There seemed to be only two realistic options for an Orlando starting lineup.
Mickael Pietrus/Matt Barnes
I like the more traditional aspect of lineup #1 because of Bass’ added rebounding and nice touch on his jumper, but from everything that I’ve heard this offseason, I figured that lineup #2 would be the choice, as did most NBA analysts and writers. The Magic do not want to lose their versatility on offense by moving Rashard Lewis back to Small Forward. Austin Burton of Dime Magazine has heard otherwise.
Vince Carter — At the moment, it looks like Stan Van Gundy will keep Rashard Lewis at power forward, start Mickael Pietrus at two-guard, and replace Hedo with Vince at the three. Earlier this year I wrote that Vince would be the missing piece to a championship in Orlando, and that was before the rest of the core group gained valuable postseason and NBA Finals experience. All Vince has to do is be Vince, and the Magic won’t miss a beat as a championship contender.
I really don’t see what Burton sees. Why would Carter move from Guard to Forward? Especially when the Magic have Mickael Pietrus and Matt Barnes, who are more than capable of playing Small Forward. In fact, Barnes is a natural Small Forward.
I personally prefer Matt Barnes as the starting Small Forward. This is nothing against Mickael Pietrus. There are a few reasons behind my thinking. Like Carter, Pietrus seems like a better fit at Guard. He has played good minutes at the Forward, but he’s at his best when he plays Shooting Guard. I absolutely love Pietrus as the 6th man. Pietrus has had some injury problems. Pietrus has never played in more than 72 games in his career and played in 54 games last year, starting 25. It seems like when Pietrus is coming off of the bench like he did in the 2nd half of the season and throughout the entire post-season, he is less prone to injury and becomes a much more effective player. He averaged 9.4 points per game and 3.3 rebounds per game in the regular season when he started a little under half of the games that he played in. He upped his scoring average to 10.5 points per game in the post-season. Pietrus came off of the bench in every post-season game.
The only rationale I can really see behind Pietrus starting is that he is the team’s best perimeter defender and would be needed to stick the likes of Paul Pierce of the Boston Celtics and Cleveland’s LeBron James. Matt Barnes is also an excellent defender and could take on this role. Alternating those two players and starting with Barnes could keep Pietrus fresher to defend the opposing team’s best wing player down the stretch, which would be a nice luxury to have. Plus, Pietrus provides a much needed scoring pop off of the bench.
Mike Brown was reportedly behind the push to acquire Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon this offseason and he is thrilled to have the added size on the wing.
After the season, the coaches and front office studied film on how the Magic and other teams exploited Cleveland’s lack of size and quickness on the wing, primarily when LeBron James was out of the game.
“When LeBron went out, we had no one to guard Paul Pierce, Ron Artest or some of those guys [Rashard Lewis, Hedu Turkoglu, Mickael Pietrus] with Orlando. Parker and Moon can get out and defend the 3-point line, and you have guys who are 6-6 and 6-8 coming after you with their arms up. That will help us a lot, and enable us to rest LeBron more in some games.”
Even though no one in the Cleveland organization specifically mentioned Orlando and the Magic, it seems obvious that the Cavs made these moves because Orlando lit the Cavs up from downtown with their perimeter player in route to a 4-2 series win in last season’s Eastern Conference Finals. Although the Cavaliers did make some very good moves, I think the Magic’s acquisition on the wing (Matt Barnes) more than offsets Cleveland’s two wing acquisitions (Jamario Moon & Anthony Parker).