Now that the season is over, it is time to review the last five months. This is our yearly look back at what went right and what went wrong during the 2013-14 season.
You do not have to look very far to see what a disaster of a season it was for Andrew Nicholson.
Of all the young players on the Magic’s roster, everyone was very excited for the potential for progress from Nicholson and then extremely disappointed with how his year turned out. What was worse was that it was extremely difficult to put a finger on exactly how things went wrong.
His numbers were abysmal — 5.7 points per game, 42.9 percent field goal shooting, 15.4 minutes per game — and were down across the board from his rookie year. What made things worse was that he seemingly went away from his bread and butter — his refined post game.
The excitement for Nicholson’s sophomore year began in the Summer when he showed up at Summer League looking already much stronger and displaying those reliable post moves to go with some expanded range. The excitement continued at FIBA Americas where Nicholson was a leading scorer for Canada and showed a wider away of offensive moves, including a 3-point shot.
It seemed like Nicholson was set to increase his already startling efficiency and become a true breakout player for the Magic.
Maybe those expectations were high, but Nicholson did nothing to lower them when he scored 17 points in the first half against the Pacers on opening night. And then . . . nothing. Nothing for a long time.
A 13-point game here (the second game against Minnesota), a 19-point game there (at home against Phoenix later in November), another one in Memphis a little later on. And then a long drought of inconsistent minutes and inconsistent scoring and shooting. His playing time diminished.
In fairness to Jacque Vaughn and his rotational decision-making, take a look at the blood bath that is Andrew Nicholson’s shot chart this season:
So much blood. Lots of red. Lots of yellow. Very little green.
This essentially means, Nicholson shot below average from almost everywhere on the court.
Moreover, that 3-point shot he supposedly added to his game just never really materialized the way everyone hoped. Nicholson did not take a 3-pointer his rookie year. He ended up taking 89 his sophomore year, making just 28 or 31.5 percent. It became apparent early on too that this was going to be a big part of Nicholson’s game this season. And if not his 3-point shot, then his jumper.
His rookie season, Nicholson took just 219 of his 486 field goals from outside 10 feet — about 45.1 percent. This past year, Nicholson took 264 of his 420 field goal attempts from outside 10 feet — about 62.9 percent.
That suggests two things: the Magic were using him farther away from the basket and, because of this, Nicholson was posting up less.
Indeed, Synergy stats confirm this. Nicholson was a spot-up shooter in 31.7 percent of the possessions he used for 0.89 points per possession. Nicholson posted up on 29.3 percent of the possessions he used for 0.77 points per possession.
That second number is most troubling. Not only was Nicholson not posting up as much, but he was much less efficient on those post ups. That beautiful footwork and gorgeously timed hook shot just would not fall for him. Those were both disappointing setbacks.
What went wrong with Nicholson was probably a bit too complex. Vaughn may have used him incorrectly, trying to turn Nicholson into a player he just is not. And those struggles may have affected his confidence. He just was not the same player as the season went on.
The greatest failure in this whole rebuilding project so far has been this question about Nicholson’s confidence and his development. His post game got worse this year as his timing and confidence were just off. And, unfortunately, Nicholson’s other parts of his game just are not quite at an NBA level. What made him great was his fantastic footwork and post game and that was seemingly taken away this year.
It was a frustrating year for Nicholson and his fans, for sure. There is no other way to characterize it at this point.