Blessed with two talented, young, and hard-working power forwards, Stan Van Gundy and the Orlando Magic are pressed with a tough question each night: who plays behind Rashard Lewis? Each player has his own unique skills, and each is certainly an above average player and an asset off the bench. Today I'll take a look at the two using various advanced statistics, some created by me and some created by others.
Using Basketball-Reference's player comparison tool, we can compare Ryan Anderson and Brandon Bass with a number of advanced stats. A quick glance shows the two are pretty close in many stats, with Anderson generally holding a very slight advantage. Anderson leads in PER, Defensive Rating, and Win Shares, while Bass has the edge in Offensive Rating. However, each of these is a close race. Bass has been a better offensive rebounder, while Anderson has been a better defensive rebounder. Anderson is a better passer and gets more steals, but Bass records more blocks and turns the ball over less. As you can see, there is no clear winner according to these numbers.
We can also check the plus-minus numbers. However, we must use caution because it is still relatively early in the season and these things aren't great until we have a large sample size. Here, Anderson has a huge edge. Although his defense rates poorly (+4.2), his offense is second best on the team, behind only Dwight Howard. Bass, on the other hand, rates slightly below average on offense and well below average on defense. Anderson has the advantage in adjusted plus-minus as well.
Generally, I think a combination of box score and advanced stats, along with personal observations, does a good job of determining a player's offensive abilities. Anderson appears to have the edge on offense thanks to his perimeter shooting abilities and overall versatility and skills, but Bass does partly make up the difference through his offensive rebounding. Given the Magic's overall offensive strategy, I think Anderson is the better offensive choice, although this could certainly change depending on the matchup and how big of a change from Rashard Lewis SVG is looking for.
Defensive ability is more difficult to determine using box scores and advanced stats. Defensive Rating has a number of limitations, and defensive plus-minus is not extremely reliable at this point. Therefore, personal observation and in-depth game tracking become more important. I've done defensive charting in the past, and for this article, I took a look at Anderson's defense against the Hawks last weekend and Bass's defense against the Wizards:
- Anderson played decent defense in the post, but he wasn't particularly great in help defense. His stats may be skewed because he played the entire fourth quarter in a game that was already decided. In fact, for much of that quarter he faced the generally harmless Randolph Morris.
- Bass was better on defense (except for a few silly fouls), and most of the time he was matched up against the talented Antawn Jamison. Bass showed tremendous hustle in limited minutes, although sometimes he was over-aggressive.
- I was impressed with the effort level from both players. However, if the game was on the line and I needed a stop from one of those two players, I'd probably go with Bass.
- As a side note, although he's not the focus of this article, I must say that Marcin Gortat plays some excellent defense. He never requires help containing his man and he helps out others constantly.
Unfortunately, I don't have an answer for the Anderson vs. Bass debate. Each player has his own strengths, and I think Van Gundy is doing a good job of mixing up the playing time. Both players deserve time on the floor, and the Magic seem to have an embarrassment of riches in the frontcourt.