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NBA Rookie Prospect Report: #FreeAndrewNicholson

Fred Katz

Fred Katz

Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in 5th grade, but he maintains that his per 36 minutes numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work at ProBasketballDraft.com or on ESPN's TrueHoop Network. Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.

Someone needs to start a Free Andrew Nicholson movement.

Whoever does it should make sure to find the hashtag popularizer that seems to have this Twitter thing down. Only once #FreeAndrewNicholson exists does the change truly begin.

Nicholson's minutes this year - and his production - have been uneven to say the least. On a Magic team that is surprisingly only one game out of the playoffs - but one that probably doesn't project to be a postseason team - Nicholson should be getting minutes, if only to plant the seeds of improvement. But troublingly, he's not getting enough.

Blame Nikola Vucevic's understated second NBA season. Blame Big Baby - who is now out for four-to-six weeks - or J.J. Reddick stepping up more than expected. Blame that current four-game winning streak that Orlando has ridden to find itself only one game under .500.

But either way, Nicholson's playing time must go up.

If everything goes right for Orlando the rest of the season, Nicholson continues his rookie-caliber minutes total through 82 games and Orlando pulls off a magic season, slipping into the playoffs as an eight-seed or seven-seed, is that really a best-case scenario?

We've learned that the current NBA system favors teams that take the time to develop their young players, bottom out, get a few years of lottery picks, and then put it all together once they've found the right guys. Realistically, this 12-13 Orlando pace won't keep up (Orlando Paces are destined to become Rams, anyway) and once the Magic hit their inevitable six-game losing streak, Nicholson has to start seeing more time on the floor.

The former Bonnie is averaging only 14.6 minutes per game, but that's just part of the problem. Jacques Vaughn just hasn't been giving Nicholson the consistent floor time he needs on a night-in, night-out basis. This is not necessarily a knock on Vaughn, who has done a wonderful job thus far in his rookie head coaching season. He's a Popovich disciple and coaches in a way that one might expect someone from the Popovich tree would: intelligently and with the mindset that there are always more games to play.

But we must #FreeAndrewNicholson.

(Has the hashtag popularizer approved this, yet?)

Nicholson's per 36 minute numbers are currently at 18.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks. Meanwhile, he's been remarkably efficient, shooting 53.6 percent from the field and 83.3 percent from the line.

He has a 57.9 percent true shooting percentage with a 16.9 PER. What more do you want from a rookie, Jacques? What more??

But the consistent inconsistency of Nicholson's minutes continues.

In a recent, four-game stretch from Dec. 7 to Dec. 14, Nicholson played more than 20 minutes in each individual game and averaged 14.0 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game, while shooting 59 percent from the field in only 24.6 minutes a night. Naturally, performances like that should garner more playing time from a rookie who seems to be improving with each step he takes on a basketball court. But apparently not all logic would see it that way.

Over the last three games - following that four-game stint - Nicholson has played a grand total of 32 minutes. That's unacceptable.

The talent, mentality, consistency, ability, and motor are all there. This isn't someone that could develop into a quality player down the line; it's someone who is a net-positive right now. And yet, he's an untouched commodity in NBA circles.

If today is the last day of the world, that means we're never going to see Andrew Nicholson earnestly ball out. But if we live on, couldn't we just write this one up as a bad case of Ryan Anderson Syndrome? Eventually, Nicholson has to see minutes.

When Anderson was labeled as "improved" on last season's Magic team, his numbers didn't necessarily say that. His per 36 figures actually remained relatively steady with previous seasons, but when the playing time took a wide-spread leap, so did his aggregate numbers.

That is precisely why those in keeper leagues and prospect leagues must keep an eye on Nicholson. A bad period for the Magic could lead to heavier minutes and once he gets those, we can sit back and watch double-doubles while we forever retire #FreeAndrewNicholson.



Fred Katz is an NBA writer for RotoWire. Contact him on Twitter at @FredKatz.