The Magic wasted little time following their final preseason game in finalizing their roster.
Orlando needed to trim its 18-man roster to 15 by Monday at 5 p.m. The team did so as Rob Hennigan announced the team has waived Quentin Richardson, Justin Harper and Chris Johnson.
Richardson was signed in 2010 to replace Matt Barnes and provide an edge to a team that was still considered a championship contender. Things quickly fell apart though for Richardson as he averaged only 4.4 points per game and shot 28.8 percent from the field that season. His body began betraying him too as injuries hampered his two-year run in Orlando.
Injuries hampered Richardson during this year's preseason too. Richardson appeared in only three games and averaged 2.3 points per game in 8.7 minutes per game.
Most important though for the Magic, and perhaps another clue as to the kind of team Rob Hennigan is trying to build, is what the Magic gave up in letting Richardson go. Orlando originally signed Quentin Richardson to a four-year deal worth approximately $10 million. Richardson will make more than $4.7 million the next two years. That is a big loss to take.
Orlando apparently thought the roster they have was worth it.
The final roster will feature Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis and Nikola Vucevic as the likely starters. Ish Smith, J.J. Redick, Al Harrington, Maurice Harkless, Andrew Nicholson and Gustavo Ayon will likely play key roles off the bench. Kyle O'Quinn, E'Twaun Moore, Josh McRoberts and surprising rookie DeQuan Jones round out the 15-man roster.
Jones was the biggest surprise, turning heads in training camp and in the preseason. He likely won the spot over Richardson and forced the Magic into this difficult decision.
Jones averaged only five points per game in college, but he blossomed in the NBA. In the eight preseason games, he displayed his athleticism and versatility (playing some small forward too) in averaging 10.4 points per game and shooting 54.7 percent from the floor.His minutes we obviously decrease when the regular season begins, but Jones found his way onto the roster and will be fighting to find his way into the rotation.
It is an incredible story.
The other cuts had a little less fan fare. Justin Harper, acquired from Cleveland on Draft Night in 2011 for two second round draft picks. Harper was better suited for the Stan Van Gundy, 4-out/1-in offense as a stretch-4. He did not receive any benefits from the lockout and the lack of summer league. He had his moments, including a 16-point performance in the final game of the season in Memphis — those were 16 of his 20 points all season last year — and he played well overseas.
Harper averaged only 4.0 points per game in 13.6 minutes per game on 38.7 percent shooting in seven preseason games. It was not enough to make the roster.
Unfortunately for the young player, it just did not work.
Chris Johnson was a high-flyer from Dayton (pun intended) but was brought in largely as an extra body for practice. Johnson appeared in five games, scoring 2.0 points per game in 8.2 minutes per game.
In addition to the cuts, the Magic announced they have exercised the third-year option on Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic won the starting center spot in camp and displayed a lot of the versatility that made him a key acquisition in the Dwight Howard trade this summer.
Vucevic averaged 5.5 points per game and 4.8 rebounds per game in 15.9 minutes per game. He received inconsistent playing time from Doug Collins in Philadelphia, appearing in 51 of the 66 games and making only one appearance in Phialdelphia's run to the conference semifinals in the Playoffs.
Vucevic though should do better with more playing time. He made an impact with 14 rebounds in last night's loss to the Rockets. During the preseason, Vucevic posted 8.0 points per game and 8.7 rebounds per game. His ability to step out and shoot and his touch inside will be assets offensively. Defensively he still needs some work, but Vucevic will get that opportunity to grow in Orlando. At least for the next two years.
Orlando opens the season next Friday against Denver and the team will hold an open and free practice at Amway Center on Monday at 7 p.m.