In my last article for the Orlando Pinstriped Post, I compared the Magic's two great backup power forwards, Ryan Anderson and Brandon Bass. As I mentioned last time, the Magic are blessed with a number of great frontcourt players, a luxury most teams would love to have. Beyond Anderson and Bass, Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, and Marcin Gortat could all be considered above average players for their position (and they are paid like it). The challenge for the Magic's coaching staff is finding playing time for each of these five players while also mixing and matching in order to find the combinations that are most effective. Today I'm going to go through the play-by-play data of the 2009-10 season and see how the Magic have fared with each frontcourt combination.
Howard, of course, is the centerpiece. He receives the most playing time and is necessary for the Magic to be successful on both offense and defense. To start this study, I decided to see how the Magic did when they paired Howard with each of the three power forwards (Lewis, Anderson, and Bass). Below is a table listing the Offensive and Defensive Ratings (points scored or allowed per 100 possessions) when the Magic played Howard and one of the three power forwards:
Howard and Anderson appear to have formed the best duo thus far this season. The Magic's Offensive Rating when they're both playing is a sizzling 120.5, and their defense is almost as good. Surprisingly, when Lewis and Howard have been paired together, the Magic's offense has been rather pedestrian. We'll see if this result lasts throughout the season.
Generally the replacement for Howard is Gortat. How do the Magic perform with Gortat and one of the three replacements?
The first thing you should notice is that the Magic's numbers with Gortat in the game instead of Howard are considerably worse. I'm hesitant to blame this all on Gortat because during my game tracking this year he's looked very good. Whatever the case is, we can see the Magic have performed best this year when Gortat has played alongside Bass. Among those pairs including Gortat, only that pairing has recorded a higher Offensive Rating than Defensive Rating.
Does this data indicate the Magic should maximize Howard's minutes with Anderson and Gortat's minutes with Bass? Perhaps, although we shouldn't be totally certain just yet. It's still early in the season, and as I mentioned earlier, this study has ignored the other 3 players on the court. These numbers will be revisited as the season progresses.