There’s a common theme in the Orlando Magic’s acquisitions this offseason: versatility. Brandon Bass and Matt Barnes can each play several positions, and when you add them to ultra-flexible guys such as Rashard Lewis and Mickael Pietrus, you’ve got a team that can pinpoint and exploit virtually any weakness an opposing team may have.
Stan Van Gundy can throw out a formidable lineup ranging from super-small to super-tall, and we’ll surely see plenty of different looks once they start playing games again. With most of the moves complete — outside of a third point guard and a couple deep reserves — let’s take a look at the potential lineups the Magic can put together.
It’s worth mentioning that Ben Q. Rock went through this routine a couple of weeks ago after the Magic brought in Bass. With Barnes now in Orlando, the Magic’s rotation is pretty much complete — although, as you know, we don’t know what that rotation will look like in a couple months. Here’s a peek into what we might see.
Conventional PG: Jameer Nelson SG: Vince Carter SF: Rashard Lewis PF: Brandon Bass C: Dwight Howard I’ve been on the start-Rashard-at-the-4 bandwagon for quite some time, but I’m starting to lean toward a more conventional everyday lineup. I have a strong feeling this is the starting 5 we’ll see on opening night, and plenty of people around the team seem to agree. This group of five has no chink in the armor — up and down the lineup, there is no weakness. Kelly Dwyer sums it up best: “You want Lewis to draw attention at power forward against the Cavs next May? Run him at power forward against the Cavs next May. Until then, toss out the best, most orthodox, lineup and watch as the wins pile up.” Of course, just because Lewis starts at small forward doesn’t mean he’ll stay there throughout the game. Let’s move on.
Second-unit PG: Anthony Johnson SG: Mickael Pietrus SF: Matt Barnes PF: Ryan Anderson C: Marcin Gortat Remember 2003-04, when the Magic won a league-worst 21 games? This second-unit might be better than that team’s first unit. That 03-04 team started Britton Johnsen, Tyronn Lue, Juwan Howard, Drew Gooden and T-Mac; yeah, I’m going with the 2009 reserves. These five particular players probably won’t play together besides in mop-up duty, as Van Gundy generally uses an eight- or nine-man rotation in important games. But this lineup has a couple guys capable of creating their own shot, a highly competent big man and four guys who can hit an outside shot. Basically, each player can play a similar style to the man in front of him without dropping off in talent too much — that’s all you can ask out of a second unit.
Run and gun PG: Jameer Nelson SG: Vince Carter SF: Mickael Pietrus PF: Rashard Lewis C: Dwight Howard A very fun lineup, these five guys combine to make an offensively stalwart bunch that will also form a very potent defensive lineup. This is the most similar unit to last year’s team — with Carter replacing Hedo Turkoglu, of course — and it’s certainly a lineup the magic will throw out at the end of games. This group can score in the half court, thanks to penetrators Nelson and Carter and inside presence Howard, but their most damage will be done in the transition game. Coming off stops and quick outlet passes, the combination of slashers and shooters (which are the same players, by the way) make these guys nearly unstoppable on the break. If this is the starting five, I won’t be super-surprised or super-upset.
More looks after the jump
Twin towers PG: Jameer Nelson SG: Vince Carter SF: Rashard Lewis PF: Marcin Gortat C: Dwight Howard It’s what everyone loves to talk about (including the infamous Jimbo on 580 WDBO) — Marcin and Dwight playing together. In theory it’s a great idea; two powerful bruisers controlling the paint and the boards. We saw it in short stretches last season to mixed results. It was effective in defense and rebounding, as the team saw a bump in rebounding percentage and defensive rating with these two on the floor. But the offense was slightly less efficient, and I think the reasoning is obvious — Dwight and Marcin play too similarly, both doing their work within ten feet of the basket and in the paint. The inside gets clogged when they’re both on the floor. That said, Gortat feels he can hit the mid-range jumper consistently. Said Gortat a couple weeks ago: “I believe my offensive game is on a good level right now. I just didn’t get a chance to show people in the league.” If he’s right, maybe there is hope for this lineup yet.
Defense PG: Jameer Nelson SG: Vince Carter SF: Mickael Pietrus PF: Brandon Bass C: Dwight Howard Bass and Howard are two of the highest-rated defensive big men in the league, and Nelson, Carter and Pietrus are not liabilities (especially in an SVG system). If the team is protecting a small lead at the end of the game, and the game is in a whistle-happy stage, these five could see the floor to put the clamps on the opposing team. I chose to put Pietrus at the 3 instead of Lewis because Pietrus is a bit more agile and able to defend the perimeter. Pietrus at the 2 and Rashard at the 3 is also something we could see.
3-point marksmen PG: Jameer Nelson SG: JJ Redick SF: Vince Carter PF: Rashard Lewis C: Ryan Anderson If the Magic ever want to break their own record of 3-pointers in a game, this might be the starting five to go with. Forget the obvious rebounding problems and lack of interior strength this lineup would create and look at the bright side: the Magic will be scoring three at a time. Even if the opposing team shoots 50 percent, the bombs will keep the Magic in it.