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Assessing the Orlando Magic's Biggest Positional Need

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This following statement from Magic coach Stan Van Gundy about his team's point guards, cited by Tim Povtak in a brief piece in yesterday's Orlando Sentinel, is about as clear-cut as it gets. To use Bill Parcells' cooking analogy, Magic General Manager Otis Smith bought the groceries, but Stan doesn't like the dish they've yielded:

"I can't play all three of them. That doesn't work," Van Gundy said. "We just don't have any of those [point guards] who create a lot for other people. That's [Hedo Turkoglu's] job. We've changed our lineup looking for guys who can get us off to a good start. Maybe we need to look at that again1."

To recap: the Magic have three point guards whom their coach can't play and who don't get the ball to the people who need it. Although Hedo has indeed done a great job facilitating the offense, the responsibility shouldn't rest on his shoulders alone. It appears as though Van Gundy has seen enough of each of the Magic's point guards and doesn't have a preference over which one plays. Maybe I'm reading too far into Stan's comments, but it sure sounds like he's sending a message to Otis: This team needs a point guard.

The fact is, point guard isn't our biggest area of need. Most Magic fans agree that neither Jameer Nelson nor Carlos Arroyo can lead the Magic to a championship in the future, despite the team's 5-year, $35 million investment in Nelson; he is, in effect, the highest-paid backup point guard in the league. Although he hasn't improved much this season, he's still a serviceable starter. In other words, he's not a total waste. Neither is Arroyo. The Magic have gotten 10.6 points and 5.4 assists per game from their starting point guards this season, which is modest, but certainly not embarrassing.

Magic fans seem to want the team to upgrade at shooting guard via trade, with the Los Angeles Clippers' Corey Maggette and Memphis' Mike Miller as the two most popular targets; incidentally, both those players spent their rookie seasons in Orlando, and both of them wore no. 50. The Magic could depend on either of those players to score 15-to-17 points a night. Each player adds his own unique specialty: Maggette is exceptional at drawing fouls and converting at the free throw line (.820 career); and Miller could stretch the defense with his sweet three-point shooting stroke (.401 career).

However, shows us the Magic rank second in the league in eFG%, trailing only high-powered Phoenix. Without putting too fine a point on it, two-guards in the NBA are primarily suppose to shoot, and to do so well. Thing is, the Magic shoot well enough as it is. This season, Magic two-guards have collectively shot a remarkable .552 eFG%. So as nice as it would be to have Maggette or Miller back in Orlando, they don't provide what we need, which is rebounding.

The Magic are exceptional on the defensive glass, ranking 6th in the league in defensive rebound percentage. But they're lackluster on the offensive glass, checking in at 27th in the league in offensive rebound percentage, a fact made all the worse when one considers they have two of the league's top individual offensive rebounders: Adonal Foyle and Dwight Howard.

Since Foyle and Howard play center, we need to look for a quality rebounder at the power forward position. Rashard Lewis, a natural small forward, starts at that position now, and he's not having much success on the boards: among the 55 qualified power forwards, Lewis is 52nd in offensive rebound rate (3.8) and 54th in overall rebound rate (7.6). This fact is especially damning because Lewis is an athletic, 6'10" man in his physical prime. For some perspective, Jameer Nelson has an identical overall rebound rate, despite the fact he stands a full foot shorter than Lewis and he plays further away from the basket.

Apart from shooting, rebounding is the second-most important aspect of basketball, as Dean Oliver wrote in his book, Basketball on Paper. If the Magic hope to contend for an NBA title, they'd do well to acquire a strong, rebound-centric power forward, even if only for the rest of this season. Four of the last five NBA Finals winners had at least three players (minimum: 15 minutes per game) with rebound rates above 15.02. The current Magic team has only one player who fits that description: Dwight Howard. As Brian Schmitz explained in this blog post (to which I linked yesterday), adding a power forward to flank Howard in the frontcourt will allow Lewis to play small forward and Turkoglu to play shooting guard. This move would give the Magic a bevy of size at the two-through-five positions and what should be a decisive advantage on the glass.

We've concluded that rebounding, particularly offensive rebounding, is the Magic's biggest weakness. Furthermore, we've explained why addressing the rebounding issue is of critical importance for a team with championship aspirations. In a later entry, we'll look at potential ways to acquire solid, rebounding power forwards via trade.


1: From an earlier entry: the Magic are 12 games over .500 despite losing a majority of their first quarters. Conclusion: It's not who starts, but who finishes.
2: All data from