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Unemployed Bigs: Which Ones Can Help the Magic?

Since Tony Battie went down with a torn rotator cuff, the Magic have been wanting for help on the front line. The Magic need help at the center and power forward positions if they expect to advance very far in the playoffs. Rebounding in particular is an issue. The starting frontcourt of Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, and Hedo Turkoglu has size -- each is at least 6'10" tall -- but only Howard can be counted on to rebound consistently. And the Magic haven't been getting much help on the boards from the guard positions, although Keith Bogans did haul in 9 last night. Essentially, we need rebounding, and we need it now.

How bad is the rebounding situation? We've managed to haul in a mere 23% of our missed shots, well below the average of 27%. Additionally, we've allowed our opponents to get 31% of their misses. Offensive rebounding is second only to field-goal percentage in importance to winning games. Thus, if they expect to win many games this season, the Magic need to toughen up on the boards.

All this background brings me to this free story on ESPN Insider, which details the 10 best available unemployed players, many of which are big men. Here are the bigs on the list, with their most recent rebounding statistics:

  1. Anderson Varejao (11.3 per 40)
  2. D.J. Mbenga (5.6 per 40)
  3. P.J. Brown (9.5 per 40)
  4. Chris Webber (9.6 per 40)
  5. Dale Davis (11.8 per 40)
  6. Chris Andersen (10.9 per 40)
  7. Vitaly Potapenko (6.7 per 40)

Of those players, the one who interests me most is the ancient seasoned Dale Davis. He'll be 39 years old in March, but he's still a talented rebounder. More importantly, he would bring attitude to a soft, finesse-based Magic team that could use some toughness off the bench.

Don't worry about his lack of speed holding back the offense. Despite promises to run more often, the Stan Van Gundy-coached Magic are are 27th in the league in pace, using just 88.7 possessions per game. Last year, under Brian Hill, the Magic used 88.5 possessions per game. Dale Davis was able to fit in just fine with Detroit's slow, methodical offense last year; he'd do alright here too.

But I don't expect Otis Smith to act in haste to sign a big man. He's still waiting to hear back from the league about a medical injury exception, which would pay half of Tony Battie's salary this season, giving the Magic $2.7 million to spend on an available free-agent. Given that Brown and Webber won't play for such a low salary; and given that Mbenga and Potapenko aren't great rebounders; and given that Varejao and Andersen have their rights owned by other teams, Davis is the only player who seems to make sense for the Magic.

Of course, they could go the alternate route by giving minutes to Marcin Gortat and James Augustine. But I wouldn't advise that. The Magic need rebounding now, and Davis could step in immediately and provide that. There's no learning curve with Dale. Why not offer him the veterans' minimum, cut Bo Outlaw, and see what he can do?