Kim Klement/USA TODAY
When the Magic drafted Victor Oladipo, almost immediately everyone anticipated a lineup that featured Arron Afflalo, Victor Oladipo and Jameer Nelson. This would be a dynamic scoring offense with Oladipo and Nelson able to share ball-handling duties and Oladipo and Afflalo are potential scorers.
In any case, these are Orlando's three best perimeter players. It makes sense to try to put them all out on the same floor. That would seem to be the way to increase the team's efficiency.
We all expected a lineup of Jameer Nelson-Arron Afflalo-Victor Oladipo at some point this season. Nobody thought it would be relatively effective. Even in the small sample size of this year.
"I think overall it gives us multiple ballhandlers," Vaughn said. "You take a team like Minnesota. Dante Cunningham is a great guy who after the ball is made he kind of shadows and is a one-man Bo Outlaw press. Well, you can't Bo Outlaw press when you have multiple ball handlers on the floor. Initially that gives us a great ability to get into our offense without delay when you have multiple ball handlers."
Vaughn has used a lineup that includes Afflalo, Oladipo and E'Twaun Moore for 54 minutes across seven games so far this season. The group has posted a 102.7 offensive rating and a 53.6 percent effective field goal percentage. Predictably, the defense has been a bit weaker, giving up 102.1 points per 100 possession. Still, the lineup is typically a net positive.
The Magic's turnover rate in this lineup is 19.0 percent. This is not a good number and suggests Vaughn's assessment of their ability to bring the ball up the court and protect possessions as well as one would believe.
Among three-man lineups that have played at least 10 minutes together, this group is the 25th best group by offensive rating. There is no denying that this unit produces points, and so in small stretches this small three-guard lineup has its effectiveness.
The much-anticipated Afflalo-Nelson-Oladipo lineup has played 38 minutes across six games. It is even more effective offensively with an offensive rating of 111.3 and a defensive rating of 94.9. The group has a 14.4 percent turnover rate and 50.7 percent effective field goal rate. This is a group that gets to the foul line a lot too with a 32.0 percent free throw rate.
The Afflalo-Nelson-Oladipo back court is extremely effective in their nearly six minutes per game on the floor together.
A Moore-Oladipo-Nelson lineup is the least effective of the three-guard tandems with an offensive rating of 95.9 although its defense sits at a stellar 81.1 across 36 minutes in seven games. The Moore-Afflalo-Nelson trio is pretty good too with a 114.7 offensive rating and 82.6 defensive rating in 35 minutes across five games.
For the most part then, it seems there is something to using this small three-guard lineup.
"I think overall, both of those guys' [Arron and Victor] approach, whether they have been combined with a smaller unit or a bigger unit, have been phenomenal for us," Vaughn said. "Their activity on the floor. They both can guard multiple positions. I think the success you have seen is becauses their ability to defend on both ends and then Arron's ability to be efficient offensively and Victor's ability to attack for us is a good combination."
The versatility on defense that Afflalo and Oladipo can provide, despite their apparent lack of height and some lack of length, is definitely an advantage on this roster that Vaughn is trying to exploit. Being able to pair Oladipo and Nelson or Moore in the backcourt enables multiple initiators on offense and helps both offensively by moving one off the ball.
It just helps though that these are the three best offensive players on the Magic's roster. The game can be really simple when you have multiple players on the roster who can attack and be a threat to score.
Afflalo was very complimentary of Oladipo's drive and kick ability. His point guard and passing skills are seemingly growing by the game as he continues to work to cut down turnovers and play in the NBA game. Afflalo has been the beneficiary of a lot of that play and a lot of that attention Oladipo or Nelson draws when they get into the paint.
"It's no mystery in this game an open shot will go in more often than a contested created shot," Afflalo said. "There are moments where creativity in the post works well for me. For the most part being able to have my feet set to hit the shot is more of the shot I want."
Afflalo has seen an uptick in efficiency and this lineup is a big reason why. He is averaging 19.5 points per game on 45.5 percent field goal shooting. A big reason why is because he is taking more spot-up jumpers rather than having to create off the dribble as much last year. The alleviated scoring pressure taken up by Oladipo, Nelson and even Nikola Vucevic has freed up Afflalo more.
Now, it seems the lineup needs more time to see what it can really do. As noted above, this is a lineup that usually plays in short spurts against bench players. These linupes are getting no more than eight minutes or less per game together.
There is more to this lineup than just the guard obviously. For whatever reason, it had worked so far this season.