Believe it or not, we are less than one month away from the first Magic preseason game. Orlando will open training camp on October 1 and open the preseason in Mexico City against New Orleans on October 7. So how will we get ready? By counting down to the beginning of the season on November 2 against Denver. Let's continue:
At some point, we have to begin focusing on the season and, you know, the actual players on the Magic roster. We will be getting to them as the countdown continues to wind down toward opening night.
Maurice Harkless is undoubtedly one of the more intriguing players the Magic acquired in the Dwight Howard trade. He spent only a year at St. John's before declaring for the draft and had a decent year. He averaged 15.5 points per game and 8.6 rebounds per game.
As I said in my draft profile, he looks like a small forward and a gifted scorer and slasher to the rim. He needs to improve his jump shot to make it at the NBA level, but that is something that Jacque Vaughn and the Magic coaching staff can work with him on throughout the season.
Harkless becomes the highest drafted player for the Magic this season since the 76ers took him two four spots ahead of Andrew Nicholson (we will get to him later). He was always on Orlando's radar too.
If you are looking for a new Magic player that can surprise you, it might very well be Harkless. The Orlando situation is a good one for him too. There will be little pressure to perform right away and he can make mistakes in games. More importantly, because of the logjam at forward, Harkless will be able to cut his teeth in practice and learn with correction there before getting thrown into the fire.
In all likelihood, Orlando's small forward rotation will be Hedo Turkoglu starting with Arron Afflalo, Quentin Richardson and Al Harrington able to split minutes at that position. Harkless, of all the rookies on Orlando's roster, seems to be the most likely to get immediate playing time.
And unlike Nicholson or Kyle O'Quinn, Harkless should be relatively ready to step right in and make some type of contribution.
The key for Harkless to fulfill his potential is to develop that jump shot and commit to being a defender. That is how Quentin Richardson has lasted in the league for so long, but he is limited defensively. Afflalo cut his teeth in the league as a defender, but he is better suited as a shooting guard. Harkless could be the Magic's stopper at the small forward position.
This is where Vaughn is really going to have to show his worth as a coach. These young players have to develop their defensive habits and commitment now. They will not be developed later in their careers. So taking pride on defense in practice and in games, even through a potentially devastating losing season, will be critical.
Is Harkless up for the challenge?
He has the tools to do it. He has the tools to do a lot of things on the basketball floor. In 48 days, we begin to find out.
Eds. note: thanks to @MagicianinOz for the correction.