It is never a good idea to get too excited about what goes on during the NBA pre-season. While it is fine to observe athletic ability and desire in early October, looking at a stat sheet without seeing how they were accumulated only tells a portion of the story.
A good example comes from the Orlando Magic’s 103-98 victory on Tuesday night in San Antonio. It is always nice to be on the right side of the scoreboard, but the most important thing about preseason games is to see who can play and who can play together.
Magic coach Frank Vogel saw some good things from returning players as well as newcomers. Among those were Jonathan Simmons and Aaron Gordon.
Simmons has brought energy to his job since he arrived. On Tuesday, he mixed that with scoring and helping teammates do the same.
He had a double-double with 20 points and 10 assists as he took on a heavier offensive load with the absence of starters Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier and Terrance Ross. Bismack Biyombo was the recipient of some of Simmons’ passes as he scored 18 points.
“I loved the game that he played: sharing the basketball, playing for his teammates, scoring when needed and bringing some tough defense,” said Vogel.
Gordon is also one to watch. He also had a solid game on Tuesday with 27 points and 11 rebounds and the hope is he will turn into a more dependable scorer this season.
With Vogel’s new offense focusing on an up-tempo, three-point shooting attack, guys like Gordon can play a vital role. Even though it is only preseason, he is shooting 45 percent from three-point range. That is 16 percentage points higher than he shot a season ago.
Gordon, who thrives in an up-tempo offense, has been aggressive on both ends of the court. His preseason numbers are similar to the second half of last season when he averaged 16 points and 6 rebounds.
The Magic will need consistent, aggressive play at both ends from the first and second units if they hope to finally get back into the post season. The final preseason game on Friday at the Amway Center against Cleveland will give them a final chance to develop the all-important team chemistry.
Vogel said he likes to treat the final two preseason games similar to the regular season as it relates to starting lineups and playing time. Vogel and the player personnel staff likely already know who among the 20 players currently on the roster will be cut, so it will have the feel of a real game.
Orlando opens the season next Wednesday against the Miami Heat at the Amway Center.