The Orlando Magic’s flexibility is no accident

It’s no secret to anyone reading this that the Magic are a team built on flexibility. They have a collection of forwards who are capable of playing the 3 and 4 (Rashard Lewis, Matt Barnes) or the 4 and 5 (Ryan Anderson, Brandon Bass), and they have a wing player (Vince Carter) who’s capable of playing the 1, 2 or 3. That ability to handle any situation and impose a variety of matchup problems starts with Otis Smith acquiring versatile players, like he did this offseason. But it doesn’t end there. On Wednesday, just the second day of training camp, several new players spent scrimmage time outside of their normal positions. Brandon Bass played some minutes at center (ideally he’s a power forward) because Adonal Foyle is nursing a sore knee, and Vince Carter spent time at point guard because the team will use him as its emergency backup at that spot. Bass and Carter — on only their second day with a brand new team and a brand new system — were already thrown into game-like situations outside of their comfort zones. “The hard part is, especially for the new guys, is it’s hard enough learning a new system, but then we’re throwing you two positions and it makes things a little bit more confusing,” Van Gundy said. “In the long run they’re going to have to do it some. … We might as well get used to it.” In addition to being the team’s emergency point guard, Carter could see time as a point-forward in a similar role to the one Hedo Turkoglu played last season. Van Gundy also mentioned he’d like to play Carter at small forward in spurts, making way for JJ Redick at shooting guard. While Bass won’t spend significant time at center initially, he must be prepared to play the position in case of injury to Dwight Howard or Marcin Gortat. “It’s great. We can play a lot of different ways,” Van Gundy said. “We can handle a lot of situations from other people, and we can throw a lot of different looks at them.” While I’m sure other teams run into similar situations during training camp, this point illustrates the Magic’s insistence on flexibility and adaptability in their free-agency pickups. Here’s a look at the Orlando Magic newcomers who will be counted on to play more than one position, as well as their stats from last season at both of their positions, courtesy of ( Ryan Anderson, per 48 minutes PF: 15.3 PER, 17.1 points, 11.4 rebounds, .476 eFG%, 15.6 PER against C: 16.0 PER, 21.4 points, 11.3 rebounds, .494 eFG%, 16.9 PER against Role: He’s a little undersized for center, and probably won’t see much time there outside of garbage time. Anderson’s skill set has drawn comparisons to Rashard Lewis, which has some merit — but Anderson is a truer four than Lewis is. Anderson is a better rebounder and interior player but doesn’t have the perimeter skills that Lewis has. Anderson will see the majority of his minutes playing power forward, but he could have trouble finding consistent minutes once Lewis comes back from suspension. Matt Barnes, per 48 minutes SF: 14.0 PER, 18.5 points, 10.2 rebounds, .526 eFG%, 14.9 PER against PF: 14.2 PER, 17.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, .492 eFG%, 21.4 PER against Role: The stats tell the story here — Barnes isn’t comfortable at power forward. While Barnes said he can play either position, Van Gundy has indicated in the past that he’d like to keep Barnes at small forward. And it’s clear in these numbers — look at the discrepancy in PER against — that Barnes is more effective playing on the wing. Brandon Bass, per 48 minutes PF: 17.2 PER, 23.4 points, 9.4 rebounds, .486 eFG%, 13.2 PER against C: 18.9 PER, 20.0 points, 11.9 rebounds, .502 eFG%, 13.2 PER against Role: Last season in Dallas, Bass spent about two-thirds of his minutes at center. Even at 6-foot-8, Bass is capable of playing with any big man. But with Howard and Gortat forming the most lethal center duo in the NBA, Bass won’t spend much time as the Magic’s biggest man on the floor, at least initially. Vince Carter, per 48 minutes SG: 21.2 PER, 26.8 points, 6.0 assists, .492 eFG%, 16.6 PER against SF: 21.9 PER, 26.7 points, 5.7 assists, .509 eFG%, 21.6 PER against Role: There’s no doubt Carter will be the team’s starting shooting guard and the shooting guard on the floor most of the time. But, as Van Gundy noted, there will be times where he could slide up or down depending on the situation. Carter has enough size to play the 3 for small stretches, and adequate quickness to play the point for small stretches — obviously, though, he would get exposed in regular minutes at either position.

Month of Magic Each day leading up to the season, we’ll take a look at the Orlando Magic by featuring a different player, coach, or storyline.
Sept. 28: Training camp beginsSept. 29: Mickael PietrusSept. 30: Anthony JohnsonOct. 1: Flexibility

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