Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
|2010-2011 regular season||Brandon Bass|
With every player in the NBA, there are supporters and detractors. Some players have more supporters than detractors and vice-versa.
Then there’s Brandon Bass.
In two seasons with the Orlando Magic, Bass — unbeknownst to him — has inspired fans to either love or hate him. There is no in between. It’s hard to think of a Magic player in recent history that has created more friction in a fanbase than Bass.
Maybe Ryan Anderson.
Why all the commotion about Bass?
For whatever reason, when fans in Orlando watch him play, they harken back to the days of Horace Grant. They see the strength, physique, and nearly automatic mid-range jumper, and it’s automatically assumed that Bass is a new-school Grant. It’s easy to see the connection at first glance, and Grant was the right-hand man for Shaquille O’Neal in the frontcourt during the mid-’90s when the Magic experienced their first period of prosperity as a franchise. Hence there’s an assumption that Bass can fill a similar role alongside Dwight Howard.
Bass isn’t Grant. And quite frankly, it’s rather absurd to compare Bass to Grant, given that there are key differences between the two players. Like the fact that Grant was a better defender. Or the fact that Grant was a better rebounder. Or the fact that Grant was never criticized for being a black hole on offense, knowing his role and sticking with it. There’s a reason why the nickname “no pass Bass” exists and it has nothing to do with not wanting to distribute fish. When Bass receives the basketball at the elbow, unlike Grant, he’s thinking shoot first, shoot second, and shoot third.
This isn’t to say that Bass isn’t a good player because he is, but he’s not a reincarnation of Grant and he’s not a difference-maker for Orlando. When it comes down to it, Bass is nothing more than a role player that should be coming off the bench for an elite team and championship contender. The fact that Bass started most of the year for the Magic says a lot.
At the onset of the year, with Orlando’s logjam at power forward still in existence given that Rashard Lewis was the starter at the time, Bass earned a spot in head coach Stan Van Gundy‘s rotation after showing an improved defensive effort during the preseason. Defense was an achilles heel for Bass last season. Anderson would get the occasional start here and there at the power forward position when Lewis started at small forward, to maintain Van Gundy’s 4-out/1-in philosophy on offense. But Bass was eating up most of the minutes at power forward when Lewis wasn’t playing or at the small forward position. To be honest, there was little to complain about with Bass — he was getting roughly 20 minutes a night and being productive. However, Lewis wasn’t being productive and it became harder for Van Gundy to justify giving him minutes over Bass and Anderson. Eventually, general manager Otis Smith made it easy for Van Gundy and traded Lewis to the Washington Wizards for Gilbert Arenas on December 19, opening the door for Bass to become the starter at power forward with Anderson as the back-up.
Surprisingly enough, the always heated debate between Bass and Anderson ceased momentarily, as both players were getting playing time.
However, as the months went by after Lewis was traded and everyone got to see how Bass and Anderson performed with a near equal amount of minutes, the debates began to crop up again.
Bass finished the regular season relatively strong, scoring in double-figures in 11 of the last 13 games on the schedule. Granted, it’s not all about scoring and Bass faced a number of below-average defenses but it’s worth pointing out.
The problem that Bass encountered, as did most players not named Howard, was that he made a minimal impact in the playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks. In Bass’ case, he did next to nothing offensively thanks in large part to Al Horford’s stellar defense. And if Bass isn’t scoring, he isn’t bringing much else to the table for the Magic. Granted, Bass’ defense — with the help of Howard on the weakside — on Horford was good but again, it never really felt like he was making his presence felt on the floor in each game.
In retrospect, the Hawks were a poor matchup and Bass shouldn’t be singled out for a poor playoff series when he wasn’t the only one in the same boat. That being said, it’s clear that Bass has his limitations and it’s a mistake for Orlando to be relying on him as a starter.
When push comes to shove, size is needed to win a championship in the NBA.
Even though the Magic performed decently enough with Bass as the starter at power forward during the regular season, it’s not about that. It’s about the playoffs and when you look at the Dallas Mavericks, Oklahoma City Thunder, and other elite teams, most of them aren’t starting an undersized power forward. Yes, the Miami Heat relied on 6-foot-9 Joel Anthony at center but he’s one of the better defenders in the league. And the Heat are an exception to the rule when it comes to roster construction. Bass has improved as a defender and that should be duly noted, but he’s 6-foot-8, is a below-average rebounder for his position though he does make up for that shortcoming with his shot blocking and athleticism.
Howard is a great player and he can play alongside anyone, but Bass starting next to him isn’t the answer. Neither is Anderson for that matter.
Bass represents good. Orlando needs better than good.