2020 Orlando Magic Player Evaluations: Melvin Frazier still hasn’t gotten the chance

It was rare to see Melvin Frazier Jr. in meaningful minutes during his second season. The Orlando Magic have not given him a ton of chances. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
It was rare to see Melvin Frazier Jr. in meaningful minutes during his second season. The Orlando Magic have not given him a ton of chances. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Melvin Frazier improved his 3-point shot and got more time on the court. But the Orlando Magic still gave the former second-round pick few chances to play.

The Orlando Magic were in desperate straits on Jan. 1 after Jonathan Isaac went out with an injury. The team was already dealing with plenty of injuries and plenty of frustration. They had to find someone to fill minutes in the aftermath of this shocking injury.

They went deep into their roster. Deeper than the team had really gone in the previous two years.

They turned to Melvin Frazier.

He played 12:41 in that game in Washington against the Washington Wizards. It was at that point the most he had ever played in a NBA game. It was the most meaningful minute she had ever played in a NBA game. This was not garbage time, these were important minutes in a playoff battle against another team that would eventually be fighting for a playoff spot too.

Opportunities had been few for Melvin Frazier and this was a big one. But he did not score, missing both of his shots. He committed four fouls.

Frazier was again relegated to the end of the bench, making a few starts in the G-League in the process. He would not see these kinds of minutes again until the NBA restarted in the campus, and those would be in blowouts or the Orlando Magic’s throwaway final game against the New Orleans Pelicans.

The opportunities afforded to Frazier were once again few and far between. It is hard to analyze or break his season down because there is just so little data to go on. There are few observations to make.

Thre are precious few anecdotes or plays to describe. It is hard to say whether Frazier is a “wasted” draft pick or not. Coach Steve Clifford likes to keep a tight nine-man rotation and it was tough for Melvin Frazier to crack it.

He still showed improvements. He clearly got better in his second year. But yet, not enough to make the rotation. And that raises questions about Melvin Frazier’s future — he has a team option for the 2021 season — and Jeff Weltman’s use of second-round picks too.

With little opportunity to play and get on-court, regular-season experience, there is still a legitimate question on whether he can play at the NBA level. It is not that Frazier is incapable. It is that we do not know what he is capable of.

In his rookie season in 2019, Frazier played only 44 minutes across 10 games. His season-high was just 5:31 and the closest game he played in was a 16-point win over the Atlanta Hawks in February.

In the 2020 season, Frazier had four games where he played more than 12 minutes. Two of them were wins and two of them were games decided by fewer than 10 points. Another one was less than 15.

So there were at least a few meaningful minutes for Frazier to play in. He scored eight points in the loss to the Boston Celtics inside the NBA’s campus and 10 points in the win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

But he still played in only 126 total minutes in only 19 games. He scored 40 points and shot 44.1-percent, including 8 for 16 on 3-pointers. Those were the only tangible signs of progress for Frazier this season. His time on the court was just impossible to judge.

Per Game Table

Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/20/2020.

In the G-League this season, Frazier averaged 18.1 points per game and shot 50.5 percent from the floor and 33.0 percent from deep in 37.0 minutes per game across 23 appearances in the G-League. Considering he scored 12.2 points per game and shot 44.6-percent from the floor in 18 games with the Lakeland Magic last year, that is quite the improvement.

The argument here is not whether or not Frazier got better. He undoubtedly did.

Entering the NBA, Frazier was advertised as a strong defender with great athleticism. Those were all still on display throughout his limited minutes.

But his biggest weakness was his 3-point shooting. He shot only 31.2-percent from deep in his three-year college career at Tulane. He jumped that up to 38.5 percent in his final year, showing hints of improved shooting.

It took some time to get comfortable with the NBA’s 3-point shot. But Frazier was certainly getting there.

Ostensibly, the Magic stuck him in the corner offensively or somewhere behind the 3-point line and defenses largely ignored him, daring him to shoot. His making 3-pointers was a welcome sign, although defenses are not about to hang tight on him beyond the arc yet.

He still has to prove everything in real minutes. That is the theme of this post and breaking down Frazier’s career to this point.

But Frazier was drafted for his defense. He was drafted for his, yes, length and his ability to get into passing lanes and stop opposing players.

He was good at getting steals, making 0.7 loose ball steals per 75 possessions according to data from Basketball Index. He also added 3.3 deflections per 75 possessions.

Frazier is active when given the chance. He knows how to sit in passing lanes and knows how to be disruptive.

This is what the Magic hoped for when they drafted Frazier. Someone who could be watchful off the ball and create chaos in passing lanes. He could make these kinds of plays easily.

But again, these moments came in minutes that were inconsequential. As valuable as these minutes were and as valuable as any minutes on a NBA floor can be, they do not matter if they are not impactful minutes. Nothing beats minutes with actual pressure.

And Frazier has still played very few of those. Too few to make any conclusions.

Like Wesley Iwundu ahead of him, who has more trust and more meaningful minutes but also could not crack the rotation, the Magic opted not to trust their own development and the players in their own system.

Acquiring James Ennis, a veteran who is a better and more proven player for a playoff team, meant that Wesley Iwundu, Melvin Frazier and two-way contract players B.J. Johnson and Vic Law did not get the opportunity. Everyone likes to say next man up, but the Magic never gave them the opportunity.

MELVIN FRAZIER. B. . G/F. Orlando Magic

The coaching staff and executive staff have more information than the public. They see these players in practice and in workouts that the public do not see. All we have to make conclusions is what we see in games.

And the only conclusion that can be made — fair or (likely) unfair — is Frazier was not deemed ready to take on the larger responsibility. None of these young players whom the Magic have invested in were.

So Frazier enters an offseason with a team option without much game work to show for it. And it is unclear if the Magic will keep him for the next year.

Has Frazier earned that opportunity? That is too difficult to answer. From all he has displayed in games, he at least held his own within the role the Magic gave him. Maybe that is enough.

Evaluations: More setbacks fro Jonathan Isaac. dark. Next

Perhaps we will never fully know.