The Great Debate: Brandon Bass or Ryan Anderson?

Just when things seemed so simple, Stan Van Gundy decided to throw another wrench into his rotation. When this guy said he was serious about making sure both Anderson and Bass were prepared for the postseason, he was not kidding.

After not playing more than 10 minutes since late February, Anderson took his first meaningful minutes in nearly a month and turned them into back-to-back 19-point performances in wins over Minnesota and Denver. Bass has been the man backing up Rashard Lewis since the All Star break pretty effectively. And then Anderson steps in and reminds everyone of the power of a stretch four (the nerve).

Bass did not play poorly in that stretch despite his numbers — 5.7 points per game and 3.4 rebounds per game since Feb. 21 — dipping from his season average. His best game was 16-point, nine-rebound effort against Washington on March 13. His addition to the lineup coincided with the Magic’s recent run of victories.

Anderson had first shot at the backup four and has had his ups and downs just like Bass. He would score 16 points one night (Jan. 30 against Atlanta) but go zero for four and score just two points the next. He seems more capable of having big scoring nights — his 19 point outbursts Friday and Sunday were his ninth and tenth games with more than 15 points or more.

It is the ultimate argument between the consistency (at least offensively) Bass can bring to the could be really good but also could disappear play (at least offensively) of Anderson.

This debate really goes back to your basketball philosophy.

Do you need a powerful second forward who can help Dwight Howard on the glass or is it more important to spread the floor with 3-point shooters and force defenses to worry about four shooters?

Bass is certainly a better low post defender and rebounder than Anderson — although Anderson surprisingly has a better rebounding rate than Bass, although Bass’ 10.4% offensive rebounding percentage is quite impressive.

It is quite amazing how similar these two players’ statistics really are. Despite the perceptions above, the two have nearly identical Defensive Ratings (Bass has a 104-103 edge, according to Basketball-Reference.com).

It truly goes to the style of basketball Van Gundy wants to play. And Van Gundy believes in spreading the floor with 3-point shooters around Dwight Howard and letting them fire away. That is Anderson’s cup of tea.

But credit Van Gundy for being open to playing Bass in the post and changing things up. Certain matchups will call for that and, even though Bass did not receive backup minutes in the past two games, he kept Bass ready to play and contribute in the postseason. Remember, unlike Anderson, Bass has played in the postseason before. That experience could give him some edge if Anderson struggles in his first postseason.

Of course neither has gone as deep in the Playoffs as Orlando intends to go. But by then Howard and Rashard Lewis are playing 40-48 minutes a game, right?

So what matchups favor Anderson over Bass or Bass over Anderson?

Intuition says Bass is better against teams with two post players, think the Lakers’ tandem of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. And Anderson plays better against teams that don’t have a scoring power forward who can easily be pulled away from the basket.

Since the Playoffs are the only thing that matters now, which one is better against the seven other teams in the Eastern Conference?

Glad you asked:

Cleveland
Might as well start with the main competition. Anderson scored five points in one appearance against the Cavaliers (the meeting in November too) and Bass scored 7.0 points per game and grabbed 2.0 rebounds per game in 16.0 minutes per game against the Cavaliers.

With Shaquille O’Neal and Anderson Varejao in the post, this seems to make sense. Varejao is a guy that needs to be boxed out. His sole role is to attack both the offensive and defensive glass with reckless abandon. Plus O’Neal does do a decent enough job getting Howard in foul trouble that it is not unrealistic to think Bass could take some time against Shaq.

Van Gundy has picked Bass to go up against the Cavaliers so far this season. The final meeting of the year between these two teams will be quite the chess match between Van Gundy and Mike Brown.

Boston
The Celtics too have a two traditional power forwards. Kevin Garnett has been slowed down by his knee injuries, but he can still provide some of the all-star defense and offense he has shown throughout his career. Orlando took the series 3-1 and had a couple statement wins in Boston.

Anderson played in all four games against the Celtics and averaged 3.2 points and 1.2 rebounds per game in 12.0 minutes per game. Bass did not get in against Boston.

My bet is if Lewis got into quick foul trouble, Bass would be the man to take on Garnett. If Garnett is out of the game, Anderson is the type of player that would give Boston some trouble defensively. Rasheed Wallace is not quite as swift of foot as he used to be.

Atlanta
Anderson has turned in some of his best games against the Hawks. He is averaging 12.3 points per game and 41.7 percent 3-point shooting against the division rivals. This is in three games, since he did not play last Wednesday in Atlanta. Bass scored just two points and grabbed two rebounds in six minutes Wednesday.

It is clear Van Gundy prefers to use Anderson against this team, seeing that the Hawks also like to use an athletic four who does not quite fit the mold of what a power forward is.

Charlotte, Toronto and Chicago
These are the trio of teams Orlando appears to be hurtling toward for the first round.

Both players split time against Charlotte and both played pretty well. Bass played in three games against the Bobcats averaging 8.0 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. Anderson played in two games and had 8.5 points per game on 25 percent 3-point shooting. Charlotte likes to go small with Boris Diaw at the four. The Bobcats are also a very good defensive team. What Van Gundy chooses here would be very interesting.

Anderson scored 11.0 points per game on 47.1 percent 3-point shooting in three games against Toronto and Bass had 6.3 points and 2.3 rebounds per game in three games as well. The Raptors like to play an up-tempo style and Andrea Bargnani (and Chris Bosh) do a good job extending the floor with their 3-point shooting ability. I would expect Anderson to get the nod in this matchup.

The two also split time against the Bulls. Anderson scored 6.7 points per game and shot 28.6 percent from beyond the arc in three appearances against Chicago. Bass had 7.5 points per game and 4.0 rebounds per game in two appearances against the Bulls.

Clearly in all these cases, matchups will dictate what Van Gundy will choose. With this team, he has shown a preference to use the stretch four and space the floor with another shooter. Anderson seems like he will be the first choice then.

But it is pretty clear that Van Gundy has two pretty solid options to use no matter what the matchup. Both have proven themselves at times throughout the season and will be very useful during the postseason.

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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