineups:

Portland Trail Blazers:

C – Mason Plumlee: 9.1ppg (51.6% FG/64.2% FT), 7.7rpg, 2.8apg

F – Al-Farouq Aminu: 10.2ppg (41.6%/36.1% 3FG/73.7% FT), 6.1rpg, 1.7apg

F – Maurice Harkless: 6.4ppg (47.4% FG/27.9% 3FG/62.2% FT), 3.6rpg, 0.9apg

SG – C.J. McCollum: 20.8ppg (44.8% FG/41.7% 3FG/82.7% FT), 3.2rpg, 4.3apg, 1.2spg

PG – Damian Lillard: 25.1ppg (41.9% FG/37.5% 3FG/89.2% FT), 4.0rpg, 6.8apg

Key Bench Players – Noah Vonleh (3.6ppg, 3.9rpg), Ed Davis (6.5ppg, 7.4rpg, 61.1% FG), Gerald Henderson (8.7ppg), Allen Crabbe (10.3ppg, 39.4% 3FG)

Golden State Warriors:

C – Andrew Bogut: 5.4ppg (62.7% FG/48.0% FT), 7.0rpg, 2.3apg, 1.6bpg

PF – Draymond Green: 14.0ppg (49.0% FG/38.8% 3FG/69.6% FT), 9.5rpg, 7.4apg, 1.5spg, 1.4bpg

SF – Harrison Barnes: 11.7ppg (46.6% FG/38.3% 3FG/76.1% FT), 4.9rpg, 1.8apg

SG – Klay Thompson: 22.1ppg (47.0% FG/42.5% 3FG/87.3% FT), 3.8rpg, 2.1apg

PG – Shaun Livingston: 6.3ppg (53.6% FG/86.0% FT), 2.2rpg, 3.0apg

MVP – Stephen Curry: 30.1ppg (50.4% FG/45.4% 3FG/90.8% FT), 5.4rpg, 6.7apg, 2.1spg

Key Bench Players – Andre Iguodala (7.0ppg, 4.0rpg, 3.4apg), Marreese Speights (7.1ppg, 38.7% 3FG), Ian Clark (3.6ppg), Leandro Barbosa (6.4ppg)

What To Expect:

The Portland Trail Blazers were one of the few playoff teams that beat the Golden State Warriors this year, so with Stephen Curry’s status up in the air there is a chance the Trail Blazers make this a very interesting series.

So does that mean that Noah Vonleh will have zero chance of playing any meaningful minutes in this series? Surprisingly I think there is a realistic chance he does play.

As with the Los Angeles Clippers series, there is a potential scenario that may provide Vonleh with an opportunity to play. Chris Kaman was the reserve center in the last series but I don’t think he can keep up with small-ball centers such as Draymond Green and Marreese Speights. Vonleh is much more athletic and is quick enough to guard both.

But before you pencil in Vonleh for eight minutes per game, know that there’s another solution that is just as likely.  If Coach Terry Stotts still thinks Vonleh isn’t ready for such a big responsibility he may instead just shorten his rotation and stagger his post players’ minutes so that either Mason Plumlee or Ed Davis is always on the court.

Just like last series it may come down to a first impression. I could see Stotts giving Vonleh a chance during game one and if he likes what he sees he’ll continue to have Vonleh come off the bench. If he doesn’t, Vonleh will be glued to the bench for the rest of the series.

Stat Predictions: 0.8ppg, 1.3rpg, 33% FG, 3.8mpg