The Orlando Magic are scrambling for answers as they attempt to mount a comeback against the Boston Celtics, whom they trail, 2-0, in the Eastern Conference Finals. With the exception of one very costly decision to dribble the ball upcourt, J.J. Redick has been a bright spot for Orlando against Boston, and his increased playing time reflects that. He's averaging 26.5 minutes per game in this series, up from 22.0 in the regular season. Those minutes are coming largely at the expense of starting small forward Matt Barnes, whose playing time has plummeted from 25.9 minutes per game in the regular season to 18.5 in the Conference Finals.
Here's a bit more on how the two stack up individually on a per-game basis:
|Player||Points||Rebounds||Assists||True Shooting||Raw +/-|
Now there's more to the game than the stats I included in the above table, but they nonetheless point to something anyone who's watched this series could tell you: Redick's playing far better. The efficient scoring is the most jarring difference. Redick's shot 3-of-6 from beyond the arc in this series, which is a factor, but his volume foul-drawing and subsequent free-throw conversion (he's 10-of-10 at the stripe) are equally important.
Indeed, one can make a case for putting him in the starting lineup at Barnes' expense in order to get the team off to faster starts, which is exactly what I'm going to do here. And if this topic is familiar to you, it should be. After Game 1, fans voiced strong support for Redick over Barnes in the starting lineup around the internet and here at OPP. Game 2 reaffirmed that idea.
It's not just individual stats that bear out the idea that Orlando's better off with Redick. Team stats tell a similar story. Take a look at these stats gleaned from basketballvalue.com, which show how the team has performed with the players in question on the floor with Orlando's "Big Four" of Jameer Nelson, Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, and Dwight Howard:
|Player||Magic Offense||Magic Defense||Efficiency Differential||Raw +/-|
Coach Stan Van Gundy believes in advanced metrics and detailed scouting, so this bit of reporting by Andrew Melnick of Howard the Dunk shouldn't surprise anyone. During yesterday's post-practice media availability session, Van Gundy knew off the top of his head that lineups featuring Dwight Howard and Marcin Gortat together at the power positions are a +12 overall in this series. And, says Melnick, "[a]fter every game, Van Gundy checks the numbers to see which lineups were most successful." In other words, we know Van Gundy consults plus-minus on a team-wide scale.
So he surely knows that lineups with Barnes have submarined the Magic in this series. I'm not trying to slam Barnes here--he's playing through back pain right now, and he's had a great year--but the individual and team-wide numbers condemn him, and strongly suggest that Orlando stands a better chance to compete with Boston when Redick's on the floor. Look at the efficiency differentials the team posts with those players sharing the floor with the other starters. Redick's worth 37.31 points per 100 possessions over Barnes so far in this series! That's just too glaring to ignore.
In most cases, I strongly oppose the idea of shuffling a starting lineup to counter a specific opponent, especially if the lineup in question has succeeded over a long period, as the current one has. However, this case is a special one. Redick has to start, and Barnes has to come off the bench. This move wouldn't decisively swing the series in Orlando's favor, nor is it the only change it needs to make. But it looks like it could be an adjustment that gives the Magic a better chance of evening the series in Boston this weekend.