Believe it or not, we are about a month away from Opening Night. Orlando opened training camp on October 1 and open the preseason in Mexico City against New Orleans on Saturday. So how will we get ready? By counting down to the beginning of the season on November 2 against Denver. Let's continue:
It is the first day of practice and Jacque Vaughn only has five days to figure out who will start at center for the first preseason game. That will not likely be the guy that lines up at center for opening night.
The competition for this spot though is going to be the most heated and most interesting for us day-to-day watchers in training camp.
Gustavo Ayon and Nikola Vucevic are the presumed favorites to start. Vucevic is the guy with more potential and better offensive ability. But Ayon is a bit more consistent and a better defender. Decisions... decisions.
That decision won't be easy and likely will be one that lasts throughout training camp. There are no answers now.
Vaughn though has his candidates, according to John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com. Predictably, Ayon and Vucevic along with second-round draft pick Kyle O'Quinn are expected to compete for the starting center spot. With some NBA game tape in their back pocket, Ayon and Vucevic appear to be the favorites as Vaughn told the media after the first practice Monday:
I’ll give them a chance to prove themselves on the floor. Initial thoughts, Goose is extremely physical, plays hard, runs the floor extremely well and will do a great job as far as extending our defense. Nik is very skilled, can shoot the basketball. He’ll be a great teammate. My job now is to get more out of both of them.
What is not said there is what the dark horse in this race: Kyle O'Quinn.
O'Quinn made a name for himself in summer league as a bullish, bruising center willing to mix it up with anyone and take no guff from anybody. He went toe-to-toe with lottery pick Andre Drummond in the Summer League and instantly became a cult hero for not backing down. That kind of fight is something nobody can ignore and something that will get O'Quinn on the court.
It should also push Vucevic and Ayon to be better and make the competition that much more exciting. It should (should) make all of those players better too and help in their development.
This will be a competition that will last all camp and one to keep an eye on throughout the season.