How will Brandon Bass fit in?

The only real issue with signing Brandon Bass is that — at least technically — he plays the position where the Magic were the deepest before his arrival. Rashard Lewis and Ryan Anderson gave the Magic talent and depth at power forward, making it the only position with a legitimate starter and legitimate reserve (I’d count point guard as well, but that’s arguable). When a team has eight players under contract, as the Magic did last week, an all-star and a promising rookie at one position feels like an overabundance of wealth. So, at the surface, bringing in another power forward doesn’t make a whole lot of sense (especially a 6-foot-7 power forward who’s seemingly too small to fill in as the team’s primary backup center, even if the statistics say otherwise). But that doesn’t mean it was a bad signing. I love the move — like most Magic fans do — especially for the relatively inexpensive price tag. For a 23-year-old who seeps potential and has already played meaningful minutes on an upper-echelon team, $18 million over four years is a great deal. Anytime you can attain a quality player for that kind of value, you do it. The question is, how do the Magic plan to use Bass? Theo Ratliff is expected to sign sometime this week to fill the role as Dwight Howard’s backup, and if Ratliff doesn’t come someone else will — clearly, Bass isn’t here to backup Dwight. Additionally, many around the team expect Matt Barnes to join Orlando in the near future, adding another minutes-stealer at small forward. With a supposed influx at the forward position, how will the situation play out? Otis Smith (“Those guys will sort out their own minutes”) and Stan Van Gundy (“We will have a lot of options in terms of the kind of lineups we put on the floor”) are unsurprisingly mum on the subject. Let’s look at the options of how the playing time could be divvied up on opening night and beyond. Option A: Brandon Bass starts at power forward and Rashard Lewis returns to his natural position of small forward. This is something I’ve long been against, as I believe Lewis at the 4 imposes more matchup problems than it creates. But with Van Gundy’s declaration that Bass in the starting lineup “certainly could happen,” this popular option is something we’ll surely discuss throughout the coming months. Look, I love the way the Magic play with Lewis at power forward. There isn’t a starting power forward in the Eastern Conference who can consistently disrupt Lewis’ offensive game, and Lewis is better on defense than he gets credit for. At the four-spot his rebounding is weak, but he’s got the best rebounder in the NBA backing him up. But it’s looking more and more like the Magic’s plans are to play Lewis at his natural position. Lewis was considered one of the West’s exciting young swingmen in the early 2000s, and he obviously developed into an excellent small forward for Seattle. He creates a lot of size at the 3 and can score on anyone, but I worry about Lewis’ defense on the likes of Paul Pierce and LeBron James. Will Lewis be comfortable on those guys out on the perimeter? Option B: Lewis starts at power forward and Mickael Pietrus plays small forward while Bass battles Anderson and another backup big man for playing time. Could the Magic throw out a more fun lineup? Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter creating in the backcourt, Lewis and Pietrus running the break and hitting corner 3-pointers, and Howard controlling the paint — the Magic would be a blast to watch on offense. Even if this isn’t the starting lineup, it’s a combination we’re sure to see a lot of. But I think it’s undisputable that Pietrus is a better player while coming off the bench. His supreme athleticism is matched by his erratic-ism, and that’s not exactly what you want out of a guy starting alongside four all-stars. The question is, do the Magic agree? They went into last season with Pietrus as the starting two-guard, so anything could happen. Option C: Lewis slides to small forward, Anderson starts at power forward and Bass becomes the first man off the bench. While this scenario is unlikely, you can’t discount how much the Magic love Anderson. The only way they’d get rid of Courtney Lee was if Anderson came in return, so Anderson is surely a guy the Magic plan to use. We’ve seen the Magic start JJ Redick and Courtney Lee for significant stretches of time (not always due to injury and before Lee was clearly the team’s best two-guard), so you never know what you’re going to get out of a Van Gundy rotation. Anderson’s primary advantage over Bass in the starting lineup is his ability to stretch the defense all the way out to the 3-point line.

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

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