With Pietrus still out due to an ankle sprain, and Barnes nursing a nagging big toe injury, I thought it would be a good idea to see who, statistically, would be the best player on the Magic to play replacement SF minutes for them. I've decided to compare the 4 players who have played minutes at the SF position, however slight, and then look at our main SFs, Pietrus and Barnes. I've focused on PER instead of overall team offense and defense in an effort to see the individual contributions each player gives.
Ryan Anderson is likely the worst possible player to use at SF. He's a mind-boggling -35.8 PER at that position, although he's only played a rounded 0% of Orlando’s SF minutes there. Even with that caveat, it seems to make sense to keep him at PF where he posts a +2.9 PER, and let him take Lewis' minutes if Lewis were to move to SF.
JJ Redick, who's also played a rounded 0% of Orlando’s minutes at SF actually posts an amazing +36.7 PER, likely due to his own PER of 50.0 [!]. However, the lack of minutes (and obvious size) likely means he's not a good replacement there.
Rashard Lewis, who's played 1% of Orlando’s minutes at SF, is a great +12.9 PER at the SF position. Opposing SFs are “held” to a below average 12.5 PER (eFG%: .435), but it is his own astounding PER of 25.5 (eFG%: .674 [!]) that seems to make him so dangerous here. The sample size is very small, but perhaps the notion that he isn't quick enough to defend opposing SFs, or get his own shot off against them doesn't seem warranted here.
Last is Vince Carter, who has actually played the most "replacement" minutes at SF with 7% of Orlando’s minutes going to that position. He is a very respectable +4.1 PER at that position. His own PER is a very good 19.3 (eFG%: .458), but opposing SFs have a devastatingly low 9.8 PER (eFG%: .441), which is what drives him to be a positive factor when playing that position.
From these stats, it seems that Stan Van Gundy can do no wrong by choosing either Lewis or Carter to play replacement minutes at SF. In both situations, opposing SFs seem to be largely ineffectual (especially with Carter on the floor), and both have provided great offense (both average nearly 30 points per 48 minutes, with Lewis having an insanely good eFG% of .674). However, with Carter having played many more actual minutes at the SF position, I tend to trust his numbers, and thus what he can provide offensively and defensively at the SF position, more. Still, one cannot ignore how offensively potent Lewis has been in his limited time as SF.
A few quick notes:
Opposing SFs have only logged 1.7 total rebounds per 48 minutes against Lewis, which may make sense considering Lewis’ size.
Conversely, opposing SFs grab 7.0 total rebounds per 48 minutes against Carter, but foul more often (6.1 vs 3.4 fouls per 48), shoot less (14.4 vs 19.6 FGA per 48), and draw less fouls themselves (4.2 vs 6.0 FTA per 48), which likely accounts for the lower PER posted by these SFs when faced against Carter. They seem to be more contained, and perhaps may have to work harder (and foul more) on defense to stop a driving Carter.
Perhaps the biggest caveat, however, and one that may unravel some of the numbers here is that it is possible that neither Lewis or Carter are the players who actually guard the opposing SF when they themselves play SF. Most, if not all, Magic lineups contain Barnes and/or Pietrus, and perhaps they are the ones guarding opposing SFs while Lewis and Carter switch back to PF and SG respectively on defense.
On that note, here is what Barnes and Pietrus provide as SFs:
Mickael Pietrus, who has played 40% of Orlando's SF minutes, actually has a negative Net PER of -4.5. His own PER of 11.8 (eFG%: .503) is not great, and opposing SFs actually have an above average PER of 16.3 and the highest eFG% of our candidates at .482. Pietrus' low PER does not concern me too much, as he's only asked to score occasionally (and does so at a decent clip), but it would be nice if he went after rebounds more, especially with his size and athleticism (see Matt Barnes). It is common knowledge that Pietrus is our best perimeter defender, so one explanation I have for opposing SFs having the best PER and eFG% against him is that he is the one who is most tasked with guarding stars SFs such as Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony.
Finally we have Matt Barnes, who has played the most of Orlando's SF minutes at 49%. Matt Barnes posts a respectable +2.4 PER against opposing SFs. Like Pietrus, he is not the focus on offense, but has been able to pick his spots better and make more cuts to the basket. His 3P% post-All Star break has also been very good at .405 (after an abysmal pre-All Star break percentage of .295). He also provides great rebounding at the SF position, pulling in 11.8 total rebounds per 48 minutes. All this helps him post a better, more efficient PER of 15.7 (eFG%: .547). Opposing SFs have a much less efficient PER of 13.3 (eFG%: .435). It would seem that Stan Van Gundy made a good choice in replacing Pietrus with Barnes in the starting lineup. His weakness in 3pt shooting, which concerned many fans, has actually turned into a strength post-All Star break, and he provides more rebounding help than either Pietrus or Lewis
All stats taken from 82games.com, basketball-reference.com, and sports.yahoo.com/nba. Accurate as of 3-21-2010.