When the Magic signed Brandon Bass during the offseason, it was to add a new dimension to the team. Bass was the muscle Orlando sorely lacked against the big front line the the Los Angeles Lakers possessed and the potentially brutish front line Boston could have with Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins.
Bass was the kind of old-style power forward that would allow the Magic to play any style to take advantage of their opponents weaknesses or to throw off an unsuspecting team.
But we are about a quarter into the season and it is still unclear where Brandon Bass fits on this Orlando Magic roster. His simple ability to put the ball in the basket — especially in the preseason, when he averaged 12.7 points per game and did not score less than 10 points in a game — had Magic fans excited about the possibilities Bass could provide. Looking at the raw numbers, he is averaging 8.9 points per game and 3.0 rebounds in 18.6 minutes per game. But his defensive struggles and his inability to hit 3-pointers had Stan Van Gundy burying him on the bench upon Rashard Lewis’ return.
It has been a struggle for Bass, who has seen inconsistent playing time throughout the season — before Wednesday’s game he was averaging 5.7 minutes per game since Rashard Lewis’ return. Even with Rashard Lewis out for the first 10 games and Ryan Anderson out with injuries, Bass did not prove himself enough to crack the rotation consistently. As Zach pointed out a few days ago, 82games.com, Bass is allowing a 52.3% eFG%. Teams are scoring relatively easily on him when he is on the floor. More alarmingly, Bass is only grabbing 11.6% of defensive rebounds, so he is not even securing misses and providing value in that area. Bass can certainly get on the boards, but he has not done so thus far. His defensive efficiency when playing at power forward is a gaudy 103.2.
Obviously with Bass, though, numbers do not tell the whole story. If they did, his offensive potential and outputs (in the burst that he has played) would find him some way on the floor.
Bass does have a place on this team. He was definitely brought in with the bigger, more physical teams in mind. And with Howard struggling with fouls early in this season, Bass’ mid-range jumper and offensive skills could stem the tide if Howard has to go to the bench with fouls. But I know no one wants to wait until the last moment to know what they have in Bass.
Where Bass ultimately fits in depends entirely on how he continues to develop defensively. Stan Van Gundy stresses defense first and that is how anyone can gain or lose playing time on this team. The center position appears up for grabs with Marcin Gortat struggling and Bass maybe inching his way into Gortat’s — sparse — minutes.
Now that Gortat has voiced frustration over his playing time, Bass could be angling more playing time at the center if Gortat continues to struggle to produce and provide the energy that made him a fan favorite. There is definitely a niche for Bass to make for himself there.
Bass will remain a curiosity for a Magic team that values something more from its power forwards than a brutish protector. His potential and promise will always be tantalizing. But until Orlando finds the perfect use for him, he might just remain the odd man out.