Monday, April 16, 2012

Orlando Magic Finally Giving Daniel Orton an Opportunity

Daniel Orton was a five-star recruit while in high school but the three years after graduation have not been very glamorous. It’s been a challenging road for him, but he may have finally caught the break he needed.

With Dwight Howard missing time because of a herniated disk and Glen Davis injuring his right knee in Sunday night’s game Daniel Orton saw minutes that he hasn’t gotten since high school and was productive.

In Orlando’s 100-84 victory over Cleveland Sunday night—which clinched a playoff spot—Orton played 29 minutes, scored 11 points, grabbed four rebounds, blocked three shots and had a team-high five steals.

He was a very productive player for the Magic and stepped up when his team needed him. It was good form to see from a player who has not been relied upon in recent years.

Orton committed to Kentucky in 2009 and came off the bench to back up DeMarcus Cousins. He averaged only 13.2 minutes per game, 3.4 points per game and 3.3 rebounds per game. He did have 1.4 blocks per game but his other numbers were low. Still, he opted to go to the NBA Draft.

The Magic selected him with the 29th overall pick, making him a first-rounder and hoping he could add some size behind Dwight Howard.

There were many concerns about Orton. Despite his soft shooting touch and shot-blocking abilities, Orton was not considered a tough back-to-the-basket forward. There were even bigger questions about his conditioning and the health of his knees, which proved to be an issue.

A still raw prospect, Orton was sent to the New Mexico Thunderbirds of the NBA Development League to get more experience. He endured a season-ending knee injury in his second game.

Before even playing a game for the Magic, the team declined his option for a third season, so he will be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.

This season he has only played in 10 games. He’s averaged 7.4 minutes per game, 1.7 points and 1.4 rebounds. But now he has a legitimate opportunity to prove what talents he currently has, his work ethic to improve on them and what potential he does have.

“Defensively, he was great on rotations and he’s a sharp kid. If he’d really decide to really, really work at it and everything, I think he showed that he’s capable of some things, especially on the defensive end,” head coach Stan Van Gundy told the media after the game. “But even offensively, I thought he did a good job in our pick-and-roll game. He knows how we want to play; he’s trying to play that way. I’m really happy for him.”

Without many big bodies, Orton will be needed to be a big body that protects the rim on defense. He needs to be productive on offense as well, because that team is built around getting the ball to the post and then kicking it out for the open jump shot. If Orton can’t make teams play him honestly, then the defense will just lock on the shooters and the offense, heading into the playoffs, will be at its worst.

Currently he has to play a big role for the Magic helping them as they prepare for the playoffs and filling in for Howard and Davis.

He’s also auditioning for a future in this league, one that he hopes will be brighter than the path his young career has started on.

Photo credits.
AP Photo/John Raoux

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