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On the Orlando Magic's post-game show after the Milwaukee Bucks game, in which Brandon Bass came up in the conversation (played roughly nine minutes; first time he had seen action since November 18th), Matt Guokas alluded to the point that head coach Stan Van Gundy is in a bit of a no-win scenario when it comes to handling the playing time of Ryan Anderson and the aforementioned Bass. In essence, no matter who Van Gundy chooses to back-up Rashard Lewis, there will be questions as to why the odd-man out isn't seeing minutes. Bass, in this case. So, is Van Gundy making the right decision in choosing Anderson over Bass?
In short, yes. But let's further expand on the answer.
One of the main reasons is because it's a stylistic choice - with Anderson, the Magic do not have to alter its style of play when Lewis is on the bench. For example, Orlando can still run 4-out/1-in offensive sets with Anderson and the results can still be potent, given that he is shooting 41.5% from three-point range this year (Lewis, for comparison's sake, has a career percentage of 39.0%). Of course, there's more to it than that.
According to BasketballValue, Anderson is part of two of the three best Magic lineups so far in the regular season. The best lineup - which includes Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes, Ryan Anderson, and Dwight Howard - has posted a staggering Offensive Rating of 155.5 in roughly 53 minutes of action. The sample size is small, sure, but that's a number that's hard to ignore. Conversely, three of the four worst five-man units for Orlando include Bass - the crux of the problem being that the team can't score with him on the court. If one thinks about it logically, it makes sense, because the Magic are forced to play more conventionally with Bass and as a result, the offense suffers.
|Ryan Anderson||Brandon Bass|
|adj. defensive plus/minus||+3.27||+10.57|
|opponent PER vs. PF's||15.0||15.6|
|net defensive plus/minus||+1.3||+14.3|
Another reason why Anderson plays and Bass doesn't is because the former is a bit further along on the defensive side of the ball. At best, Anderson has been an average defender this year but Bass has been worse. For Bass, it's not because of a lack of effort but more due to the fact he's late on his rotations and isn't assimilating Van Gundy's schemes on defense as quickly as one would hope. Whether or not Bass will be able to pick things up, defensively, remains to be seen but he's certainly capable of being a net positive on that end of the floor. Time will tell.
And lastly, Anderson has been the better player than Bass. However, one can't complain about the production from either individual (more so, offensively, than anything else). So, unless something happens to Anderson and he's involuntarily or voluntarily unable to play, Bass will continue to be the 11th man in the Orlando rotation until further notice. It's not an indictment on Bass' skill. The fact of the matter is that Anderson is an individual who is a better fit and a better player for the Magic.
One possible alternative for Stan Van Gundy, if he wishes to explore the possibility, is for Bass to see some minutes at center. As one should know, Marcin Gortat hasn't been setting the world on fire with his production, and if the coaching staff for the Orlando Magic would consider it, playing Brandon at the five when the matchups are favorable wouldn't necessarily be a bad idea. With Bass at that position as opposed to Gortat, defense would be sacrificed a bit, but the returns on offense could make it a moot point. The Magic could still play unconventionally, offensively, but with an added dimension - Bass' ability to make the mid-range jumper with efficiency. When Gortat was out due to an illness against the Charlotte Bobcats on November 16th, Bass played the center position for a brief period of time and the results were positive. According to Zach McCann of Orlando Magic Daily, it seemed like Bass was more comfortable playing in that role (especially on defense). Whatever happens from here on out, it's an option that's there for the team if need be. As for Bass, it can be certain that he'll eventually find his niche with the squad.