Young Magic Tracker: Payton playing with newfound confidence

BY foxsports • March 19, 2015

With close to half of their roster born in 1992 or later, the Orlando Magic began the season as the NBA's fourth-youngest team and therefore need to figure out which players have a future with them. Every Thursday for the rest of the season, FOX Sports Florida's Ken Hornack takes a closer look at those players, measuring, highlighting and evaluating their progress.

EVAN FOURNIER (age 22, third NBA season, first with Magic)

Statistical averages, last week (season): 0.0 minutes (28.8), 0.0 points (11.9), 0.0 rebounds (2.6), 0.0 assists (2.1), 0.0 blocks (0.0), 0.0 steals (0.7), 0.0 FG% (43.7), 0.0 3PT% (37.4).

Advanced stats, season: 12.3 player efficiency rating (based on 15.0 league average), 53.9 true shooting percentage (accounting for free throws and 3-pointers), 19.8 usage rate (possessions used per 40 minutes).

Trending: Down

Noted: Fournier tried giving his sore right hip a go in practice last week before the Magic began a three-game road trip. But he said it felt worse rather than better afterward and estimated he could remain sidelined another two weeks, meaning he'll be unavailable Sunday night when the Denver Nuggets -- the team which traded him to the Magic over the summer -- make their only visit to Orlando all season. Fournier had 14 points in 18 minutes in the Magic's 93-90 loss at Denver on Jan. 7.

AARON GORDON (age 19, first season)

Statistical averages, last week (season): 14.0 minutes (15.1), 4.8 points (5.1), 4.3 rebounds (3.1), 0.3 assists (0.7), 0.8 blocks (0.5), 0.5 steals (0.3), 43.8 FG% (50.0), 14.3 3PT% (34.4).

Advanced stats, season: 12.1 player efficiency rating (based on 15.0 league average), 57.4 true shooting percentage (accounting for free throws and 3-pointers), 16.1 usage rate (possessions used per 40 minutes).

Trending: Down

Noted: A productive game Friday night at Boston in which he contributed 11 points and eight rebounds -- as well as this block of a shot by Tyler Zeller -- was followed by three lackluster outings for the first-round draft pick. Gordon was on the floor to start the fourth quarter Wednesday night at Dallas, but it wasn't until interim coach James Borrego brought in Channing Frye to replace him with 7:19 remaining that the Magic cut their deficit against the Mavericks to single digits for the first time since the second quarter. In contrast to fellow rookie Elfrid Payton, the only member of the Magic not to miss a game this season, Gordon has still yet to play the equivalent of a full college season. Barring injuries, that should change by this time next week. Gordon has appeared in nine consecutive games, his longest streak since fracturing a bone in his left foot in November.

MAURICE HARKLESS (age 21, third season)

Statistical averages, last week (season): 24.2 minutes (15.2), 8.5 points (3.9), 4.8 rebounds (2.5), 0.3 assists (0.7), 0.0 blocks (0.2), 1.5 steals (0.8), 46.7 FG% (40.7), 30.0 3PT% (20.0).

Advanced stats, season: 9.7 player efficiency rating (based on 15.0 league average), 46.3 true shooting percentage (accounting for free throws and 3-pointers), 14.3 usage rate (possessions used per 40 minutes).

Trending: Up

Noted: His player efficiency rating went up almost a full point, largely as a result of him establishing season highs in points (18), steals (4) and minutes played (36) Wednesday night in only his second start. Harkless opened at small forward in place of the injured Tobias Harris in the 107-102 loss to the Mavericks and recorded three of his steals in a first quarter where the Magic forced seven turnovers but also gave up 31 points. His one previous start, again due to an injury to Harris, came Nov. 24 at Cleveland in a game the Magic lost by 32. Harkless hardly got off the bench Sunday night against the Cavaliers as they racked up 100 points through three quarters, but he played the entire fourth quarter and helped limit LeBron James to four points over the final 12 minutes.

TOBIAS HARRIS (age 22, second full season with Magic)

Statistical averages, last week (season): 33.8 minutes (34.7), 15.3 points (16.9), 3.0 rebounds (6.2), 1.7 assists (1.9), 0.0 blocks (0.5), 0.7 steals (1.1), 53.1 FG% (46.3), 35.7 3PT% (36.9).

Advanced stats, season: 16.6 player efficiency rating (based on 15.0 league average), 54.8 true shooting percentage (accounting for free throws and 3-pointers), 22.5 usage rate (possessions used per 40 minutes).

Trending: Down

Noted: Harris played the entire second half against the Cavaliers as the Magic cut what was once an 18-point deficit in half with five minutes to go before losing 123-108. That 24-point, eight-rebound performance was followed Tuesday night at Houston by a game in which Harris sprained his left ankle in the second quarter and did not return. Considering he missed five games in January with a similar injury, Harris could well remain sidelined this weekend when the Magic host the Portland Trail Blazers and the Denver Nuggets. Harris has connected on 73 shots from long distance in 59 games this season after making a total of 72 3-pointers in 158 games over his first three years in the NBA. But here's a statistical oddity for someone regarded as essential to the Magic's success: Of the eight games they have won this calendar year, Harris has missed four, including their victories over New York and New Orleans around the All-Star break. The win over the Pelicans is the only time in the last two months the Magic have beaten a team with a winning record.

DEVYN MARBLE (age 22, first season)

Statistical averages, last week (season): 0.0 minutes (13.0), 0.0 points (2.3), 0.0 rebounds (1.9), 0.0 assists (1.1), 0.0 blocks (0.1), 0.0 steals (0.6), 0.0 FG% (31.8), 0.0 3PT% (18.2).

Advanced stats, season: 5.9 player efficiency rating (based on 15.0 league average), 36.2 true shooting percentage (accounting for free throws and 3-pointers), 13.2 usage rate (possessions used per 40 minutes).

Trending: Down

Noted: Marble has been on the inactive list since March 4 because of a detached retina in his left eye that he had surgery on last week. The second-round pick out of Iowa could miss the rest of the season, a scenario which seems more likely now that the Magic have seen over the past two weeks what Harkless can accomplish at small forward when given adequate playing time.

VICTOR OLADIPO (age 22, second season)

Statistical averages, last week (season): 38.1 minutes (35.1), 21.0 points (17.6), 3.8 rebounds (4.1), 5.0 assists (4.1), 0.3 blocks (0.2), 2.5 steals (1.7), 40.8 FG% (44.4), 23.5 3PT% (34.2).

Advanced stats, season: 16.4 player efficiency rating (based on 15.0 league average), 53.4 true shooting percentage (accounting for free throws and 3-pointers), 25.0 usage rate (possessions used per 40 minutes).

Trending: Up

Noted: In 14 games since the All-Star break, Oladipo is averaging 21.1 points a game with a usage rate of 26.1 compared to 16.6 points and a 24.7 rating in 46 games before it. But it wouldn't be entirely accurate to say he has been a consistent performer over that stretch. Only a jump shot with 10.9 seconds remaining in the 95-88 loss at Boston kept Oladipo from being held to single-digit scoring for the first time since Dec. 23 (also against the Celtics), and he failed to hit any of his six 3-point attempts at Dallas. He even had a rare rough night at the free-throw line against the Cavaliers, missing four of his 10 attempts after beginning the game 21 of 22 from the line in March. Except for a blowout loss last week at Indiana, Oladipo has played more than 37 minutes in every game this month.

ELFRID PAYTON (age 21, first season)

Statistical averages, last week (season): 37.8 minutes (29.2), 11.8 points (8.5), 4.8 rebounds (4.0), 7.5 assists (6.1), 0.5 blocks (0.2), 1.3 steals (1.5), 45.1 FG% (42.1), 0.0 3PT% (25.0).

Advanced stats, season: 12.9 player efficiency rating (based on 15.0 league average), 44.9 true shooting percentage (accounting for free throws and 3-pointers), 18.6 usage rate (possessions used per 40 minutes).

Trending: Up

Noted: While he ranks only 363rd out of 391 NBA players in true shooting percentage, there's no question Payton is playing with a newfound confidence. He is averaging 12.4 points and 7.9 assists a game in March, numbers which are superior to what he compiled on his way to being named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for January. The most impressive part of his first career triple-double Wednesday night was seeing Payton knock down a 3-point field goal and two free throws down the stretch without any hesitation. Even the shot he missed from the top of the key which could have given the Magic a 102-101 lead looked good leaving his hand. The challenge for him will be whether he can sustain that level of play this week against Damian Lillard and longtime Magic point guard Jameer Nelson, who is averaging 8.8 points and 4.1 assists in 21 minutes with the Nuggets since being acquired from the Celtics.

You can follow Ken Hornack on Twitter @HornackFSFla or email him at khornack32176@gmail.com.


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