Stan Van Gundy: Lucky, brilliant, or both? | Magic Basketball



Jan 18

Stan Van Gundy: Lucky, brilliant, or both?

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

With injuries to both stars and role players plaguing the league, I wonder if Orlando is lucky to be close to full strength 13 games into the season. I mean everyone has injuries, right? So what gives? Is Orlando lucky, or are they well coached?

Stan Van Gundy, though working with a less-than-lethal roster, is doing some clever coaching this season. We know all about Van Gundy’s defensive schemes, his offensive genius, and his ability to inspire — but another layer of the Van Gundy onion is seen in his ability to manage minutes on this sub-standard roster.

In this season, more than others in recent history, minute distribution is of the utmost importance, because unless you are named Dwight Howard (or Superman or Captain America), you’ll be hard pressed to log 37-40 minutes per game in this bang-bang season and not pull a hammy (or get trench toe).

So it’s not so surprising that an astute veteran like SVG would make adjustments for the shortened season. In fact, the lowering of minutes is not uncommon league-wide. But what SVG is getting, and perhaps better than other coaches in the league thus far, is productivity and efficiency from unpredictable guys in the context of minute shaving.

Look at Ryan Anderson as a great example. Anderson’s minutes are up from his previous year (he’s close to 30 minutes per game as opposed to 22 or 23) as a starter. Guess what else went up for Anderson? His points, rebounds, and virtually every other stat.

So what we’re seeing is SVG using Anderson to preserve legs elsewhere (Glen Davis, for example), but simultaneously getting extra production on the offensive and defensive ends. Part of the equation here is having a guy who you can trust with more minutes, though. Not every team has a Ryan Anderson — a guy who had the game to expand if he were given more minutes.

Now look at what Vinny Del Negro is doing with the Clippers right now. They don’t have a guy like Ryan Anderson who can take minutes from the starters. So Del Negro has to push and push and push guys like Chris Paul until guess what happens? Tweeked the hammy, bro. Too bad. The Clippers currently have five guys averaging above 30 minutes per game, topped by Griffin and Paul, who each average 37. To contrast, the Magic only have two guys averaging above 30 minutes per game — Turkoglu and Howard.

That’s the difference at the early stages of this young season. Van Gundy surely understands this, and so long as he can keep getting production from Anderson, Turkoglu, and Redick, things should be fine.

It’s clear that balance is the key. Thus, you have to have a semi-balanced roster to pull this off. Redick is filling minutes, Anderson has stepped into some more minutes, Glen Davis is logging some time, and so on. This allows Jameer, J-Rich, and Turkoglu to cut back a bit and preserve their bodies.

The big question is what happens when these guys stop producing at this stellar clip? The responsibility will fall back to Jason Richardson and Jameer Nelson, for one thing. J-Rich averaged close to 35 minutes per game last year with Orlando. This year he’s a hair under 30. So a lot could change for this Magic team if he doesn’t improve but is forced to start seeing more minutes.

Similarly, Jameer has been off to a slow and unprecedented start. Chances are he’ll bounce back, but hopefully before the probable shrinkage from Anderson.

The best part about how things are working for Van Gundy right now is that legs are being preserved, injury is being avoided, and the team is winning games. So at the very least, at this rate the Magic might be one of the healthier teams heading into the playoffs. So is it luck? Sort of, yeah. It’s nice to get such production out of Anderson, to be sure. But it’s more than just that. Van Gundy has a hawks eye on the future of this season, and he’s doing everything he can to maximize the Magic chances in the postseason. For now, it’s working.

Nate Drexler is a contributing writer for Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.


I agree that SVG's done a good job of maintaining productivity while limiting minutes, but is there any concern that Dwight's minutes are still very high, especially in the condensed season?

erivera7 moderator

@markthiell Dwight's one of the few players that can handle the workload.


I wouldn't say that they're lucky but I think the players producing has a lot more to do with it. SVG has always had smart rotations and he's an intelligent coach. That's been a constant. The problem last year is that Turk wasn't doing what he was supposed to and Arenas was completely lost. This year, the players are sticking to the game plan for the most part. Even Davis started out the season looking like he was going to be a real problem but he and SVG worked out a plan and he's looked much more productive in a short amount of time. Credit goes to Davis for realizing how he could best be utilized and to SVG for knowing how to implement him in the first place. That goes for much of the rest of the roster as well.


I also think hes made a decision to go with a small rotation, usually no more than eight players, bc he trusts them and knows how important it is to win games early in the season to keep dwight. At some point, he's going to have to throw the rookies into the mix and see what they can do. Lets see if Liggins can turn into a stopper, lets see if Harper can sub in for turk or anderson and move big baby to the 5 spot so he can post up more.

SouthSydeEnt 1 Like

When J Rich is back healthy, he needs to start coming off the bench. He's not consistently productive enough to warrant starter time or minutes. He could however be one of those potentially offensive boosts off the bench, with J.J. providing the steady eddie play game in and game out.


Your article is a little confusing in that it seems to imply that Anderson isn't a starter.


@JasonCrispell Only implying that Anderson is averaging (as a starter) more minutes than in previous seasons. And as evidenced by other teams around the league, being a starter doesn't mean you get 30 minutes per game.