Ever since the Magic began this rebuild, and maybe even before that into the 2010 season when the Magic were fighting for a title, the question of who the Magic’s point guard would be hung over the franchise.
Some may have been left over spite from fans who felt Jameer Nelson came back too soon during the 2009 Finals (Rafer Alston‘s pass-first mentality WAS refreshing even if Nelson was significantly better that season). A storyline during the Magic’s fall from grace after the 2010 season was the team’s failure to acquire Chris Paul — both signalling perhaps Otis Smith‘s shortsightedness in failing to make an upgrade at point guard and the questions that surrounded Nelson from the time he was even drafted.
So Jameer Nelson is gone now. The Magic knew at some point during this rebuild, they would need to part with their starter of nearly a decade at that position (a real accomplishment if you think about it, having at least an average NBA starting point guard for nearly a decade) and find a new player to fill that role.
Orlando is not short on options there.
Victor Oladipo spent approximately 51 percent of his minutes at point guard according to 82games.com. Elfrid Payton figures to be part of the team’s long-term future and a staple at the point guard position. At least if Summer League is any indication, Payton should translate just fine to the NBA game.
And that brings me to one of the more intriguing and interesting signings of the Magic’s busy offseason (one that I mistakenly have not covered much until this point).
Here comes the 11-year veteran, getting set to play fifth team after splitting time last year between Milwaukee and Charlotte. In total, he averaged 5.0 points per game on 38.5 percent shooting and 34.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc. He dished out 2.9 assists per game. It was his first season averaging fewer than 10.0 points per game since 2009. He played in just 18.7 minutes per game, his lowest since his rookie year in Seattle.
Ridnour does not come in with a ton of expectations. The league knows him as a decent shooter and someone capable of leading a team for stretches. He will likely be someone who can stay out of the way when other players the Magic need to have the ball are on the court. No one expects him to come in and take over games.
Often, it seems, Ridnour has been miscast as a starting point guard in his career. Certainly at this point in his career, he is better off as a backup — although his 9.7 points per 36 minutes and 5.6 assists per 36 minutes total last year were among his career lows. In Orlando, there is no mistaking things, Ridnour is the backup or third point guard. He alternately will fill the role Ronnie Price had as a veteran leader in the locker room and the role E’Twaun Moore filled as the direct backup point guard.
The Magic’s point guard situation is still pretty fluid. Oladipo and Payton will certainly split time. The team is versatile enough to have Evan Fournier likely take small spells at the position. Willie Green can probably put some time in at point guard too, having played 11 percent of his career at point guard. Ben Gordon can probably platoon some there too.
With all this versatility, there will be a numbers crunch. There are only 48 minutes available at the position.
So how does Ridnour fit in?
His minutes will certainly change as the season progresses and as Payton becomes more involved and gets acclimated to the NBA game. Ridnour’s shot chart from last year shows just how much he struggled, but also where he could succeed. He has a solid 3-point shot from the right corner and does a good job it looks like starting on the left wing and going to the left elbow (it looks a little similar to Oladipo’s shot chart, it seems).
Again, it will be interesting to see exactly how Ridnour fits in and what his role will be. Again, backup point guard and veteran leader seems to be his main role at this point.
The Magic will not be relying on him to create a ton of offense. A few pick and rolls here and there. His main role on offense, it would appear, is to initiate the offense and spread the floor.
Ridnour is going to be a solid player for the Magic. He is going to do what is asked of him. That may be just initiating the offense and then staying out of the way, spacing the floor with the threat of his shooting. More will be his veteran leadership and experience that he will share behind the scenes. Rob Hennigan has always said he wants a balance between young players and veterans. Ridnour will help fill that veteran “quota” without taking away too many minutes from the players that will have a long-term future with the Magic.
Ridnour fits in perfectly right there.
He can still contribute plenty to the team. He will not quite be as sparingly used as Price was. But he will provide the same kind of veteran presence. Like so many veterans, he will get his opportunity to play early on in the season as the young players (especially the rookies) ease into the season. Unless he blows the doors off (and his career totals shrinking suggest he is heading on the downside of his career), his role will probably decrease as time goes on and be more behind the scenes.
Unlike a player like Price though, Ridnour has the experience and ability to still contribute even if the Magic decide to slowly phase him out or shrink his role. That should keep things competitive in practice and make the team a whole lot better.