Will It Be Quentin Richardson or Mickael Pietrus at Small Forward? | Magic Basketball

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Jul 19

Will It Be Quentin Richardson or Mickael Pietrus at Small Forward?

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AP Photo/J Pat Carter

After general manager Otis Smith matched the Chicago Bulls’ offer sheet and re-signed J.J. Redick on Friday, the roster for the Orlando Magic is eerily similar to the one that lost to the Boston Celtics in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals. New additions like Chris Duhon and Quentin Richardson look to carve out their niches in the Magic’s rotation, while rookies Daniel Orton and maybe Stanley Robinson hope to develop behind the scenes. Barring an unforeseen trade, one of the major storylines heading into the 2010-2011 season for Orlando will be a familiar one.

Who will start at small forward for the Magic?

Last year around this time, Matt Barnes signed as a free agent with Orlando and looked to compete for the starting small forward position with Mickael Pietrus. Pietrus, more or less, won the job at the start of the regular season because he was already familiar with head coach Stan Van Gundy‘s plays and schemes. However, many felt that Pietrus was better served coming off the bench for the Magic after he thrived in a sixth man role in the 2009 NBA Playoffs. As a few months passed, Barnes was inserted into the starting lineup because he, among other things, complemented the four All-Stars much better than Pietrus did and things took off for Orlando.

Replace Barnes with Richardson and you have a similar story heading into training camp for the Magic like last off-season. Richardson signed with Orlando because he was going to get a chance to start at small forward.

Should Richardson start?

Yes, he should.

A better player
It’s true that Pietrus has the upper-hand in the discussion, so to speak, since he’s been with the Magic for two years. Likewise, Pietrus is Orlando’s best perimeter defender and will be needed to slow down the likes of LeBron James, Paul Pierce, and others. But Pietrus is going to see plenty of minutes, regardless if he starts or not.

adj. +/- net +/- stat. +/- PER WARP Win Shares/48
Pietrus -9.32 -7.2 -0.36 11.9 -0.1 .103
Richardson +3.30 +6.0 +1.82 12.9 1.4 .133

A starting lineup isn’t necessarily amassing the five best players on the roster but more so, creating a 5-man unit that complements each other. That’s why Barnes started over Pietrus. However, an argument can be made that Pietrus was the superior player between the two.

In this case, Richardson is the better fit and the better player.

Similar talents defensively
Even after recognizing Pietrus’ defensive prowess, Richardson is no slouch on that end of the floor either. Richardson is a physical defender that Orlando needs. Even though the issues with his height at the position that he plays are valid, the Magic aren’t going to lose much by having Richardson on the court as opposed to Pietrus. Neither player is going to make or break Orlando’s defense because Dwight Howard is the best defender in the NBA and he’s the anchor. Players like Pietrus and Richardson are supplements defensively to the big fella.

net def. +/- dMULT opp. PER TRB% STL% BLK%
Pietrus +0.70 0.964 16.2 (vs. SF’s) 7.4 1.6 1.4
Richardson +0.66 1.000 15.8 (vs. SF’s) 10.6 1.8 0.7

In any case, everyone knows what Pietrus is capable of in the Magic’s scheme on defense. When Pietrus’ mind and spirit are in the game at the same time, he is one of the best wing defenders in the league. Unfortunately for Pietrus, too many times he allows his offense to dictate his energy and effort defensively. As for Richardson, no one knows what he’s capable of playing alongside Howard and having the benefit of being more aggressive and physical on defense. It can’t be understated the luxuries that Richardson will have defensively, given that he can afford to gamble a little bit more because he knows that Howard is there on the weak-side to clean up his mistakes. In a sense, the unknown factor favors Richardson in this discussion. Richardson, at best, is an average defender so the comparison between he and Pietrus is a wash.

A superior shooter
As such, the main reason that Richardson should start over Pietrus is because he is a perfect complement to Jameer Nelson, Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, and Howard on offense. It starts with Richardson’s shooting ability. This year with the Miami Heat, Richardson set a career-high by shooting 39.7 percent from the three-point line as opposed to 37.9 percent for Pietrus. It’s fair to question whether or not Richardson will be able to attain that percentage with the Magic, but there’s a good chance he can. It’s ironic that Richardson and Pietrus are 35.9 percent shooters from three-point range for their careers, by the way. Go figure. Either way, Richardson is an upgrade over Barnes because he’s able to shoot threes with great proficiency and he is an upgrade over Pietrus because he’s an efficient player offensively. Plus, Richardson rebounds at a similar rate to Barnes and he takes care of the basketball like Pietrus.

TS% eFG% TRB% AST% TOV% USG% ORtg
Pietrus .555 .540 7.4 4.7 10.5 18.0 106
Richardson .572 .558 10.6 7.0 9.5 14.8 114

Richardson, quite frankly, should have a field day with Orlando because he’ll see a lot of open looks playing with so much talent on offense. Not just receiving kick-outs from Howard on the low block directly or indirectly, of course, but also getting the ball from Nelson’s drive-and-kicks. The lone point of reference with Richardson playing with such a powerhouse offensively is in 2005, when he played with the Phoenix Suns and started alongside the likes of Steve Nash, Joe Johnson, Shawn Marion, and Amar’e Stoudemire. Granted, Phoenix played a much faster pace but Richardson led the league in three-point field goals made and attempted. Richardson’s percentage wasn’t great but it was good. It’s doubtful the same will happen with the Magic, but clearly Richardson thrives in an offense that favors the three-point shot.

Given that Richardson’s usage rate with the Heat was not very high this season, it’s evident that he’s at his best when he’s not using up a ton of possessions as he has in the past. It’s true that, historically, Richardson has never been much of an efficient player but his lone year with the Heat is an excellent indicator that he is capable of being a sharp-shooter that operates efficiently as long as he’s a low-usage player. The key for Richardson is that he needs to stay in shape and keep his weight down, but Orlando’s underrated training staff should be able to help him in that regard.

The downfall of Barnes wasn’t necessarily that he got torched by Pierce in the Eastern Conference Finals. The bigger issue was that Barnes was the weak link in the 4-out/1-in offensive system for the Magic. The Celtics, like other teams in the NBA, knew that they could gamble leaving Barnes open on the perimeter because he was a below-average shooter from beyond the arc. Sure, Pietrus could step in, start, and fix that problem. Pietrus, however, isn’t as efficient as Richardson is. Also, it’s a broken record but Pietrus is better served as a reserve and Richardson has almost always started in the league anyway. It seems like Van Gundy shouldn’t have a hard decision but who knows what he’ll decide when it’s all said and done.

If Richardson can simply duplicate or come close to his numbers with Miami, then the answer becomes clear for Orlando.

10 comments
Sam Millner
Sam Millner

@Francis

Well, if last season is anything to go by, then Van Gundy seemed to favour sliding Vince to 3, because he's also a good finisher, which neither Pietrus nor barnes were. JJ had a much better chemistry with the de facto starting four that Pietrus did, and Van Gundy didn't trust matt so much to make the big play (he was, in his defence, a far superior defender to JJ, which is why he was left out there in the LA game, and made the game-changing 3). I think he'll stick with that. I'd be interested to see him start with Vince at the 3?

Eddy Rivera
Eddy Rivera

@Ruel Zyndrex Abila

Thanks.

I wouldn't expect much from Carter, by the way. Carter is 33, and he's not the player that he once was.

@ted

There's no premiere power forwards readily available, unfortunately.

And even then, I still think the Magic can win the East with Lewis at power forward. It'll be tough to pull off, but it can be done. Against the Heat, especially, the 4-out/1-in alignment will give them some problems since Bosh has had trouble defending Lewis in the past. The Celtics are a different story, but that's a matchup that's winnable.

ted
ted

They have enough shooters with nelson, vince, and lewis. They need another double/double guy. That will allow howard to play the weak side when he's not posting. Who in the league can keep howard off the offensive boards. He'll get 4 or 5 offensive putbacks per game. Lewis is not a 4 and it shows when they play the better teams in the league. Stan hasn't played a true power forward since tony battie was hurt and turk became a starter.

ted
ted

I think lewis should start at 3 and bass at four. I really don't think they can win the east with 4 shooters and 1 post player. Someone else has to become a lowpost threat or play the high post with howard, he can't control the paint by himself against the top teams in the east.

Ruel Zyndrex Abila
Ruel Zyndrex Abila

Yey!~ Let the 3's fly! Hahaha.. I just hope Vince gets his swagger back. I mean I don't think it's the real Vince Carter we have on our team. He must be a clone or something. Maybe a guy from the D-League wearing a Vince mask. The real one must be out there somewhere having a vacation. Hehehe.. Just kidding. You can do it again Vince!

If Richardson could play tough D, then I believe this is an upgrade.

Hey Eddy, just a request. hehe... I hope you could also write about Marcin or Ryan in the coming days. I miss reading stuff about them. I like our role players so much. Hehe.. Anyway, nice read.

Eddy Rivera
Eddy Rivera

@Mikeyho

Yeah, Richardson is a great fit with the starters. His ability to shoot the basketball is what sets him apart from Barnes then and Pietrus now.

@hulKK

Actually, Richardson can't really create off the dribble either. Richardson is as much of a stand-still shooter that Pietrus is, he's just more efficient.

@Francis

A valid question. It depends on the matchups, to be honest.

I agree with @Billy (slickw143). I think we'll see more lineups where Redick is at the 2 and Carter is at the 3. Whether or not they'll finish games in that alignment remains to be seen. It's too early to tell.

Billy (slickw143)
Billy (slickw143)

@Francis
Depends on match-ups and how the game is going. But yeah, JJ will likely be at the 2 with Vince sliding over to the 3 or being subbed for Pietrus if he's outperforming Vince that night in most close games. However, I doubt JJ would be in at the end of a game if we're playing against the Lakers or the Heat or another team with physical, talented players at both the 2 and 3.

Either way, I see Q starting at the 3, moreso because I have yet to see anything to change my mind about the fact Pietrus is a better player coming off the bench. He gets to play with a little more reckless abandon, which is his style.

Francis
Francis

Although this is an interesting article, doesn't it matter more who finishes games? You can let Pietrus or Q play cheater starting minutes, but in the last 6 minutes, who is out there?

I think it will be impossible to keep the efficient JJ Redick off the floor in the final minutes. Then what do you do? Bench Carter? Or slide him to the 3?

hulKK
hulKK

I think Richardson should start because he can create his own shot off the dribble while Pietrus is mainly a catch and shoot type player (Please don't let Pietrus dribble the ball). Anyway a better ball handler means more offensive threat on the kick out. Also if you look at last yrs film of Richardson with the Heat, a lot of his 3 point shots were contested pretty well but he still manage to shoot the 3 at a good percentage. Now he's going to get even more good looks.

Also something that's VERY important that hasn't been noted is Duhon and Quentin's ability to make those tough entry passes to Dwight in post.

Great job Otis.

Mikeyho
Mikeyho

Good. Thanks for the article. About all the right info needed. It should be re-noted most players like this do get better with Dwight and Orlando. I believe Richardson will be in shape for the reasons you wrote in the article.

I think it's good we got such a similar player and look forward to this second year Magic team to gel well. It's also good that Richardson won't be on loan for only a year like all these players who come to the Magic, improve, and cash in somewhere else.

Let's hope he gets the system fast and well. Are team has gotten better each year but I feel like this team again has its best shot at a title.