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Daniel Orton's Defense against Utah Jazz Has Orlando Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy Fuming, and with Good Reason

Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE
Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

The Utah Jazz outlasted the Orlando Magic in overtime on Saturday, winning by a 117-107 final in a game in which they trailed by as many as 14 points. The biggest reason for Utah's victory was its jumbo lineup featuring Paul Millsap, a natural power forward, at small forward alongside Derrick Favors at the four and Al Jefferson at the five; as Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus pointed out, Utah outscored Orlando by a 71-37 margin with that trio on the floor.

So it'd be unfair to single out Daniel Orton, the Magic's backup center, as the reason Orlando lost, but he certainly didn't do much to distinguish himself in his 11 minutes on the floor. Orton shot 1-of-3 from the field, 0-of-2 from the foul line, and committed five fouls. "Daniel gave us nothing," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said following the defeat, according to Brian T. Smith of the Salt Lake Tribune. "He went for every shot fake, he fouled every time." Van Gundy continued, "he didn't even give us minutes that we needed to give [our starters] some rest."

Analysis of Orton's rough Saturday in Salt Lake City follows the jump.

Defensive possession #1: Orton's first task upon checking in Saturday was to defend Jefferson on the left block. Jefferson's a real handful inside and probably would have made several All-Star teams by now had he not spent his entire career anchoring lottery teams. Upon catching, Jefferson gives a shoulder fake to his right, which Orton doesn't buy. He then goes to work, backing Orton down and offering another right shoulder fake, which Orton again stays down on. Jefferson fires up a quick righty hook, but it comes up short and bounces harmlessly off the front iron. Solid defense by the rookie on this possession.

Defensive possession #2 / Foul #1: At the 5:20 mark of the first quarter, Utah gains possession after Jameer Nelson drills a long jumper off the dribble. Point guard Devin Harris handles on the right wing looking to make a post-entry pass to Gordon Hayward inside, but J.J. Redick denies the ball, prompting Harris instead to dish to Millsap at the top of the key. DeMarre Carroll cuts through the lane from the weak side, but Orlando denies him the ball. Millsap desperately wants to hit Hayward, who has retreated to the left wing, but he can't find the angle. Millsap instead drives to his left and dumps the ball off to Jefferson, who has Orton on his back on the left block.

Jefferson fakes a pass to the cutting Millsap in the lane, takes one dribble, and then spins baseline, looking to shoot with his right hand. He gives Orton an up-fake, Orton bites, and then Jefferson jumps into Orton, drawing the foul with ease. Had Orton stayed planted, he would have forced Jefferson into a much more difficult shot. Jefferson sinks both free throws.

Foul #2: Less than one minute later, Orton misses two free throws, but Glen Davis snares the offensive rebound. Millsap swipes the ball from Davis. Orton comes in from behind Millsap and bear-hugs him, trying to wrest the ball free. Millsap hits the deck, and it's another easy foul-call for the officials to make, 93 feet away from Orlando's basket.

Defensive possession #3: The Jazz again try their luck against Orton inside, feeding Jefferson on the left block. Before Jefferson even catches the post-entry pass, Orton tries to swat it away by coming around Jefferson's right side, taking him well out of position. To his credit, he recovers in time to take away an easy driving lane for Jefferson. Jefferson wastes no time in going to work on the rookie, backing him to the restricted circle and then tossing in a righty hook. Orton made the shot fairly difficult with a strong contest, but Jefferson's skill trumped an honest defensive effort. His biggest mistake on this possession was gambling on the entry pass.

Defensive possession #4: Hayward dumps the ball to Jefferson inside, closer to the baseline than on previous possessions. Orton tries to swat the ball from Jefferson's grasp twice as Jefferson reads the defense, but doesn't commit a foul and even dislodges the ball once, forcing Jefferson to recover. Jefferson freezes Orton with a quick step to the baseline, but his righty hook attempt, though wide open, bounces high off the rim. Orton snares the board, and he should count himself lucky that Jefferson's offering didn't drop through the net, as it was an open look.

Defensive possession #5: Once again, Hayward finds Jefferson, with Orton on his back, on the left block. Jefferson doesn't like his position, so he kicks the ball out to Harris near the top of the arc. As the pass is in flight, Jefferson leverages his bottom into Orton's middle, getting closer to the basket in the process. Harris hits Jefferson on the re-post and Jefferson drops in an easy righty hook from the restricted circle. Here, Orton needed to hold his ground better against Jefferson, who easily established excellent position after giving the ball up to Harris.

Defensive possession #6: Utah here tries something a bit different, sending Harris off the ball to set a screen on Orton as Jefferson cuts across the lane from right to left. Orton recovers and Jefferson catches the pass from Alec Burks about 20 feet from the basket in the left corner. Jefferson palms the ball in his right hand as he faces Orton up. He takes some strong dribbles to the middle, and then spins baseline, shedding Orton with ease. Jefferson blows the dunk attempt, however, as Davis slides in from the weak side to block it at the rim. Jefferson's spin caught Orton flat-footed, and were it not for Davis' heads-up play, he would have scored two more points.

Defensive possession #7 / Foul #3: Utah looks to run its offense after Jason Richardson canned a three-pointer to put Orlando up by 13. After some quick, fruitless passes on the right side of the floor, Harris looks left, where Jefferson once again has Orton on his back on the left block, with both feet out of the paint. Jefferson catches Harris' pass, but before he can make any sort of move, Orton swipes at the ball across Jefferson's body with his left hand, picking up his third foul in less than four minutes. Fortunately for the Magic, Utah was not in the bonus when Orton committed the foul.

Defensive possession #8 / Foul #4: Fast-forward to the third quarter. Quentin Richardson misses a difficult post-up look for Orlando, and Favors clears the rebound for Utah as Orton flies by, barely missing the board. He recovers quickly and runs back in transition, as Harris looks to get by Nelson for an easy score. He finally sheds Nelson with a Eurostep going to his left, and Orton rejects it beautifully, and cleanly, from behind. Nelson and Ryan Anderson congratulate the rookie from Kentucky by slapping him on the backside.

On the ensuing baseline out-of-bounds play, Favors inbounds to Hayward, cutting to the hoop from the left side. Orton leaves Jefferson, who has released to the foul-line extended, and attempts to take the charge. He's a half-second late, however, and Hayward converts the layup while bowling Orton over. Hayward then converts the free throw to bring Utah within five.

Defensive possession #9 / Foul #5: Both teams start the fourth quarter with a combination of starters and reserves, looking to rest their key guys for a late push. After Jason Richardson bags another three-pointer, Utah runs its offense from the right side as Hayward tries to shake Jason Richardson by using a screen from Favors in delayed transition. Richardson and Glen Davis disrupt the play beautifully, forcing Hayward to dish to Jamaal Tinsley at the top of the arc. Tinsley fires a quick pass to rookie center Enes Kanter, who's skillfully established himself in the paint with Orton on his back.

The Turkish rookie gives a drop-step to the baseline, then spins back inside and fires in a right-handed hook while absorbing contact from Orton, who left his feet as soon as Kanter went baseline, anticipating the quick hook. Van Gundy shoves his hands into the pockets of his slacks as the ball drops through the net. Kanter converts the free throw, which trims Orlando's lead to 2 points with 10:20 to play.

Defensive possession #10: Two possessions later, Hayward enters the ball to Kanter on the left block. The Turkish rookie backs Orton down and goes middle, gives an up-fake, on which Orton bites. Once getting Orton in the air, Kanter pivots under him and tosses in an easy layup.

The purpose of this post isn't to slam Orton, who's worked hard to rehabilitate the knee injury that kept him off the court for the entire 2010/11 season. Reviewing the footage, it became clear Orton's problem isn't conditioning--he never quite looked winded--but rather his raw skill. He bites on too many fakes and seems too eager to try to make a defensive play at times. This post is instead intended to shed light on Orton's defensive shortcomings and offer suggestions for him to improve. and provided statistical and video support for this post.

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