After a disappointing end to the season for the Orlando Magic, it’s hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel given their current cap situation.
Of course, we could see some big changes if there is a new CBA (like the departure of Gilbert Arenas with a potential amnesty clause). Since the Magic don’t really have any flexibility and will likely bring back a very similar team, we’ll take a look at what lineups worked the best for the Magic this season.
Orlando’s top two lineups each ranked above the starting lineup they began the season with, consisting of Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Quentin Richardson, Vince Carter and Jameer Nelson.
After the jump, you can read more about Orlando’s lineups.
Orlando’s most used lineups were the normal starting lineup – Howard, Brandon Bass, Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Nelson and that same lineup with Ryan Anderson at the Four spot rather than Brandon Bass. Those Magic lineups have both been good statistically but there are some differences. For instance, Orlando is a much better rebounding team with Anderson on the court. With Anderson playing with the four other starters, the Magic grab 54.5% of all available rebounds. With Bass on the floor instead of Anderson, they grab just 47.0% of all available rebounds. With Anderson on the court, the Magic score 1.18 points per compared to their 1.08 with Bass on the court. However, not everything goes Anderson’s way. The offense may not score as many points as they do with Anderson on the court, but they don’t give up as many either. With Bass on the floor, the Magic allowed just .98 points per possession and only allow their opponents to post an effective field goal percentage of 41.0%. With Anderson on the floor, the Magic give up 1.13 points per possession and allow opponents to post an eFG% of 45.6%. With Bass on the floor, the Magic also post an eFG% of 48.8% themselves compared to the 46.8% they shoot with Anderson on the court.
It should come as no surprise that the only negative you see in the +/- category above is the only lineup that doesn’t feature Howard and instead uses a tandem of Anderson and Bass, who each consider themselves a center depending on whether or not they are on offense or defense.
When Jason Richardson slides in the three spot alongside J.J. Redick, the Magic offense flourishes. Richardson has always been a very good offensive player and with Redick’s ability to score, it’s easy to see why they score so many points. The same goes with Turkoglu at the four spot. In fact, the Nelson-Redick-Richardson-Turkoglu-Howard lineup averages a team-high 1.33 points per possession and post an impressive effective field goal percentage of 53.5%, which is also a team-high. Unfortunately all three of those players usually give up a lot of size playing out of possession and the defense suffers – that lineup allows opponents to shoot 46.5% (eFG) and gives up 1.15 points per possession. To be fair, they are a +41 for the season.
The Arenas-Redick-Turkoglu-Anderson-Howard lineup is surprisingly efficient. Redick, Anderson and Howard are all efficient players but Arenas and Turkoglu really weren’t this season. In fact, they were the most criticized players on the team throughout the season due to their large contracts and lack of production (especially in the postseason in Turkoglu’s case). They average 1.17 points per possession on 48.8% shooting (eFG). What’s more surprising is the way that lineup defended – they allowed just .96 points per possession.
When the Magic threw Howard, Anderson, Jason Richardson, J.J. Redick and Jameer Nelson out together, they gave up just .91 points per possession and only allowed opponents to post an effective field goal percentage of 37.1%, which is surprising given the defensive reputations of all of those players outside of Howard. Of course, that lineup didn’t spend that much time on the court together.
It’s tough to completely judge some of these lineups that worked out well, but did it in limited minutes. The showings of the starters and immediate reserves are more telling because there is a much bigger sample size.
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and ESPN 1080′s Magic Insider (http://espn1080.com). Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here).