Anarchy, Championships and the Orlando Magic Part II

A few interesting comments came out of Tuesday’s post about “The Price of Anarchy” and how it relates to the Orlando Magic this season.

First, it is far from a perfect analysis of the numbers. I took the summary of the paper I read to mean a balanced scoring attack was the most successful path for a team. It came off the statement Rob Mahoney of Hardwood Paroxysm made about the 72-10 1996 Bulls being better if Michael Jordan did not dominate the ball.

The idea though is that a player can be more effective for his team if his usage rate goes down. It is safe to say Rashard Lewis is the best shooter on the Magic, but no one wants him shooting all the time now (OK, bad example right now). Vince Carter is the best pure scorer on the team (talent-wise, at least) and it is safe to say that if Vince takes a lot of shots, the Magic will more likely lose — 48-point games against New Orleans aside.

Orlando is 15-11 when Carter takes 15 shots or more. Considering how good Orlando is, that is not fantastic. It obviously does not hurt the Magic too much to have Carter getting his shots.

But I think Carter would say he feels better and less pressure knowing he does not have to take all the shots. He is the first to admit this is his best chance at winning a title and I am sure the scoring spread among the top three players and everyone else on the team is one of the lowest of his career.

Commenter MagicFanInTN wondered: “It would be interesting number crunching to see in how many games during the regular season the Magic have three players account for 55-56% (or more) of the scoring, regardless of who those three players are (because on this team it is not always the same three that lead the scoring).”

That is definitely true.

Orlando is very unique among the contenders in that the team has four players who are All-Star caliber players and can erupt for a big game. The Magic can survive a bad game from Carter (for example… I swear) because Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson can step up and provide the scoring punch with a strong bench behind them.

I am not going to crunch all the numbers, but how about this. Let’s compare the scoring spreads among the top three players and the rest of the team during two definitive stretches this season — the recent eight-game win streak and that awful 2-7 stretch in early January.

Scoring Spread During 8-Game Win Streak

Opponent Top 3 Scorers %Scoring
at Washington (3/13) Dwight Howard (28), Vince Carter (18), JJ Redick (18) 58.7%
vs. Chicago (3/11) Vince Carter (23), Matt Barnes (14), Brandon Bass (13) 45.0%
vs. Los Angeles Clippers (3/9) Dwight Howard (22), Jameer Nelson (17), Rashard Lewis (15) 47.8%
vs. Los Angeles Lakers (3/7) Vince Carter (25), Dwight Howard (15), Jameer Nelson (15) 57.3%
at New Jersey (3/5) Matt Barnes (16), Jameer Nelson (15), Vince Carter/Jason Williams (13) 45.4%
vs. Golden State (3/3) Dwight Howard (28), Rashard Lewis (17), Vince Carter (15) 51.3%
at Philadelphia (3/1) Jameer Nelson (22), Rashard Lewis (19), Vince Carter (19) 47.6%
vs. Miami (2/28) Rashard Lewis (22), Vince Carter (17), JJ Redick (15) 56.3%
Totals Top 3 Scorers (441 points) 51.0%

What sticks out to me in the above chart, showing the top scorers during the eight-game winning streak and the percentage of that trio’s points in each individual games, is that Orlando has a lot of different players in their top three. The Magic have eight different players who scored in their top three. That is pretty good balance.

What is also interesting is for the most part, Orlando’s top scorers account for close to 50 percent of the team’s scoring. As the earlier post showed, over the course of a season that my not be optimal (the champions of the last 10 years are closer to 55-56 percent). But it worked in this streak.

How does this compare to the losing streak from January?

Scoring Spread from Losses in 2-7 Stretch in January

Opponent Top 3 Scorers %Scoring
at Los Angeles Lakers (1/18) Dwight Howard (24), Rashard Lewis (18), Matt Barnes/Jameer Nelson (13) 59.8%
at Portland (1/15) Rashard Lewis (15), Jameer Nelson (15), Dwight Howard (11) 47.1%
at Denver (1/13) Matt Barnes (28), JJ Redick (13), Mickael Pietrus (12) 54.6%
at Washington (1/8) Dwight Howard (23), JJ Redick (14), Mickael Pietrus (14) 52.6%
vs. Toronto (1/6) Rashard Lewis (24), JJ Redick (22), Dwight Howard (20) 64.1%
at Indiana (1/5) Jameer Nelson (16), Mickael Pietrus (16), Matt Barnes/JJ Redick (13) 50.0%
at Chicago (1/2) Matt Barnes (23), Ryan Anderson (12), JJ Redick (11) 49.5%
Totals Top 3 Scorers (357 Points) 54.2%

Obvious caveats with these numbers. Orlando averaged 108.1 points per game during the eight-game win streak. The team averaged 97.9 points per game during the 2-7 stretch and 94.1 points per game in the losses of that stretch.

When you win, you score more points, thus the impact of individual players is lessened because there are more points. When you lose, the impact of one scorer is magnified because there are less points.

But it is interesting to look at these numbers. The range for the top three’s scoring percentage during the win streak is 45-58 percent. The range during the losing streak is 47-64 percent. These overlap obviously, but you can see the closer it is to 50 percent the better it works out.

Consistency really seems to be the name of the game. That is not necessarily Orlando’s best trait. The team does not have a lot of consistency as far as who scores and relies a lot on its bench to support the balanced starting lineup. As I mentioned yesterday, this does not appear to be a championship formula.

There needs to be that consistent top-heavy scoring for success — at least that is what the numbers suggest.

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