2009-2010 Player Evaluation: Rashard Lewis | Magic Basketball

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Jun 10

2009-2010 Player Evaluation: Rashard Lewis

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Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Synergy-fueled player evaluations, with the help of other metrics, are always fun.

Today, the power forwards.

2009-2010 regular season Rashard Lewis
Games Played 72
Minutes Played 32.9
adj. +/- -6.31
net +/- -0.8
statistical +/- +1.74
PER 14.0
WARP 2.5
Win Shares/48 .132





This needs to be stated right off the bat.

Rashard Lewis‘ demise, or whatever you want to call it, has been greatly exaggerated. Yes, Lewis had his plate full in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals … not only having to try to score on Kevin Garnett, easily one of the best defenders in NBA history, but also deal with flu-like symptoms that zapped him of his energy at the start of the series. People want to rant and rave about Lewis’ struggles offensively but they completely ignore the fact that Lewis more than held his own defensively against Garnett. The same Garnett that had his way against Antawn Jamison in the Conference Semifinals. Jamison is widely known as a defensive sieve and sometimes so is Lewis but he shouldn’t be labeled that, because he’s not. Everyone also assumes that Lewis at the four ultimately fails because he gets exposed against other superior power forwards. That’s not entirely true. For example, Lewis had his way offensively in the 2009 NBA Finals playing at the stretch four when he was being defended by Pau Gasol. However, it wasn’t until Lamar Odom was matched up against Lewis that the tables turned. And the thing is, Odom is one of only a handful of players that can effectively defend Lewis. As for Gasol, he is arguably the most offensively skilled big man in the league. Lewis isn’t the only player that can’t stop Gasol. Matchups, not philosophies, are what allowed the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers to prevail over the Orlando Magic in the last two postseasons when it comes down to it.

The Magic’s issues aren’t with Lewis. People look at Lewis’ numbers this year and freak out, but they’re looking at the wrong stats. If you compare Lewis’ per 36 splits in 2009 and 2010, the only major differences are his shot attempts, which explains the decrease in scoring, and rebound totals. Those are some of the same reasons why Lewis’ PER dipped. Other than those two things, Lewis produced exactly the same as he did last year. Lewis’ statistics support this, given that his advanced shooting percentages and Offensive Rating were all basically the same last year and this year. Even the dip in his total rebound percentage and assist percentage shouldn’t be seen as that big of a deal, in the sense that those particular numbers have been as low, if not lower, when Lewis was playing with the Seattle SuperSonics in his prime. To be frank, there’s almost nothing that stands out from Lewis’ statistics that should sound the alarm for Magic fans. Is Lewis a poor rebounder? Yes, but it makes no difference when Orlando can counteract this phenomena with the best rebounder in the league — Dwight Howard.

Lewis’ dip production-wise can also be explained by the fact that he became, more or less, the fourth option on offense this season. In Lewis’ first two years with the Magic, he was almost always the third option and wouldn’t disappear as much in games because he was relied upon more. This year, with the arrival of Vince Carter as well as the infusion of more talent coming off the bench, Lewis was proned to vanish in games simply because he wasn’t getting the ball as much as he used to. For instance, Lewis’ usage rate this season was the lowest its been since 2001. Again, Lewis’ “failures” are a product of his environment. Anyone who stated that Lewis regressed this year offensively has little to no evidence to support their argument. None.



Via Synergy Sports Technology:

2009-2010 regular season Time Poss. PPP* Rank Rating
OVERALL OFFENSE 100% 992 1.02 85% Excellent
Spot-Up 42.9% 426 1.22 96% Excellent
Post-Up 12.4% 123 0.94 74% Very Good
Isolation 11.3% 112 1.06 95% Excellent
Transition 10.3% 102 0.96 18% Below Average


TS% eFG% TRB% AST% TOV% USG% ORtg
.573 .539 7.8 7.4 10.9 19.4 111

Offense
As he’s almost always been, Lewis was a shooting machine this season. Say what you will about Lewis as a player, but he can flat-out shoot the ball for a man his size. That’s why Lewis is the best stretch four in the NBA, because his ability to shoot such a high volume of threes at such an efficient rate is practically unrivaled.

But let’s talk about Lewis’ post-up ability.

Umm, Lewis needs to post up more. Does that mean that Lewis should move to small forward to expedite the process of moving him closer to the basket? Not necessarily. Head coach Stan Van Gundy just needs to make a concerted effort to utilize Lewis’ skills on the low block. These are tools that are being neglected and if there’s one thing that Orlando has failed to do with Lewis is that they’re not making enough use of his ability to post up. Of course, there’s a reason why this has been the case. Howard’s presence in the lane has a lot to do with it. There’s only so much room in the paint for two post players. However, if the Magic need to run 3-out/2-in offensive sets so that Lewis can do some damage on the low block, so be it. Because Lewis is such a threat with his back to the basket, even with the spacing being compromised a little bit, if defenders try to double-team him, he can simply dump it to Howard in the post or kick it out to the shooters on the perimeter. Lewis can really pass the ball out of the post, in case people didn’t know.

The moral of the story is that everyone knows Lewis can shoot, but everyone seems to forget he can play big when he needs or wants to.



Via Synergy Sports Technology:

2009-2010 regular season Time Poss. PPP* Rank Rating
OVERALL DEFENSE 100% 898 0.88 54% Good
Spot-Up 33% 296 0.84 84% Excellent
Isolation 18.3% 164 0.98 22% Below Average
Post-Up 16.9% 152 0.93 39% Average
P&R Ball Handler (Big Defender) 16.1% 145 0.98 26% Below Average


net def. +/- dMULT opp. PER TRB% STL% BLK%
-0.51 1.068 17.0 (vs. PF’s) 7.8 1.7 0.9

Defense
This has been mentioned already, but one of the reasons why playing Lewis at power forward works is because he’s become a solid defender. For many years, Lewis was a poor defender at small forward with the Sonics because of his lack of quickness hurting his ability to close out on shooters or chase players around screens. Yet with Lewis at power forward, his speed issue becomes irrelevant since he’s usually dealing with slower-footed power forwards that can’t beat Lewis off the dribble. Even though Lewis is slim for his size, he does have the strength and length to combat others at the power forward position. Once in a while, Lewis will face someone like Gasol and be bested but that happens. Lewis can be a net positive defensively at power forward. The same simply can’t be said about Lewis at small forward, and there’s years of data proving that last point.

Closing thoughts
The debate behind whether or not Lewis should play power forward or small forward has been the loudest its ever been in Orlando. People have picked both sides of the argument but unfortunately, no one will know what will happen with Lewis’ position until next season rolls around.

Despite all the banter surrounding Lewis, he had a good year for the Magic. Lewis always does what is asked of him, and the same was the case this season. Lewis did eventually meet his match in the Conference Finals but other than that, he continued to succeed in his role as the premiere stretch four in the league.

*points per possession

Grade: B

12 comments
C.J.
C.J.

@Billy (slickw143)

I don't know if that ISO stat is worth much. I'm fairly certain the only times Lewis had ISO was when Carter was off the floor, since most ISO plays seem to go through him.

My biggest qualm is just how he compared to the Bass/Anderson combo that worked so well while he was suspended. Anderson averaged 16 and 8 over the first 10 games in the starting position. While Anderson isn't playoff-tested and is very inexperienced, he started for the Nets (before they were the worst team) and had great efficiency.

Lewis's net stats are horribly buffed because of Howard. Unless these defensive scenarios don't count help defense, I can't accept this data. That's the downside of playing on a great team. Your stats and outlook either take a huge rise or a huge hit.

I agree with Eddy Rivera; he has to stay at the 4, because he can't be a liability against strong wing players. Perimeter defense is what makes a strong 3 defender. While these players will still score, forcing them to take bad shots from the outside or limiting their points to under 30 makes it easier to win. I'd like him to pull down around 7+ a game.

I think a good rotation will boost his usage; if you split the minutes better so that Anderson/Bass plays more, you can pop a better rested Lewis in at the 3 for an offensive boost while the wing player is on the bench.

Either way, he's not going to the 3 full-time, and Van Gundy will have to find better ways to make him useful.

Eddy Rivera
Eddy Rivera

@Eyriq

You make some valid points, but I still have reservations about Lewis' defense on the perimeter. Howard can't clean up everything.

Eyriq
Eyriq

@Eddy Rivera

His offensive impact has dropped off at the 4, as has his usage. At the 3 he could be utilized in the post more like you said, only with greater effectiveness due to his size advantage. In terms of the correlation between his offense declining per his defensive assignments becoming more burdensome, I don't see it. He did just fine offensively while guarding wing players in Seattle. All possible reasons to fear the switch, but none of them are empirically supportable.

Eddy Rivera
Eddy Rivera

@Eyriq

It's the degree by which they would be successful. That's the issue. Plus, Lewis would risk falling into foul trouble more often playing at small forward with the hand-checking rule -- he doesn't have that issue as much guarding power forwards. Lastly, Lewis' offense would be affected more because he'll be expending more energy trying to guard players like LeBron James and others.

Eyriq
Eyriq

@Eyriq

Err, I meant hollow, lol. Though I guess the tenacity with which we hold to the "Lewis is a defensive liability" belief either word would work. It has become a mantra.

Eyriq
Eyriq

Talking about the team talent, not NBA talent. We've got Pietrus who is a wing player and not a true SF, while we've got Anderson and Bass who both have starting talent. Simple analysis of the personnel under contract right now. As for Lewis's defense, since when have we EVER been able to stop "LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Paul Peirce, and a bevy of other players at small forward"? I'll tell you when, never. That Lewis would be a defensive liability is a hallow argument imo.

Eddy Rivera
Eddy Rivera

@Eyriq

Lack of talent at the three? LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and a bevy of other players at small forward would eat Lewis alive.

Billy (slickw143)
Billy (slickw143)

@Eyriq
It doesn't make sense if he can't play D at the 3. He's not getting any faster. Rashard guarding guys like LeBron or Carmelo is a hilarious concept.

Eyriq
Eyriq

Considering the abundance of talent at the 4 and the relative lack at the 3, it just makes sense that this year could be his transition year.

Eddy Rivera
Eddy Rivera

@Billy (slickw143)

Yeah, that number did jump out at me. I knew that Lewis was effective in isolations, given that he uses his jab-step effectively but yeah ... it was surprising to see how effective he was.

@magicfaninTN

Thanks.

Not sure how I would have graded him if Lewis demanded the basketball more, though I wouldn't have blamed him if he did it. In some ways, I'd encourage it. It's tricky, though, because like you said, he would have been labeled a chucker. The thing is, Lewis is probably the Magic's most unselfish player when you think about what he's sacrificed to make everything work, so I think he deserved to be entitled to a few more shots.

magicfaninTN
magicfaninTN

If he had demanded the ball more, he'd be looking at a B+ or A-? Passivity seems to hurt him. On the other hand, he would have no doubt been labeled a chucker or a ballhog or disruptive or something similar.

Great evaluation.

Billy (slickw143)
Billy (slickw143)

I was surprised at the Iso effectiveness. I knew he was a decent player in that situation, but 95% percentile? Very awesome.