There’s no question that, barring injury, Rashard Lewis will be in the Orlando Magic’s starting lineup when the regular season begins on Oct. 28.
But at what position will the 6-foot-10 sharpshooter play?
That’s up for grabs.
Coach Stan Van Gundy told the Orlando Sentinel today that perhaps his top task over the next month will be to determine whether the Magic are better off with Lewis at his usual position of power forward or at his natural position of small forward. [...]
Indeed, Van Gundy acknowledged Lewis could start the season opener at small forward.
This is … interesting.
There is a contingent of Magic fans that would jump head over heels if Rashard Lewis was the starter at small forward.
The logic is that the Orlando Magic haven’t been able to win a championship with Lewis at power forward in recent years because they’ve lost to teams in the playoffs that have had superior size, so a solution that’s been discussed tirelessly would be to shift Lewis back to his “natural” position at small forward and go from there. Then either Ryan Anderson or Brandon Bass could start at the power forward position and voila, the Magic would be bigger in the frontcourt. Yes, Marcin Gortat might be a possibility but it’s been proven that he can only coexist with Dwight Howard in spurts, given his inability to space the floor offensively at all.
Problem solved. Right?
This is a type of move with an eye towards the postseason, when the Magic might invariably face off against the Boston Celtics and/or the Miami Heat.
The question is whether or not shifting Lewis at small forward and playing Anderson or Bass at power forward is enough to make a difference in either series? It may work against the Celtics, given that Lewis — despite concerns that he lacks quickness to stay in front of wing players or chase them around screens — would be guarding someone in Paul Pierce that is more crafty than anything else. And even though there would be concerns that Anderson or Bass might not be able to guard Kevin Garnett, he would have the benefit of having Dwight Howard on the weak-side defensively to help if necessary. An additional problem, though, is that Bass is a defensive sieve when it comes to executing schemes so that needs to be taken into account. It’s not so much an issue with Anderson, given that he’s a capable team defender. So there’s that scenario.
As for the Heat, there’s no way that Lewis can defend LeBron James.
The problem is exacerbated when making note that James would likely be assigned to guard Lewis on the other end of the floor. James, by the way, is one of the best defenders in the NBA and after shutting down Pierce in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals, there’s no question that James could do the same to Lewis and eliminate a weapon for the Magic on offense. Then Anderson or Bass would be forced to fend against Chris Bosh, who is a Magic-killer and probably wouldn’t have too many problems scoring on either player. This is a matchup where Lewis has to play at power forward because he’s had success against Bosh in the past, not so much stopping him on offense but more so making an impact offensively. That’s an important distinction because Lewis wouldn’t have anywhere close to the same luck if he was being defended by James.
Clearly, it’s a tough call to make for Van Gundy.
That being said, it’s doubtful that Lewis starts the season at small forward.
The move doesn’t make much sense, especially when considering that the rotation would be different and players like Mickael Pietrus or Quentin Richardson would see a short end of the stick in terms of playing time.
It’s more likely that Lewis sees much more minutes at the small forward position on a situational basis, whenever the matchups are favorable so he can do some damage on the low block.
We’ll see what happens, though.
Ultimately, the key is finding the right balance for Lewis at the forward positions.
Equilibrium is the word.