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Fact or Fiction presents both sides of key issues the Orlando Magic will face in the upcoming season.
J.J. Redick will be the starting shooting guard by the beginning of the playoffs.
If J.J. Redick is starting for the Orlando Magic at the shooting guard position on the eve of the 2011 NBA Playoffs, then one of three things probably occurred: Vince Carter a.) slid over to the small forward position, b.) was traded, or c.) was benched.
There are other possibilities, as well, but there’s no point getting bogged down in semantics.
It’s highly unlikely that any of those scenarios occur for the Magic but if one of them is somewhat plausible, it’s Carter switching to small forward to allow Redick to start at shooting guard (he also could be traded during the season, but it’s difficult to speculate).
In the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics, head coach Stan Van Gundy did not hesitate to put Redick and Carter on the court together at the same time to improve an offense that was struggling to score points on a consistent basis. When Redick was in the game playing alongside the starters, he made a positive impact as opposed to Matt Barnes.
If Van Gundy wasn’t afraid to play Redick and Carter at the wings in high-pressure situations against the Celtics, then what’s preventing him from making a permanent change this season?
A lot of things, actually.
On the surface, tabbing Redick as a starter seems like a good idea. Redick is no longer a liability on defense, which is what held him back from earning more playing time in the past, and he proved to be one of the most efficient players in the NBA last year. There’s no doubt, given Redick’s production in 2010, that he is a starting-caliber player. And for some people, there is a growing sentiment that Redick needs to start since he’s slated to earn more money now.
But there are some issues that crop up.
First, when looking ahead to the postseason strictly in the Eastern Conference, it’s going to be a tall order to ask Redick defend someone like Dwyane Wade. Again, Redick is not a pushover defensively but Wade is a top five player and the best shooting guard in the league. Sure, Redick has proven that he can hold his own defending Ray Allen and that’s not the issue here. However, in a matchup against the Miami Heat where Orlando’s margin for error is microscopic, asking Redick to guard Wade for extended periods of time is a problem. Again, this isn’t an indictment on Redick’s abilities on defense but it speaks more to Wade’s tremendous skill-set. Even if the Magic were somehow able to get past the Heat in a series to decide the East crown in that alignment, the odds are high that Redick would be matched up against Kobe Bryant in the NBA Finals. Yikes.
Second, Carter would be moving to small forward and that would not be very beneficial for Orlando’s defense. Carter has never proven in his career that he can defend small forwards, and there’s little evidence that would indicate he could do it at this juncture. If it’s wise to primarily construct a team around defense in hopes of maximizing the chances of winning a championship, then it would be counterproductive for the Magic to gain a small boost on offense only to have any gains nullified by a weaker unit defensively. This has been stated before but if Orlando wants to win a title, it has to be with defense. Unfortunately for the Magic, lining up Redick and Carter at the wing positions isn’t going to cut it on that end of the floor. Plus, instructing Carter to try to slow down Paul Pierce and LeBron James from scoring at will is no good.
For all his faults as a player, Carter can defend shooting guards. Small forwards, not so much.
When it comes to the current personnel on the roster, starting Redick and Carter may pan out okay in the regular season and maybe against the Celtics in the playoffs, but the pairing wouldn’t fare well versus the Heat (or the Los Angeles Lakers, for that matter).
Like it or not, Miami is the team to beat in the East and Orlando needs to max out their efforts defensively this year if they want to overtake their in-state rivals.
With all due respect to Boston, of course.
There’s no problem with playing Redick and Carter in tandem with each other in spurts here and there, but that’s it. Starting Redick and Carter would make the Magic worse on defense, making the road to a title that much more difficult.
It’s already difficult as it is.