As an assistant general manager in Oklahoma City, Rob Hennigan watched as Russell Westbrook developed from a raw, 6'3" √ºberathlete into a premier point guard. Now as the Magic's GM, Hennigan hopes to duplicate that success with Victor Oladipo, the No. 2 pick in the draft, who was primarily a shooting guard at Indiana. Oladipo is dynamic off the dribble, with a Westbrook-like ability to finish at the rim over bigger defenders. In a league where point guards resemble middle linebackers, Oladipo's size (6'4", 213 pounds) and athleticism will be a huge asset.
Against the Cavaliers during the preseason, Oladipo helped limit Kyrie Irving to 5 of 16 shooting. Like any new point guard, Oladipo has struggled with turnovers—he averaged a team-worst 4.8 during summer league—and teams will pressure him to test his ballhandling and decision making. But the Magic have the luxury of easing Oladipo into the role; they're in full-on rebuilding mode, and veteran Jameer Nelson can handle the point until Oladipo is ready. It may not take long. Oladipo is a hard worker: He effectively made himself a three-point threat at Indiana, improving from 20.8% as a sophomore to 44.1% as a junior last season. He's also a willing learner: He has taken to calling himself SpongeBob because of the information he is soaking up at practice. And like Westbrook, Oladipo is eager to prove doubters wrong. He already has one believer. "He's going to be great," said Irving. "His potential is out of this roof."
COACH JACQUE VAUGHN (2ND SEASON WITH MAGIC)
2012--13 RECORD 20--62 (5TH IN SOUTHEAST)
WHAT'S NEW Sadly, not much. Victor Oladipo, the draft's No. 2 pick, and bruising PF Jason Maxiell join a motley crew.
PROJECTED LINEUP (2012--13 STATS)
PG JAMEER NELSON
14.7 PPG; 7.4 APG; 39.2 FG%; 34.1 3FG%
SG ARRON AFFLALO
16.5 PPG; 3.7 RPG; 43.9 FG%; 30.0 3FG%
SF TOBIAS HARRIS
11.0 PPG; 5.2 RPG; 45.5 FG%; 31.5 3FG%
PF GLEN DAVIS
15.1 PPG; 7.2 RPG; 0.9 SPG; 44.8 FG%
C NIKOLA VUCEVIC
13.1 PPG; 11.9 RPG; 1.0 BPG; 51.9 FG%
PG VICTOR OLADIPO (R)
13.6 PPG; 6.3 RPG; 2.2 SPG; 59.9 FG%
NEW ACQUISITION (R) ROOKIE (COLLEGE STATS)
STARTING LINEUPS used by the Magic last year. Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, Moe Harkless, Glen Davis and Nikola Vucevic went 9--5. No other combo won more than two games.
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE MAGIC
The best thing Jameer Nelson has left is trade value. They want to make Victor Oladipo the guy. With good shooters around him, he can run the team. Nelson—with his size [6 feet] and the fact that he has been injured off and on—needs to be a backup. Whether he can do that in Orlando, where he has been a starter, I don't know. He is not a consistent knockdown shooter, not a great penetrator.... Arron Afflalo wanted to prove that he could be the guy. He's an extremely competitive kid and an extremely hard worker. After the first couple of weeks he realized it's not much fun to be the guy who's focused on defensively. He's best suited to be the third guy, playing in transition, knocking down corner threes, attacking.... Glen Davis also isn't fit for a starring role. He's an adequate passer, a strong driver, and he can do things from 15 feet. He will benefit from Nikola Vucevic's expanded role; he can play off him.... The way Vucevic consistently rebounded surprised me. There has been some pretty steady growth. He will get rebounds outside of his zone.... Maurice Harkless showed flashes, but some games you didn't see him. He is best suited as a slashing three on the wing who can get into the paint and score. He's a good transition player.... Tobias Harris showed at the end of the year that Milwaukee made a mistake trading him. He got in better shape; he showed he had good range. He has the offensive skills to play small forward, but asking him to guard LeBron or Paul Pierce is too much.
GREG NELSON FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (OLADIPO)
HIGHLY TOUTED HOOSIER OLADIPO
FERNANDO MEDINA/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (AFFLALO)