Fact or Fiction presents both sides of key issues the Orlando Magic will face in the upcoming NBA season.
Ryan Anderson will pass Brandon Bass on the depth chart by the end of the season.
FACT: Although Bass, as the team's highest-profile free-agent acquisition, appears to have a firm grasp on the team's backup power forward job now, Anderson does almost everything just a bit better. Bass has earned a reputation as a big, burly wrecking-ball of a frontcourt presence; the Magic haven't had such a player in quite a while, and that novelty might prove appealing to Magic coach Stan Van Gundy.
But that novelty will wear off once Van Gundy realizes Anderson can do everything Bass does, with the added bonus of being a credible three-point shooting threat. To wit, Bass has yet to connect from three-point range in 11 attempts over his 4 seasons, while Anderson drilled 69 treys in 189 attempts (36.5%) last season, nearly unprecedented for players of his size and age. And don't let Bass' bulk fool you: his career rebounding rate of 13.4 is inferior to Anderson's 14.1 figure.
The key here is that the Magic can play their preferred style--that is, with a floor-spreading power forward--with their second unit, provided that Anderson is that power forward. Van Gundy mentioned as much in the press conference announcing the Magic's acquiring Anderson, along with Vince Carter, from New Jersey:
I think what we had, and you guys watched it this year, was when Rashard [Lewis] came out of the game and we went to the bench, we really had to play a different way because we then could not spread the floor out.
Indeed, Anderson's rebounding and long-range accuracy will make him a better fit for the second unit than Bass' brute strength. He'll overtake Bass' spot in the rotation before too long.
FICTION: Don't be so quick to dismiss Bass' offense. While he doesn't have Anderson's range, he's a much better finisher inside, and his mid-range jumper is much more reliable than Anderson's... or that of almost every other big man in the league. Bass is similar to Tony Battie, who backed up Lewis at power forward for must of last year, in that he favors shooting from mid-range. But the reason the Magic's offense suffered with Battie on the floor last year wasn't the floor shrinking, but rather that Battie's a far less accurate shooter.
And defensively, Bass has a tremendous edge over Anderson, both in physical strength and in overall ability. Bass can guard either power position, and commits fewer fouls. Van Gundy tends to emphasize defense over offense, and Bass' considerable superiority on this end--in conjunction with his not-to-be-overlooked midrange game on offense--will allow him to maintain the Magic's backup power forward position throughout the year.
Verdict: While we're a long way from knowing how this particular issue will play out, the more likely outcome is the latter one. Bass' defense will firmly establish him as the team's backup power forward from season's beginning to end. That's not to say that Anderson won't play, though. He'll certainly see plenty of time--at least 20 minutes a game--during the first 10 games of the season, in which Lewis will serve a suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. After that, he'll likely play spot minutes as a specialist against certain teams, or when the offense needs a lift from the outside.
With grateful acknowledgement to 3QC user 3.3seconds, who suggested this topic.