Orlando Magic must remove Khem Birch from the power forward spot

The Orlando Magic have gone out of their way to keep Khem Birch in the rotation. (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic have gone out of their way to keep Khem Birch in the rotation. (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic has to find ways to win with what they have available, but Khem Birch’s experiment at the 4 has been too mixed to continue.

Last season, the Orlando Magic were extremely lucky when it came to injuries. They knew the chances of that luck repeating was not going to last.

With that in mind, Orlando added to its bench by adding Al-Farouq Aminu so the team could stay versatile at all times and have a good back up in case of injury. The Magic seemed to have a good bench as they caused arguments of who should be left out of the rotation from Wesley Iwundu to Michael Carter-Williams to Khem Birch.

Well, all of that is gone with all of the injuries they have. Al-Farouq Aminu is out indefinitely with a torn meniscus (and likely done for the season). Michael Carter-Williams just returned from a 15-game absence with a sprained AC joint. D.J. Augustin is out with bone irritation in his left knee. He will not get re-evaluated until the beginning of February.

And, of course, Jonathan Isaac is out indefinitely with a posterior lateral corner injury in his left knee. He will not get re-evaluated until early March at the earliest.

All these injuries raised questions about what lineups were Orlando going to use. These injuries have caused them to resort to having players play out of position in strange lineups.

The strangest one is Khem Birch at the power forward position.

After watching him play at the 4, it is obvious he does not seem comfortable. And it is hurting the team. He should not be playing at the power forward spot.

The two ways to look at these lineups are based on analytics and the eye test.

The Khem BirchNikola Vucevic lineup does not seem bad. The duo is +4.7 points per 100 possessions on the court together in 146 minutes. The numbers show the team is efficient offensively with the duo on the court. Orlando has a 116.2 offensive rating and shoots a 55.6-percent effective field goal percentage when they play together.

That shows the line up when they are together is indeed effective, but that does not tell the whole story.

When Khem Birch plays at the 4, Nikola Vucevic is forced to play on the perimeter, and the other players on the floor have to be even more precise because Birch is not an offensive presence, especially when he is on the perimeter.

Vucevic’s ability to spread the floor allows it to work some. But Birch still avoids shooting the ball on several occasions.

The Mohamed Bamba-Khem Birch lineup just is not good. The Magic have a -2.7 net rating with that duo on the floor. More alarmingly, they struggle to rebound. The Magic have a 63.2-percent defensive rebound rate when that duo is on the floor.

The numbers will try to point out they do have some offensive upside, shooting a 47.9-percent effective field goal percentage.

It is important to note that this is in a small sample size of 14 games and 3.9 minutes per night.

The eye test will say this lineup struggles to spread the floor and is dependent on Mohamed Bamba to be able to spread the floor and hit shots, but he has been inconsistent this year.

The other issue is they are both unable to guard power forwards that play on the perimeter. They are not quick enough, and it was evident when they beat the Los Angeles Lakers. Although Kuzma did struggle, the shots he did get where good looks.

Overall the Magic need to find a way to move Birch out of the 4-spot. It is still not the lineup the team closes with and Birch is hardly playing starter’s minutes.

But for now, it is something they might have to deal with because of their injuries. With Carter-Williams coming back, there should be no reason to continue to play Birch at the 4. Signing Gary Clark too should make it easier to move Birch back to his more traditional role.

Orlando Magic Second Quarter MVP: Nikola Vucevic. dark. Next

The Magic have to find ways to win with what they have available. But coach Steve Clifford needs to realize that the warning signs are on the floor and need to switch the lineups up before it starts to cost them games.