Andrew Nicholson showed a lot of poise. He was drafted as a player where the Magic would know what they were getting. He is good in the post and overall just a solid player. Poise and savvy were one of those things the Magic expected.
So when Orlando lost a 20-point lead in the team’s summer league opener it was the team’s first round pick that Orlando turned to. Nicholson made good on the opportunity. He received the ball in the post and got to the middle of the lane, drawing the foul and scoring the bucket for a three-point lead.
It was the decisive play in a 92-88 win over the Brooklyn Nets to open up the AirTran Pro Summer League at Amway Center.
Nicholson was very impressive in scoring 24 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. He was 8 for 16 from the floor and showed that efficiency and consistency that made Orlando draft him with the 19th pick. Only time will tell now if he becomes much more than that or if he can do it during the regular season.
Despite the Magic blowing a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter — thanks to a rash of turnovers and sloppy play that is normal for a summer league game — Orlando’s key players looked astonishingly well.
Nicholson was the most visible for sure. He showed off some of his jump shooting ability and a lot of his post ability. He got rebounds and was extremely active. Playing alongside Justin Harper, he was a bit out of position for much of the game (although Harper took the wing position for most of the game). But the Nets could not handle playing against the big duo.
Orlando’s size was pretty overwhelming for sure.
Kyle O’Quinn looked like a second round steal with the way he was hustling and working his way down the floor. He definitely seemed to play like he had something to prove. He too was extremely active, rolling down the lane hard and getting a couple blocks in quick succession early on. O’Quinn finished with 16 points (although he had just four rebounds).
Justin Harper was the star early on and looked like a very different player. He was noticeably bigger and ready to step in and lead the team. He took jumpers with confidence and made Adam Morrison pay defensively. Harper ended up with 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting. If Orlando needs a stretch-4 next year, Harper looks capable.
The other nice surprise of the day came from point guard Maalik Wayns. Wayns did a great job creating for others off the dribble, showing he is not just a high-volume shooter like he had to be at Villanova. Wayns had seven assists before committing his first turnover and had 11 points to go with 10 assists. He did shoot only 2 for 11 from the floor, a poor mark for the young guard trying to crack the roster.
Orlando put in a good effort and looked very much in sync early on. The team was extremely crisp with its starting lineup of Wayns, DeAndre Liggins, Harper, Nicholson and O’Quinn. It took a good quarter and a half before things took on its typical sloppiness — and it was not until the fourth quarter until things got really bad.
Orlando’s rookies looked very good. Magic fans have to be impressed with what they saw.
Obviously though there is improvement that needs to be made.
Nicholson was surprisingly crisp in the post — I guess that is as advertised. But he struggled going to his left. This is something to keep an eye on and is not an uncommon problem with young players. But Nicholson’s post game will be incomplete until he develops confidence using his left hand around the basket. He also has to gain consistency with his jumper and expand his range. He took some long 2s and failed to make any of them. Pretty much all of his shots occurred around the basket. Not a bad thing as he is pretty solid around there.
It also looked like he was caught out of position a few times on rebounds. He was active on the glass though and worked hard. That made up for a lot of it.
O’Quinn too had that problem with rebounds. Dealing with the 7-foot Jeff Foote, O’Quinn just did not get a lot of boards today. That is something for him to work on.
DeAndre Liggins also was not as aggressive offensively as we probably want to see. Liggins was great defensively, helping hold MarShon Brooks without a field goal the entire game (he was 0 for 10). We know Liggins can do that. The question is whether he can score. Liggins was not really looking for his offensive game and the defense was laying off him some. Liggins was one for five on the day.
To say the least, if Liggins wants to play in the NBA, he has to develop confidence in his jumper or it will be tough to throw him out there.
You don’t want to take too much from a Summer League game, but this was generally a very positive outing for Orlando. The Magic are back in action Tuesday against the Pistons at 3 p.m.