We move on to the second round of our Orlando Magic Madness tournament. Who will make the round of 16? Which popular players’ trek ends?
With a simple tweet, we have decided to spark some debates and have some fun throughout the Orlando Magic universe. I offered no explanation — I told you the seeding was unscientific and completely at my discretion — and simply asked the question: “Who ya got? #MagicMadness”
In the first round, we saw plenty of intriguing matchups that wrenched hearts. I got more than a few tweets saying the choice they had to make was mean. And yes, I juiced some of the seedings to get interesting first-round matchups.
But this was always meant to be a simple and subjective question. We are passing the time during the NBA’s hiatus with this little game. Thank you all for participating.
I ask for no reason — I do actually, I am curious why you pick what you pick — and I ask for no standards. Just make your selection.
The first round was pretty cut and dry. With the way that I seeded things, there were expected to be a lot of blowouts and clear choices. There were a few interesting results that deserve mention.
First, the big upset of the tournament so far, 14-seed Jonathan Isaac defeated 3-seed Nikola Vucevic. I figured posting any question asking for popularity on the Internet would not do Nikola Vucevic any favors, especially against a popular and promising player in Jonathan Isaac.
So Isaac is one of just two double-digit seeds to reach the second round. The other was 12-seed Anthony Bowie over 5-seed Rony Seikaly. Anthony Bowie is a fairly popular player in Magic history who likely still gets a lot of positive thoughts from his contributions to the 1995 Finals team.
There were plenty of matchups that elicited some response of how tough the decision was.
J.J. Redick’s win over Rafer Alston was also a bit gut-wrenching. J.J. Redick remains one of the most popular players in Orlando. But Rafer Alston is seen as the catalyst for the Magic’s 2009 Finals run. There is still a soft spot for Skip 2 My Lou in Orlando.
Thanks to everyone for voting in the first round of #MagicMadness. Some final notes from our first round.
The biggest blowout in the first round belonged to Horace Grant. He scored all but two of the 194 votes in his matchup as he walloped 14-seed Sidney Green in the first round. Horace Grant will face Terry Catledge now in the second round.
Everything resets though for round two. We will start voting around noon on Monday for the first region of games. Here are the matchups that interest me in Round 2 of #MagicMadness.
Shaq Era Region — (6) Terry Catledge vs. (3) Horace Grant
I predicted the matchup between Terry Catledge and Sam Vincent would be pretty close. Fans far removed from those expansion era teams probably have more name recognition for Vincent. He is the first real veteran the Magic had on their roster.
Catledge was still my pick because he averaged 15.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in four seasons with the Magic, including 19.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game in the inaugural 1990 season. Catledge is one of the forgotten legends of Magic history in some way.
Other players from those original teams got the headlines. Nick Anderson, Scott Skiles and Dennis Scott deserve that praise for what they would do later on. Reggie Theus got the recognition for the star power he brought with him and took out with him. Catledge had four solid seasons in Orlando before the next era began.
But he is going up against a player who is largely seen as being the final piece of a Finals team. Horace Grant’s arrival in 1994 proved the Magic were serious about competing for a title immediately. And he did not disappoint.
He averaged 12.8 points and 9.7 rebounds per game in 1995 as the Magic won their first Atlantic Division title and had the best record in the Eastern Conference. He averaged 11.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game in seven seasons with the Magic. That includes a failed second stint with the team in the early 2000s.
Grant never was a stats guy. His impact was always his leadership and how he gave the Magic an air of seriousness. So on raw stats, Grant might lose. But on impact he wins running away.
My Pick: Horace Grant
Dwight Howard Era Region — (6) J.J. Redick vs. (3) Rashard Lewis
One thing that I figured would be interesting about this poll is how the clash between popularity and reality. There are players who captured the imagination for fans far more than they produced. And players who produced far more than their popularity would suggest.
Rashard Lewis transformed the Orlando Magic. He transformed the entire league really. The league had never seen a power forward playing at his level shooting from beyond the arc with his volume. Rashard Lewis was completely selfless even after coming to Orlando with the express desire not to play power forward.
Lewis averaged 16.3 points per game on a 54.3-percent effective field goal percentage. He was the glue that held a lot of that 2009 Magic team together. He was quiet and did his job exceptionally well.
J.J. Redick did too. It would not surprise me if Redick learned a lot from Lewis on how to work and prepare for games. Because Redick was also a sharpshooter known for his poise and professionalism.
He averaged 9.2 points per game in his seven seasons in Orlando. There were several years where he struggled to get off the bench. He topped off at 15.1 points per game in 2013 in his final year with the Magic.
That rise from someone struggling to play to surefire starter and team leader made him one of the most beloved players in franchise history. That will make this matchup all the more interesting. Lewis was so quiet in his brilliance, often overshadowed by other players on that 2009 team. But he is still the choice.
My Pick: Rashard Lewis
T-Mac Era Region — (5) Mike Miller vs. (4) Grant Hill
In some circles, even mentioning Grant Hill’s name will draw some ire. The Grant Hill era was one of extreme disappointment. Injuries never allowed the Orlando Magic to see Hill at his absolutely best. Only in brief flashes when he was healthy.
To many, those disappointments outweighed everything. I still get comments blaming Hill for his injury when it was just random bad luck. The fact remains: When Hill did play he was very good.
He averaged 16.4 points per game in his seven seasons in Orlando. Hill was not the same player he was with the Detroit Pistons. But he could still fit into a role and score reliably. The problem was keeping him on the floor.
If Grant Hill was an unfulfilled potential that never left, Mike Miller was an unfulfilled potential that ended up elsewhere.
Mike Miller won the Rookie of the Year in 2001, averaging 11.9 points per game on a 52.3-percent effective field goal percentage. He quickly established himself as a major contributor on a playoff team and was one of Tracy McGrady’s best friends on the team.
Of course, the Magic gave up on all that just 2.5 years into the experiment after an injury-filled second season. He averaged 14.1 points per game on a 55.5-percent effective field goal percentage in his three seasons in Orlando. Surprisingly strong numbers. And the Magic probably should have held onto him in the end.
Still, Grant Hill is unfairly demonized for his time in Orlando. He was a professional who fit in well and helped lead the Dwight Howard team to its first playoff appearance. His departure was necessary to shift to the new era. And he will just have to remain a what could have been.
My Pick: Grant Hill
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Expansion/Rebuild Era Region — (14) Jonathan Isaac vs. (6) Aaron Gordon
Well, aren’t we just going to have it out right here? This is a question the Orlando Magic are probably actually already debating — or avoiding — and one that inevitably will come up. Aaron Gordon or Jonathan Isaac?
Everyone seems to think the two forwards ultimately cannot play with each other and someday they will have to thin out the forward rotation to make room for one or the other. I am not going to ask you to make that choice here. For now, make a decision based on whatever you want to make a decision on.
Both young players still have a bright future ahead of them. They both still have a lot of development to go.
For Aaron Gordon, he is a bit further advanced. He is averaging 14.4 points per game, the second straight year his scoring decreased. But he has shown plenty of ability defensively and his playmaking has improved dramatically in the last few years. Before this season’s hiatus, he was playing the best basketball of his career.
Isaac has been all promise too. His defense has far outpaced his offense, but he was averaging 12.0 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game before his knee injury in January. More importantly, he seemed set to lead the league in “stocks” and flirted with becoming the first perimeter player to lead the league in blocks since 2004.
Isaac was in rare company. And it was exciting to see.
My pick is clear for now. But as I wrote in the last post, that may not be the case a few years from now.
My Pick: Aaron Gordon
Voting will open on Twitter @OMagicDaily around noon Monday. Enjoy the madness!