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Breaking Down the Orlando Magic with Synergy Sports

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Ed. note: Fixed an error in the 'Isolation' table, as of 1:03 p.m. EST.

 

A little less than a month ago, I looked at the statistics for the Orlando Magic after the first 10 games in the regular season. The purpose of the write-up was to take a quick look at how some of the players on the Magic had performed at that point. I figured, now, it would be a good moment to examine the numbers for Orlando with 20 games elapsed this year. This time, I'll be looking at stats from Synergy Sports Technology. Specifically, data that is used by NBA teams.

 

For instance, sifting through Synergy will give you a nugget like this: the Magic rate "Excellent" in offense from the category of 'After Time Outs' (1.02 points per possession) with a percentile-based rank of 91% - statistics compared to the rest of the league, to be specific. So in this case, the numbers support the notion that head coach Stan Van Gundy does an excellent job of drawing up plays that convert into scores after timeouts.

 

Other nuggets of information are that Ryan Anderson does an excellent job of scoring off of offensive rebounds or that Brandon Bass is the only player on the roster, so far, who does better than average at defending post-ups.

 

Spot-Ups, Pick & Rolls, and Post-Ups

 

Excluding 'Transition' offense, the majority of the offensive plays for the Magic come from the categories of 'Spot-Up' (25%), 'Pick & Roll Ball Handler' (16%), and 'Post-Up' (15%). Orlando rates "Excellent" in 'Spot-Up' (1.06 points per possession) with a rank of 86%, "Very Good" in 'Pick & Roll Ball Handler' (0.90 points per possession) with a rank of 78%, and "Average" in 'Post-Up' (0.85 points per possession) with a rank of 46% - granted, those are a ton of numbers to try to digest so let's break things down to try to make sense of all that information.

 

The Magic's offense is mostly known for its 4-out/1-in offensive sets and its pick & rolls, with both play-types having a number of variations to it depending on the personnel. As such, it makes sense that Orlando would excel with its spot-up shooting because when Dwight Howard is in the post, he's the focus of the 4-out/1-in offensive set. Howard can go to himself on the offensive side of the ball or he can kick it out to one of the four shooters standing around the perimeter. One of them, then, can either attempt a shot or swing it around the perimeter. Because defenses are scrambling to cover everyone, if the ball movement is good, a player is bound to be open and have a good chance at making a bucket. Here's a list of Magic players and how each of them rates in the 'Spot-Up' category:

 

Percentage of Time Points Per Possession Rank Rating
Mickael Pietrus 17% 0.98 59% Good
Matt Barnes 13% 0.54 5% Poor
Rashard Lewis 13% 1.27 92% Excellent
J.J. Redick 13% 1.12 79% Very Good
Ryan Anderson 12% 0.95 54% Good
Vince Carter 10% 1.16 83% Excellent

 

Vince Carter, Jameer Nelson, or Jason Williams are the primary pick & roll ballhandlers. Usually the pick & roll is used so that one of the aforementioned players engages on offense and looks to score. Fairly self-explanatory. Even though J.J. Redick isn't listed, he excels in the pick & roll, with statistics comparable to Williams (1.07 points per possession, "Excellent", 90%). Here's a list of Magic players and how each of them rates in the 'Pick & Roll' category:

 

Percentage of Time Points Per Possession Rank Rating
Vince Carter 29% 1.04 84% Excellent
Jameer Nelson 26% 0.97 67% Very Good
Jason Williams 22% 1.06 88% Excellent


Lastly, the post-up. More often than not, Howard will be posting up and it will be occurring, the majority of the time, within 4-out/1-in offensive sets. As has been mentioned before, Howard can go to himself on the offensive side of the ball and if he does, good things usually happen. Here's a list of Magic players and how each of them rates in the 'Post-Up' category:

 

Percentage of Time Points Per Possession Rank Rating
Dwight Howard 69% 0.97 64% Good
Brandon Bass 10% 0.92 57% Good

 

More after the jump.

 

Say No to Isos 

 

For the Magic, the only play-types the team is "Average" in is 'Post-Up' (15%) and 'Isolation' (7%). That's it. In every other category, Orlando rates "Good" or higher. Isolations aren't not a strength (0.87 points per possession) for the Magic, given that the squad rates in the middle-of-the-pack in that category with a rank of 50% - thanks, mostly, to Nelson (see numbers below).

 

Even though Orlando can score in isolation if need be, it's not the prescribed manner by which Van Gundy wants the players to execute on offense. Inside-out (mainly with Howard), not one-on-one, is the mantra for the Magic on the offensive side of the ball (thus, working the basketball through the post can't be ignored). But if push comes to shove, again, there are individuals on the team who can create shots on their own. Van Gundy has said a number of times that the best teams in the NBA have at least one player who can get shots at will and to have someone like that on the Magic, particularly Carter, is good. Here's a list of Magic players and how each of them rates in the 'Isolation' category:

 

Percentage of Time Points Per Possession Rank Rating
Vince Carter 30% 1.00 81% Very Good
Jameer Nelson 20% 0.74 25% Below Average
Brandon Bass 10% 0.88 57% Good


Pick & Rolls an Achilles' Heel on Defense, As Expected

 

Although the defense for the Magic has steadily improved since the start of the regular season, the defensive effort against the pick & roll could certainly improve. Last year, Orlando was one of the best squads in the Association at defending the pick & roll but this year, the Magic aren't doing as good of a job - giving up too many points (0.88 points per possession) and sporting a rank of 22%, which is "Below Average." The Los Angeles Lakers, by comparison, allow 0.78 points per possession, 61%, which falls in the "Good" strata.

 

The main issue, as Van Gundy told me at practice last week, has largely been the rotations. Three or four players will make the right rotation but one player will be a little bit late and the team is in trouble, as a result. When a squad like Orlando is incorporating a number of new faces to Van Gundy's defensive schemes, breakdowns like these will occur. It's inevitable. The key is looking for signs of improvement and look no further than the Magic's victory against the New York Knicks a few days ago, in which the team's pick & roll defense was excellent. Like Orlando's defensive efficiency, the pick & roll defense should improve as the regular season progresses. Here's a list of Magic players and how each of them rates in the 'Defending the Screener in a Pick & Roll' category:

 

Percentage of Time Points Per Possession Rank Rating
Jason Williams 29% 0.83 62% Good
Jameer Nelson 20% 0.93 38% Average
J.J. Redick 13% 1.10 14% Poor
Mickael Pietrus 11% 1.00 25% Below Average
Matt Barnes 10% 1.34 3% Poor
Vince Carter 10% 0.77 75% Very Good

 

As one can see, the issue hasn't been Howard or Marcin Gortat in defending the pick & roll, but rather the wing players for the Magic. In terms of individuals who were with Orlando last year, Mickael Pietrus and Redick aren't playing to their capabilities on the defensive side of the ball so their dip is a bit of a surprise.

 

Again, that aspect of the defense should improve as the regular season progresses.