Friday night, the Orlando Magic reached the halfway point of their preseason schedule with a 86-73 win over the Charlotte Bobcats. I thought it'd be appropriate to look at their players' statistics through the first four exhibition games, to get a better idea of where the team stands at present. Based on their 4-0 record, 20.8-point average victory margin, and the fact that they've led by at least 18 points in each game, one can surmise it's been a fairly smooth preseason.
But as coach Stan Van Gundy noted, the Magic's depth "skews the scores and everything else" in the preseason. "Quite honestly, we're not throwing out any non-NBA players out there," he said. "We've got Stan [Robinson], one rookie, but the other 12 guys we've got dressing now are all NBA players, and have proven they can play successfully in this league. Especially in the preseason, that gives you a big advantage."
Bearing Van Gundy's comments in mind, here's a look at the players' basic, per-game stats. Team leaders are shaded:
A few points stand out here, but not many, to be honest. The leaders in each category, with the possible exception of minutes (J.J. Redick) and steals (Ryan Anderson?!) are roughly who one would expect to see, particularly Howard, who's crammed an enviable per-36-minute line into just 25.7 minutes. Everyone in the universe acknowledges that he's the Magic's best player, and he's assuredly their most popular, yet at times I wonder if we don't take him for granted.
Also, note how thoroughly the Magic have outclassed their competition in the phases of the game recorded here.
Let's level the playing field and take a look at the per-minute numbers after the jump. Oh, and shooting percentages, too.
Curiously, the leaders in per-game stats repeat here, largely because there isn't much variation in the playing time for the Magic's rotation guys. Scoring hasn't been a problem, with four players averaging better than a point every two minutes, and another three not too far off that mark. In Anderson, Bass, and Howard, the Magic boast three bigs averaging a double-double per 36 minutes. The notable absence in that group is Marcin Gortat, whose rebounding has really dropped off of late. "His rebounding is still not where I think it can be," Van Gundy said following the victory over Charlotte.
Nelson's scoring has dipped as he appears to have focused more on setting up his teammates, which one can see in his sterling per-minute assist average.
Robinson has put up numbers more in line with those of a clean-up big man, but his incredible athleticism hasn't produced anything in the steals or blocks columns. He's about due for some more playing time, as first-stringer Quentin Richardson is among the four players who've yet to receive a night off.
On a per-minute basis, 6-foot-10 power forward/center Malik Allen ranks second-to-last in scoring and rebounding, and he's yet to tally an assist.
Vince Carter, Gortat, and Rashard Lewis won't sustain these shooting performances over the course of the whole season, so enjoy it while it lasts; that Gortat's 1-of-3 showing on Thursday dropped his shooting percentage to 80 says a lot about the quality looks he managed to convert in his earlier games. On the other hand, Mickael Pietrus and J.J. Redick will certainly see significant upticks here.
The biggest concerns here aren't necessarily new, but do need addressing. Howard's at 50 percent from the line. He's been in the high 50s for most of his career, so he'll need to reach at least that level to improve his efficiency. While I like Nelson's distributing stats, it's troubling to see a pick-and-roll point guard has yet to attempt a foul shot in over 90 minutes of playing time, even against light competition.
Redick's scoring almost one point per every two minutes while posting a well above-average True Shooting mark, which further underscores the limitations of traditional field-goal percentage. Because Redick is a volume shooter from both three-point range and the foul line, field goal percentage will continue to underrate him.
The same could be said for Anderson, though I chose Redick as an example because his raw percentage was so extreme. But Anderson's posting a 20-and-10 line per 36 minutes on over 60 percent True Shooting. In the last five seasons, only Howard, Shaquille O'Neal, Amar'e Stoudemire, and Yao Ming have posted those baselines. And nothing about his numbers seems flukey; if anything, his three-point percentage will bump up to the high 30s, further increasing his value. He won't play enough minutes this season to make his per-game stats pop, but I suspect he could become a cult hero of sorts within the blogosphere, like Eric Gordon, Kevin Martin, and Rodrigue Beaubois before him. Only as a big man instead of a wing.
It's hard not to be impressed with Bass, either. Even without the threat of a three-point shot, he's proven tough for opposing defenses to contain. Based on the percentages here, and on watching the games, it's hard to argue with his shot-selection.
Because I wrote earlier this summer that the Magic need to draw more fouls for their offense to really kick into another gear, I wanted to examine the players' free-throw attempts per field-goal attempt, a quick, somewhat crude measure of foul-drawing prowess, as it doesn't account for free throws awarded due to a technical foul or a bonus situation
Here's the Magic's most significant offensive red flag: Carter, Lewis, and Nelson, their three top offensive options behind Howard, have combined for 11 free-throw attempts compared to 84 shot attempts. Even if one accepts the premise that Orlando's opponents have conceded the outside shot to them--valid, especially in Carter's case against the Indiana Pacers--that figure is alarmingly low.
The reserves have compensated so far, with Anderson, Bass, and Redick holding up their ends of the bargain. But their efforts, even if sustained, won't be enough in the regular season, given that they'll see fewer minutes than in the preseason, while the starters will see more. I'm deeply interested to see if anyone in the team's rotation can draw fouls on purpose. Opponents hack Howard because he's a poor free-throw shooter, whereas they aren't actively looking for ways to send Redick to the line.