Perhaps the Orlando Magic's most pleasant surprise this season so far is the blossoming of Brandon Bass, the sixth-year power forward who signed with the team prior to last season, only to average fewer minutes per game than any other Magic player. Bass' talent is obvious, yet he struggled to secure a spot in coach Stan Van Gundy's rotation due to his lapses on both ends of the court; his lack of a three-point shot also made him an iffy fit in the Magic's spread offense.
But so far this season, Bass' production has surpassed any reasonable expectation, averaging career-bests in scoring, rebounding, and assists while playing only 18.6 minutes per game.
Bass' greatest asset to date has been his relentless energy on the offensive glass. Bass has pulled in an estimated 19.1 percent of the Magic's misses when on the court this season. Through Sunday, that figure sufficed for fourth-best in the league among players averaging at least 18 minutes per game.
Grabbing offensive rebounds has also put him in position under the bucket and has earned him 23 free-throw attempts in 93 minutes. According to Synergy Sports Technology, through Sunday, Bass led the league in possessions resulting in a shooting foul drawn, at 24.4 percent. His frequent trips to the foul line have more than offset the curious absence of his jumper; he's shooting 48 percent from the field, but boasts a 64.1 percent True Shooting mark. Again through Sunday, that's the 13th-best mark in the league among players with a usage rate over 15 percent.
But the most impressive factor keying Bass' improvement, to me, is his effort on the defensive glass. He ranked well below positional average at that end last season, but has snagged a respectable 18.8 percent of available defensive rebounds this season, a significant improvement over last year's 12.6 percent. Van Gundy explained Bass' atypical rebounding splits to me this preseason, when Bass' defensive rebounding first showed signs of improvement.
If Bass' improvement is for real, then it'll be hard for Van Gundy to keep him off the floor. After all, he ranks 18th in the league in Player Efficiency Rating and 18th in total rebounding rate, in addition to the above-named superlatives.