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Evaluating Mickael Pietrus

This week, 3QC will take a look back on each Magic player's 2008/2009 season. Each day focuses on one position: Monday for point guards, Tuesday for shooting guards, Wednesday for small forwards, Thursday for power forwards, and Friday for centers. I'll evaluate each individual player at that position at regular intervals throughout the day, while Eddy will make a general survey of the position later in the afternoon.

Mickael Pietrus, who started for the Magic at shooting guard on opening night, but wound up playing more minutes at small forward anyway, starts the proceedings. Hedo Turkoglu is due up later today.

Mickael Pietrus
No. 20 Small Forward
Points Per Game Rebounds Per Game Assists Per Game
9.4 3.3 1.2
Points Per 36 Rebounds Per 36 Assists Per 36
13.8 4.8 1.8
PER Rebound Rate Assist Rate
11.6 7.5 8.0
FG% 3FG% FT%
41.3% 35.9% 70.9%
eFG% TS%
50.7% 53.8%

All statistics in this table from Pietrus' player page at basketball-reference. Career-high statistics highlighted in gold.

When he came to Orlando last summer in free agency, Mickael Pietrus brought with him a reputation for inconsistency, injury-prone play, and erratic decisions. He also brought athleticism, defensive skill, and the ability to hit the corner three-pointer.

And that reputation? It's well-earned. We saw it all from him this year.

It could have been his injuries--the bruised ribs, fractured wrist, and dislocated thumb ligament--that opened the door for some of the Magic's in-season moves. Orlando had to rely on Courtney Lee to start for most of Pietrus' time on the inactive list, which proved that he could play, which in turn shifted Pietrus to a reserve role--at small forward behind Hedo Turkoglu--when finally healthy. Lee's emergence increased his stock to the point that the New Jersey Nets refused to part with Vince Carter in last week's trade were Lee not included.

Of course, that "butterfly effect" is mostly conjecture. Lee could have emerged even if Pietrus managed to stay healthy, for all we know.

But despite his injuries and overall mediocre performance in the regular season, MP was still a key to Orlando's success in the playoffs. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy attributed Pietrus' coming on strong to his finally being heathy and in-rhythm for an extended period of time, and I tend to agree with Stan. For the most part, MP played the best ball of his professional career in the Magic's run to the Finals. 15 double-figure scoring games for Mickael, in 24 games, off the bench in the postseason, including a 9-game stretch spanning Game 6 of the Boston series to Game 1 of the Finals.

And he managed to improve his offense while playing the same solid, if foul-prone, defense. Through the first 3 games of the Finals, Pietrus held Kobe Bryant to 44.1% shooting when he guarded him one-on-one, the second-best such mark in the league, according to Orlando Magic Daily. In the regular season, Lee was far-and-away the Magic's best perimeter defender. In the playoffs, a healthy Pietrus proved he was even better.

That's really the point. Pietrus probably played above his head just a bit in the playoffs--a 14.0 PER, 58.9% eFG% and 62.2% True Shooting--but nevertheless, the Pietrus we'll see next year and the ones to come in Orlando will be closer to that one than to the regular season version. That bodes well for the team. One thing he really needs to work on this summer is his handle. It's not that he needs to be Allen Iverson or Deron Williams with the ball, but he should at least be able to run a fast break without double-dribbling or traveling. Even in halfcourt situations, he dribbles the ball too high, making him vulnerable to weak-side help defenders. Other than that, and his tendency to finish with finger-rolls and scoop shots rather than more conventional, higher percentage shots, he's a solid player.

Grade: B