Anyone can have a blog about an NBA team, but some set themselves apart from the rest with the dedication and valuable insight they bring to their craft. We’ll be sharing some knowledge from these dialed-in writers on Hoops Rumors in a new feature called Top Bloggers. As with The Beat, our ongoing series of interviews with NBA beat writers, it’s part of an effort to bring Hoops Rumors readers ever closer to the pulse of the teams they follow. Last time, we spoke with Brian Robb, who is the owner and editor-in-chief of Celtics Hub, part of ESPN’s TrueHoop Network. Click here to see the entire Top Bloggers series.
Hoops Rumors: What are your thoughts on Scott Skiles? Are you worried at all that his strict approach might not fit with the Magic?
Philip Rossman-Reich: Skiles has been pretty consistent everywhere he has gone. He has built his team up into consistency and competitiveness and then leveled off. That is about what we are expecting in Orlando in this latest coaching stint. As long as those are the expectations, I think things will be fine with Skiles overall. You just have to know and accept what he is at the end of the day.
I would have preferred to see the Magic hire a coach who had some potential long-term prospects. But the Magic really need a coach like Skiles, even if it lasts just three years. They need someone who is going to demand a bit more and light a fire under them. Jacque Vaughn and the previous coaching staff were very much a nurturing group; they allowed players to make mistakes and grow through experience. Now they have expectations to produce. They need a coach who will sit a player down when he makes a mistake and get someone in there who will get the job done.
Hoops Rumors: We’ve been hearing buzz about Mario Hezonja all summer long. Who would you say is his NBA comp? Where is his ceiling?
Philip Rossman-Reich: I haven’t been able to think of a good player comparison for Hezonja. Maybe he is a more athletic Peja Stojakovic? Probably not as good of a shooter. Hezonja still feels a bit of a blank slate. I am not quite sure what kind of player he can become.
His floor is pretty high though. He is a great shooter. A really good shooter and an underrated passer too. He has the famous bravado but he also seemed willing to learn throughout the preseason. He might have superstar ceiling. I think he still has to prove himself as a driver and offensive creator. In any case, I see him as a solid contributor as a rookie and moving forward through his career. He should be a solid guy for the Magic to have fill an important role for the team.
Philip Rossman-Reich: I really was not surprised. I expected Harris to get about $16MM per year. Whether he was actually worth that depends on what you think of Harris as a player. Even in that regard, I am not sure. Harris is just 23 years old and there are so few players who have put up his numbers at his age – there have been only 17 seasons since 2010 where a player 23 years old or younger has averaged 17 PPG and 7.0 RPG like Harris did last year. It is hard to let that go without getting something in return. From an asset retention standpoint, the Magic could not just let Harris walk. And where they are in their development, they needed to keep the talented and productive player rather than letting him walk. The price tag is just the cost of doing business.
Hoops Rumors: Victor Oladipo has been working on his outside shot this offseason. How scary will he be if he becomes a reliable 3-point shooter?
Philip Rossman-Reich: He will become very scary. The Dwyane Wade comparisons are apt, although he is not nearly the finisher that Wade is. Wade is an all-timer, but his lack of a 3-point shot has probably cut short some of his effectiveness and taken away a development of his game that could push him even further into the stratosphere. A 3-point shot would add so much to his game. It would add so much to the team. The Magic are desperate for shooters, so if Oladipo can become a competent 3-point shooter, that makes the team that much better. It adds another scoring outlet for Oladipo so he does not have to throw himself at the rim desperately.
Hoops Rumors: If you had to call it today, what kind of record do you see the Magic finishing with in 2015/16?
Philip Rossman-Reich: I think the Magic could finish anywhere from about 40 wins to back down to 28 wins again. They could show modest improvement, extreme improvement, or no improvement. This is largely the same roster as last year, so to expect the team to take a huge step up seems pretty far out there, though not impossible. Internal improvement and a better, more directed coach should mean improvement from last year. And significant improvement at that. I have the Magic winning about 32-36 games and I think they take a step forward as a team and improve pretty significantly this year, bringing a lot of promise for 2017.