2016-17 Orlando Magic Player Evaluations: C.J. Wilcox

Dec 9, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Brian Roberts (22) commits an offensive foul against Orlando magic guard C.J. Wilcox (23) during the second half of the game at the Spectrum Center. Hornets win 109-88. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 9, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Brian Roberts (22) commits an offensive foul against Orlando magic guard C.J. Wilcox (23) during the second half of the game at the Spectrum Center. Hornets win 109-88. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic acquired C.J. Wilcox hoping to add some shooting and give a young player a big opportunity. Injuries and poor play kept Wilcox down.

An opportunity is a powerful tool in the NBA.

There are those players who clearly need to play and earn their spot with talent. But for the players in the middle and the end of the league, ending up in the right position is almost as important as making the roster, to begin with.

If you are a young player in the league, finding the right situation and getting an opportunity is as important as anything. Having enough talent to be in the NBA means nothing if the player simply cannot get off the bench playing behind more proven veterans.

A situation can dictate confidence for a young player. It is easy to become forgotten through no fault to the player.

That was the situation C.J. Wilcox faced in his first two seasons with the LA Clippers. Wilcox would come in every stray game where injuries gave him a chance and put up solid numbers, shooting the ball well. It just seemed like he needed a way to get out from behind J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford. He was never going to get his chance with the Clippers, even if he performed well in practice.

A trade to the Orlando Magic, in a cap-cutting move for Devyn Marble before his guarantee date, seemed like it might provide that chance for Wilcox to get consistent minutes. Or at least it would give him the chance to fight for some minutes.

With the Magic’s roster featuring Evan Fournier, Jodie Meeks and Mario Hezonja on the roster, an opportunity seemed to be present for Wilcox. Jodie Meeks was injured through training camp and the Magic did not have many great outside shooters. Wilcox had to seize this opportunity.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

Like so much of Wilcox’s career, his season never really got off the ground. Various injuries — knee tendinitis the most prevalent one — kept him from being on the active roster when the path for playing time was apparent.

In all, Wilcox played in a mere 108 minutes across 22 games. He scored just 21 points and shot 25.8 percent from the floor and 20.0 percent from beyond the arc in 15 attempts. It is true he never got much of an opportunity to find a rhythm, but Wilcox had to make shots to earn some momentum for playing time. It never came.

It never came.

Wilcox played the entire fourth quarter in blowouts twice and shot 2 for 10 in those games. It is not a good sign for a young player to lose these opportunities, even in meaningless minutes. It is hard to point to a time when Wilcox played meaningful minutes, even on accident. Wilcox played more than 10 minutes just twice — those two blowout defeats.

Injuries played a role. Wilcox could not stay on the floor consistently or prove himself in practice. The plain fact is we may never know if Wilcox was really bad in practice and that is why he never could crack the rotation or just did not perform when given the opportunity.

The chance to showcase himself never came around for Wilcox. Even on a stray day when injuries overtook the roster. Wilcox just could not get his chance.

Wilcox was struggling so much to get playing time and overcome injury he requested a short stint in the D-League to get himself back into playing shape. That seemed unprecedented for a third-year former first round pick.

He averaged 12.5 points per game and shot a 62.8 percent effective field goal percentage in four games with the Erie BayHawks. He still had that shooting and scoring bug in him.

It just never translated to the NBA in any way. Not in practice to push for minutes or in the few minutes he got with the Magic.

The Magic telegraphed his future some before the season. The team declined to pick up his fourth-year option for next season in October. The Magic appeared to give him a seeming ultimatum to perform or walk.

Eventually, that ultimatum ran out. In late March, the Magic surprisingly cut Wilcox to sign Marcus Georges-Hunt and Patricio Garino. The team was clearly going to move on. And now Wilcox will have to find a way to get healthy and find a team to stick with for Summer League.

Certainly, he will have to find the right opportunity to get himself playing time. It will not be easy for him.

Orlando Magic. C.J. WILCOX. F. . SG

This seems like a harsh grade for Wilcox. And it really is.

Much of Wilcox’s struggles were because of injury. He never could get himself healthy enough to carve out a role or consistent minutes. What looked like a great opportunity seemed to fall apart quickly through no power of his own.

Then again, some of it was within his power. When he was healthy and on the court, he failed to make an impact. On a team with such little shooting, the fact Wilcox could not carve himself a role — particularly when Meeks was out — says something.

Like Mario Hezonja, one of the Magic’s key shooters off the bench simply could not shoot.

Wilcox was always a bit of a risk. The team traded a player they were probably going to cut anyway for a guy with first round talent and searching for an opportunity. It was a good deal for the team and a good risk to take, especially since the team was seeking shooting.

Wilcox did not deliver in the end. He never really got the chance.

Next: 2016-17 Orlando Magic Player Evaluations: Terrence Ross

That is the tough break he faced this year. It truly was a make-or-break year for Wilcox. Everything conspired against him to keep him from getting the opportunity that finally seemed in front of him.