DeMatha Head Coach Mike Jones "proud" of alum Oladipo
The pecking order in the South East division starts and ends with the Miami Heat. As long as LeBron James continues to call south Florida home that will remain the case. But after James and Co. there isn’t much that separates the Hawks, Wizards, Bobcats and Magic.
As currently constructed the Wizards and Hawks have the potential to make the playoffs but neither team will make any major noise this spring. It’s no secret that Orlando is lottery bound but quietly they’ve acquired a lot of young assets and they aren’t far away from turning things around.
Former DeMatha product Victor Oladipo may be the name that garners the most attention but he’s just one of the pieces Magic General Manager Rob Hennigan has put together in Orlando. Maurice Harkless, Tobias Harris, Andrew Nicholson and Nikola Vucevic are all 23-years old or younger and are gaining valuable experience early in their careers.
RELATED: [Instant analysis: Wizards 98, Magic 80 ]
At 6’9” Harkless has the physical tools to become a lockdown wing defender. Harris has missed all but one game this season due to a high ankle sprain but was on everyone’s preseason short list for most improved player of the year. The 21-year-old can play either forward position but will likely start at small forward once he’s healthy. Nicholson is a rugged power forward and last season Vucevic finished season in the league in rebounds per game at 11.9. That group gives the Magic solid options at 2-5 (shooting guard-center). The biggest question for this team is point guard.
With Jameer Nelson still nursing a sprained left foot Oladipo continued his point guard experiment against the Washington Wizards on Monday night. While a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder front office it was Henningan who led the campaign to draft Russell Westbrook although he’d never played point guard at UCLA.
Oladipo certainly didn’t back down from his match up against John Wall. On several occasions he showed his explosiveness by getting to the basket and also held Wall to just 5-of-14 shooting. The former Indiana star never played point guard on any level prior to his time with the Magic and he acknowledges that’s he’s a work in progress.
RELATED: [DeMatha alum Oladipo returns to DC with Magic ]
“I have to learn to be aggressive but at the same time keep everybody else involved,” said Oladipo after scoring 13 points in his first NBA game in his hometown. “I’m not going to learn until I just keep growing and watching film…keep learning from people like Jameer [Nelson] and the coaching staff. I have a long way to go but I’m willing to work to get there. “
Whether or not Oladipo can handle the full time responsibilities of being a point guard will play a big part in determining Orlando’s draft strategy this summer. Australian native Dante Exum and Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart are the top two point prospects in the 2014 draft. But if Oladipo can play the point, Orlando will have a wealth of wings to choose from including Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Aaron Gordon.
The Magic have two first round picks this summer and when you combine draft picks and young assets to go along with a creative GM like Hennigan; there’s no reason to think that Disney World can’t be a secondary attraction in Central Florida really soon.