Let's have some fun with the new look Magic
Article by: David Tingley
On this week’s “Inside the NBLC” podcast, Scott Squires, my former broadcast partner and inevitable inheritor of the title of “King of All Media” put to me a difficult question. “After this week’s transactions, what is your ideal Magic starting five?” It was a tough one, both because the little scamp surprised me with it and also because it’s almost impossible to answer right now. But ahead of an intriguing double-header against the Halifax Hurricanes this weekend, let’s have a little fun breaking down the possibilities.
First of all, the new guys. Nick Evans needs no introduction, but let’s toot his horn anyway. He was a revelation last season after coming to town as merely a last-minute training camp invite. He made himself into an indispensable part of the team on both ends of the floor with his shooting, rebounding, toughness and…..unbridled enthusiasm? The man is a breath of fresh air to be sure, at least for announcers and fans of HIS team. And he’s coming off a stretch in Albania that, according to Coach Salerno, has him playing with a ton of confidence in early practices.
Kemy Osse-Probably the least familiar of the new additions, but let’s not overlook him. He’d only been a 36% shooter from the floor in his first two seasons in the NBLC, and he’s not going to knock down a ton of threes, but he’s still managed to be a valuable reserve and All-Canadian level performer because of his excellent defense, toughness and what we in the biz call “floor game”. He’s a good team defender, he shares the ball and he’s a top-notch rebounder for his size (there’s a lot of that on this team now). And oh by the way, he was scoring 14 ppg on almost 46% shooting in Windsor through 5 games while making over 90% of his free throws. If that’s a sign of growth in his game and not temporary, look out.
Dez Lee- Apparently Coach Salerno is bound and determined to assemble every past and future member of the All-Defensive team in the Hub City, while simultaneously bringing to town every one of my favorite players in the league. His assist numbers say that Lee isn’t an elite shot creator, but that’s a nitpick. He can score efficiently at all three levels, has toughness to burn, is one of the best defenders in the league and, as Coach Salerno emphasized with me yesterday, “he’s all about winning”. That’s an attitude that will mesh well in this locker room. Billy White has been to four-straight NBLC finals, partially because he doesn’t shrink from the big moment. Of all the things the Magic need to replace with him leaving town, that might be the most important. Well, ladies and gents, I give you Dez Lee.
1. The “Standard” Starting Lineup: Let’s go boring to start here with your run-of-the-mill PG/SG/SF/PF/C quintet:
Jeremiah Mordi/Corey Allmond/Marcus Lewis/Denzell Taylor/Ronald Delph-If you forced me into a corner, this is the five I’d GUESS we’d see out there to start the next few games. No new faces still trying to get acclimated. All guys that have played a lot of minutes together. Very good, very imposing….but very vanilla for our purposes.
2. The “Uh Oh, Halifax is Halifax again, so we’d better adjust on the fly” Lineup: Awkward title I know, but this gives us a chance to delve into the Hurricanes a little here. In a very significant, but quieter move, last year’s division-finalists have brought Mike Leslie back down from the front office to the sidelines and have installed Ryan Marchand as his assistant. Marchand’s offensive philosophy was wildly different from Leslie’s and adjusting to that change has likely contributed to the Hurricanes slow start. Their retention of Marchand indicates he still may be a part of their long-term plans, but it’s the short-term that concerns the perennial title contenders. With a shorter schedule this season, only 2 teams from each division making the playoffs, and the defending champs coming to town for a doubleheader, this may already feel like do-or-die time in Halifax. Look at it this way: the Hurricanes are 1-6 and have 28 games left. If you assume that one of Island or St. John’s play over .500 basketball the rest of the season, then Halifax needs to go at least 18-10 the rest of the way….and that’s if neither of those teams above them play BETTER than .500 basketball. Daunting no? Carl Hall has joined the squad and now pairs with CJ Washington to give the team that inside/outside balance they’ve had in previous years. My guess is he and Washington get the bulk of the minutes right away with Cliff Clinkscales, Antoine Mason and Chris Johnson. When you have the Kindred/Zimmerman/Tremayne Johnson trio ready to come in and wreck bench units and provide another look, that makes them very dangerous. And probably MUCH better defensively. Hurricanes fans had better hope so, because the team has been an abject disaster on that end of the floor so far. They are dead last in the NBLC in opponent field goal %, rebounding margin and points surrendered. Nowhere to go but up for this squad, but given where they’ve been in past years and the improvement they started showing about this time last season, you assume the bounce back is coming.
Allmond/Lee/Lewis/Taylor/Evans-Now let’s be clear. I think this could be the lineup they save for Halifax down the line, not this weekend. Lee is flying into Halifax Saturday night and won’t be available Sunday. Down the line, however, he makes an ideal matchup for Antoine Mason. There is no true PG in this starting lineup, but Corey’s shooting is so important and, as good as Clink is, he’s not the dynamic scoring guard that would put pressure on him on the defensive end. And while Clink is still solid defensively, he’s not so disruptive to his matchup as to make it difficult for the Magic to get into their sets. With Lee and Lewis as secondary ball-handlers, this would still make for an efficient team offensively.
3. The “London Calling” lineup.
Allmond/Lee/Lewis/McCullough/Taylor-Sitting down Moncton fans? Right now, London is the best team in the league….and they haven’t really been healthy. Scary thought huh? When they go with a long, versatile, stretchy lineup like Xavier Moon/Mareik Isom/Garrett Williamson/AJ Gaines/Mo Bolden, that’s tough to matchup with. Corey may have some trouble keeping Moon in front of him or with the size of a guy like Williamson or Gaines, but who doesn’t? And with the matchup problems he gives London on the other end by stretching the floor, it would be an intriguing chess match for the coaches.
4. The “Storm Day” lineup.
Mo Jones/Lee/Lewis/McCullough/Taylor-Ok, here’s where I start to leak a little oil. This one is a bit of a fantasy, but I REALLY want to watch Jonathan Loyd and Mo Jones play 40 minutes against each other. Heck, I’d pay good money to watch them play one-on-one. They have been two of the best defenders in the league, they’re super tough, and also two of the fastest guys in the league. Also, no Corey? Part of the fantasy is that Island goes with a Robinson/Loyd/Lillard/Campbell/Wright nightmare lineup, forcing us to get creative and turning Corey into a 6th man raining threes against the reserves….just let me have this.
5. The “When You’re This Big, They Call You Mister” lineup.
Allmond/Lee/Lewis/Evans/Delph- Choose any of the other three you like frankly, but there are GOING to be lineups out there with Nick Evans playing stretch-4 with Delph in the middle. Outside of being Nick Evans’ dream, this would be a nightmare for any team looking to attack the glass. If you’re going 6’10 and 7’0” down low in this league, you’re normally giving away too much of something, but with Ronnie’s lateral quicks and Nick’s three-point shooting, this wouldn’t be your normal huge lineup.
6. The “Let’s Get Nuts” lineup.
Let’s be clear….this will NEVER happen. However, whenever I tend to offer that opinion, I’m wrong, so this is a little bit of reverse psychology at work.
Jones/Allmond/Lee/Lewis/McCullough-Ok Sudbury 5, want to set ANOTHER record for highest scoring game in the history of the league? You guys go with alllllll your shooters, we’ll play a lineup where Wayne McCullough is the 5 and we’ll break people’s brains. Bonus points if multiple players never go inside the three-point arc at either end. First to 200 points wins and the loser has to apologize to the family of James Naismith.
The Magic hit the road this weekend with 2 games in 3 days at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, to take on their Atlantic conference rivals, the Hurricanes. Catch both games online at NBLClive.ca