Make no mistake, the Orlando Magic will be winning no awards as the season draws to a close. The only award this team has the potential to win is the right to have the first pick in the upcoming loaded draft class of 2014. Then again, when you’ve only won 19 games all season, really think about that for a minute, you will always be an afterthought when the hardware is being handed out. Indeed the best hope for a trophy for this team is if the great hope that is Victor Oladipo takes home Rookie of the Year honors. It would be a nice way to cap off a fairly miserable year, and create a positive building block going into next year. Within the team though, who has been the best player this season?
Before we look into who that player is, a quick mention must go to point guard Jameer Nelson. An All-Star in 2009, Nelson is not the player he once was by any stretch. However at 32 years old, few fans would have begrudged him if he’d left to chase that elusive ring with a contending team in what is the autumn of his career. He has been that loyal to the Orlando Magic. But that loyalty has continued with Nelson sticking around to help this young team find it’s way. More than that, he looks happy to do so, usually seen with a smile on his face on the court, while also being active in the community. His numbers, 12.2 points and 6.6 assists a game, are not spectacular, although they are solid. For this reason he cannot be the best player on this team this year, but the role he does play is so valuable to the growth of this team. Even as Oladipo is groomed to take his starting point guard duties from him, he has no problems doing whatever the team needs him to.
It gets a little more difficult now as it really hasn’t been a great year, but Arron Afflalo gets the nod here for the best Orlando Magic player this year. Like Nelson, he has embraced the rebuild ever since coming on board in the Dwight Howard trade that sent him to the Los Angeles Lakers. (Man, how long ago does that feel now?) On a personal level he is having the best season of his career, and that has been reflected in how a Magic win usually comes with a big input from him. Without Afflalo, those nineteen wins could be somewhat less, a bleak thought. His 19.2 points and 3.5 assists are the best averages of his career. The 3.9 boards a game he grabs also equal his previous best also. At .427, he is having his best season behind the 2-point line as well while he is getting to the charity stripe at a more frequent rate than any other time in his career. All of this points to the fact that his is surely the Magic’s best player, and yet there are some late challengers.
If Oladipo wins Rookie of the Year while playing on a young team, surely that means he is one of the top players on that team and responsible for how good that team can been on it’s best nights? That might be possibly true, but in reality Afflalo does more of the heavy lifting for this team. Oladipo has games, or even stretches of a week or so, where he is not effective and turns the ball over too much. His 3.1 turnovers isn’t awful, but there is certainly room for improvement. He usually comes back with a bang though, with memorable turns against the Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks this season where he averaged a triple double in both games. Why he can’t be named Orlando’s best player really is not of his own doing at all though. Being a rookie and being asked to play in a new position at point guard for periods too, is always going to be hard to get the hang of. He was never going to understand the pro game and a new position overnight, so of course he can’t have a massive influence on this team right away. Oladipo doesn’t get this award this year, but certainly could pick it up multiple times going forward.
If not for injury, Nikola Vucevic may have had more input in this competition as well. The center has played in 50 of a possible 68 games because of various injuries, most notably a nasty concussion, and has started in every game he was available to play in as well. His is a double double machine, making the art of rebounding look as sweet and easy as Stephen Curry‘s stroke. His 14.2 points and 11 rebounds are pretty excellent numbers, especially when you consider the offense doesn’t run through him for the most part. He has great hands and feet, is athletic and can do a lot on both ends of the court. If he can put in the work this summer, this guy could be an All-Star next year. He is just that good. For now though he too is on the honorable mention list, but could have a huge impact for this franchise down the road.
So that is it, Arron Afflalo is the Orlando Magic’s best player this season. In truth it wasn’t even that close, but Oladipo and Vucevic weren’t a million miles behind. Big improvements from them two next year, as well as the steady play of Afflalo, could see this team flirt with the playoffs. For now though Afflalo alone is the top dog on this team. Don’t agree with me? Let us know who you think has been the best player on this team throughout the season.