Fact or Fiction presents both sides of key issues the Orlando Magic will face in the upcoming NBA season.
The Orlando Magic will struggle in the first 10 games of the regular season, given that Rashard Lewis will be serving a suspension during that timeframe.
FACT: Schedule notwithstanding, Rashard Lewis is one of the most important players on the Orlando Magic roster. Head coach Stan Van Gundy had the benefit of playing an unconventional lineup the majority of the time this past year because of Lewis' ability to play more than adequately, defensively. As such, Van Gundy was able to use Lewis at the power forward position to take advantage of his unique skill-set, which conversely caused matchup problems for a number of teams, offensively.
With Lewis out for the start of the 2009-2010 season, Van Gundy will be forced to play a conventional lineup - presumably, by starting Brandon Bass at the four. Although Bass has the ability to shoot the mid-range jumper, the Magic offense won't be as potent because of the lack of another three-point shooter on the floor - meaning, Orlando's 4-out/1-in offense will be affected due to the personnel change. Statistically, Bass won't bring anything better to the table when it comes to defending and rebounding (his numbers are comparable to Lewis in both aspects).
So, unless Bass continues to develop as a player (which isn't a far-fetched conjecture, given that he's 24), the Magic should remain status quo defensively. The same can't be said offensively, due to the reasons already stated above.
FICTION: The simple explanation.
Of the first 10 games that Rashard Lewis will be missing in action, the Orlando Magic play only four teams (Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers) that either a.) had a winning record or b.) went to the NBA playoffs. Only one squad, the Cavs, presents a difficult challenge to the Magic - unless superstitious Orlando fans still consider Detroit a "threat" due to past history. So, even though Lewis will be suspended for roughly the first two weeks, the Magic should be able to continue to win without him, given the opponents on the schedule. If one's playing "by the book" or "on paper", Orlando should realistically go 9-1 without Lewis.
The complicated explanation.
Head coach Stan Van Gundy isn't shy to experiment (see J.J. Redick starting in the playoffs), so although unlikely, it's entirely possible that he could start Ryan Anderson in place of Lewis. If one thinks about it, starting Anderson makes some sense. In speaking with ESPN's & Scount Inc.'s David Thorpe during the 2009 Orlando Pro Summer League back in July, he was quick to state that Anderson is a Lewis-lite version, given his ability to spread the floor at the power forward position and his willingness to post up, if necessary (traits that apply to Lewis' skill-set, exactly). Even the numbers prove the comparison as valid, as Kevin Pelton's SCHOENE projection system lists Lewis as a similar player to Anderson.
If Anderson were to start, the Magic would have the luxury of continuing to play an unconventional lineup that presents nightmarish matchup problems on a nightly basis. The 'pro' side is that Anderson is a better rebounder than Lewis, statistically. The 'con' side is that Anderson isn't as good of a defender as Lewis. As for everything else, Anderson can provide some of the same things that Lewis brings to the table.
Verdict: The Orlando Magic should be just fine without Rashard Lewis. That's not to easily dismiss Rashard's importance to the team, but speaks more to the depth and multitude of options head coach Stan Van Gundy has at his disposal. Having a schedule that isn't too difficult helps, also, in making the loss easier to cope. If the Magic can deal with the absence of Jameer Nelson for more than half the season, then the Magic can deal with the absence of Lewis for a little bit of the season.
With grateful acknowledgement to 3QC user bandrewg08, who suggested this topic.