1. Victor Oladipo has shown good promise during his rookie campaign, averaging 14, 4, 4. What do you think his ceiling is in the NBA? Can he develop into a superstar?
He certainly looks like he has star potential, yes, though superstar is rarified air that I'm not quite sure he'll reach. His ability to wreak havoc on both ends in transition, with his steals and deflections creating fast-break chances, is probably his best skill right now. Well, that and drawing fouls on his drives to the rim. He'll need to refine his existing skills as he gets older, but I think what will really unlock his potential is developing a consistent outside shot to punish opponents who go under him on ball screens. Converting from mid- and three-point- range will make him an even tougher cover than he already is by opening up his driving lanes to the rim.
2. The Magic have the 4th worst record in the NBA, what's the mood in Orlando? Has it been disappointment, or acceptable looking forward to one of the best draft classes in a long time?
I think in general fans are excited about Oladipo's potential, as well as the chance of adding another top prospect in the draft. Elsewhere, the enthusiasm is a bit more muted. Several of the team's youngsters, notably Tobias Harris and Andrew Nicholson, have either not improved to a great degree or have in fact regressed in the 2013/14 season, leading some fans to question whether coach Jacque Vaughn can get the most out of this team. While I think that latter point is a little simplistic--Orlando plays hard and together every night, a positive sign for a young team--it's fair to at least wonder if anyone on the Magic's roster apart from Oladipo has the potential to be a real building block.
3. Arron Afflalo has been the leader of the Magic all season, does he have what it takes in the future to lead this team to the playoffs? Or do you think major overhaul needs to happen for that?
Given Afflalo's age--he's only 28--it's entirely possible that he'll still be in pinstripes when Orlando returns to the playoff picture. The Magic organization and his teammates hold him in high regard, and what stands out to me is his determination to improve every year. He struggled in his first Magic season because he wasn't quite prepared to serve as a team's go-to scorer, but he worked hard in the offseason to change his approach to the game and to refine his skills, and as a result he's posted All-Star-caliber numbers.
If the Magic nail their 2014 Draft picks, Oladipo continues to grow, and Nikola Vucevic develops into a more consistent offensive player, then it's not hard to envision Afflalo leading this group into the playoffs sometime within the next three seasons.
4. Over/Under on how many more rebounds the Magic have over the Heat: 8
Eight seems fair. As you well know, Miami is vulnerable on the glass, and that's one area where the Magic, thanks to Vucevic, can excel.
5. What are some ways the Magic will give the Heat trouble? What's your prediction for the game?
You nailed it in the last question: it's rebounding, and the Magic are going to have to exploit their offensive rebounding chances while also limiting Miami's in order to challenge the Heat on Saturday.
Given how turnover-prone Orlando is, and given how famously lethal the Heat have proven to be with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade running in transition, I think Miami will get enough fast-break baskets to win pretty comfortably. They'll also excel in the halfcourt thanks to the help attention James draws from the Heat's role players. As I said above, keeping Miami away from the offensive glass will go a long way toward keeping Orlando in the game.
Saturday, Mar 1, 2014, 7:30 PM EST