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Starting 5: The Magic Are Getting Closer

The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the Internet

1. The Orlando Magic aren’t winning, but they’re getting closer– David Ramil, Hardwood Paroxysm

Every team has lofty goals and expectations three weeks before the season starts, none more so than the Orlando Magic. They have had a top-five pick three consecutive seasons, drafting Victor Oladipo (2nd in 2013), Aaron Gordon (4th in 2014) and Mario Hezonja (5th 2015). They would like nothing more than to avoid a similar pick in the next draft. The team expects the young core of Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic, Elfrid Payton and others to improve enough to compete for one of the many playoff spots available in the weakened Eastern Conference—and they just might have enough to do so.

2. Using the System (and Drummond) to Understand Reggie Jackson’s Contract– Jonathon Tjarks, RealGM

With all of the “max” contracts being thrown out this summer, none was more surprising than Reggie Jackson’s five-year $80 million deal with the Detroit Pistons, especially for Oklahoma City fans. However, there is an argument to be made for Jackson receiving a deal that makes him one of Detroit’s most important players during that time span. First, Jackson rarely played with both Westbrook and Durant in his time with the Thunder. His first opportunity for meaningful playing time came two seasons ago when Westbrook missed a large chunk of the season, and the Thunder’s injury plagued 2014-2015 season doesn’t need to be rehashed. Also, in his time with the Thunder, he was never given a threat to roll to the rim quite like Andre Drummond. Jackson isn’t known as a good shooter, but with his long frame and finishing ability, he could show his worth with the Pistons this year.

3. Player Rankings Are Silly– Seth Partnow, BBALLBREAKDOWN

There is a summer tradition among those that follow the NBA to decide whether Player A or Player B is better. It generates conversation among people who seem to have opinions on that type of thing, but in reality it’s nearly impossible to do (although, I’m currently doing it as we speak). There are more things to consider than whether Player A had more points, rebounds, assists or even how he did using advanced metrics over Player B. Context needs to be used when considering which player is a better player, and the general question “which player is better” is probably the wrong question to be asking. A better question might be “which player is a better fit” as it takes into account the current situation. However, that question isn’t nearly as fun and may draw far too many level-headed discussions.

4. Lakers aren’t enthused by all the running at training camp– Mike Bresnahan, LA Times

In the least surprising news of the day, Byron Scott is receiving criticism for having his team have two-a-day practices before playing a game against the up-and-coming Utah Jazz. Scott claims that having his team play games through tired legs does things like “build toughness” and “show them how to win late in the season” despite all the evidence to the contrary. Most teams that have success have shown a willingness to take it easy early in the season because, as the saying goes, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

5. Shot Creation and Half Court Offense– Seth Partnow, Nylon Calculus

An isolation player like Jamal Crawford is often thought of as a detriment to his offense due to his inefficient shots. While the shots he creates for himself are less productive, a player who is able to draw attention from more than one defender can create open shots for his teammates and help his team’s efficiency (because open shots are more efficient than guarded shots, obviously). Partnow’s graph also shows that some of the most efficient offenses in the league relied less on one player creating and more on ball movement, screens and other methods of offense. The Warriors, Hawks, Spurs and Clippers were all below the league average in volume of creation of plays and all finished in the top seven in offensive efficiency, per Basketball-Reference.com.

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