Defending JJ Redick

Before we get into the matter of Jameer Nelson’s return and what happens to Anthony Johnson and Jason Williams, I have sensed something from the fans midway through the season.

JJ Redick is still somewhat under appreciated.

Redick certainly has a lot of baggage with him — starting with his reputation in college and continuing to the relative disappointment of his first three seasons in the league. Redick has struggled mightily for the Magic and has, at times, not lived up to the 11th overall pick the Magic used to take him.

For those three seasons, Redick was something of a sideshow. The bench warmer everyone just wanted to see play knowing the game was pretty much over. Or the person everyone (including Magic fans) love to hate. I think some fans still expect Redick to be the amazing player he was in college where he won a National Player of the Year award.

The sideshow and riding the bench was clearly not what Redick wanted out of his career. That’s why he requested a trade a few years back.

This year is why Otis Smith told Redick at that time to be patient.

Redick has always had to work his way through the rotation from the bottom of the depth chart. But after the summer of change this past offseason, Redick found himself one of the more experienced members of the Magic and with a chance to get serious playing time behind Vince Carter at shooting guard.

This year would be Redick’s chance to prove what he was worth.

At least offensively, Redick appears to be doing that. JJ is scoring a career-high 9.1 points per game while shooting a career-best 45.9 percent from the floor and 44.4 percent from beyond the arc.

This was the type of offense the Magic drafted him for. His play in Saturday’s game against Portland really helped spark the team as no one had a decent night offensively except for, seemingly, Redick (12 points on 5-for-9 shooting). He appears to finally be realizing that potential.

He will never be the offensive player he was at Duke. He is not featured in the offense as much and college is such a different game. But I think it is clear to anyone who has watched him that this year he has really improved his ability to shoot off the dribble and fit inside Orlando’s offense.

What has always been Redick’s question mark is defense. That is why Stan Van Gundy has taken a while to trust him and Brian Hill buried him on the bench.

It is still hard to quantify defense in any way. Redick still appears to be struggling defensively by the measures that do exist — the team has a 49.1% eFG allowed when Redick is on the court.

But to the eye, I think Redick’s defense has improved greatly. He is never going to be a fantastic one-on-one defender. But against shooters (think Ray Allen in last year’s Boston series) and role players, Redick does a very good job locking down, staying in front of his man and contesting shots.

John Nichols analyzed Orlando’s defense against Indiana from Monday for Orlando Pinstriped Post. I found this very interesting in that it confirmed what I wrote about Redick’s defense from the game. Aside from some silly fouls (something that I think was almost necessary for Redick as a small defender to show his opponent, again usually a shooter, that he means business), Redick was one of the better defenders on the floor.

I think Redick works hard and plays to the most of his capabilities. His comfort in Orlando’s defensive system has made him one of Van Gundy’s most trusted options off the bench.

The depth Redick provides is really what is most important. As I think the Magic have learned so far this season, they have a very deep bench. It has bailed them out of more than a few games so far.

It will become more and more important as we get closer to the postseason. Redick’s experience and continued improvement and development will help Orlando be ready later on down the road.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily