Stan Van Gundy is coaching bad players | Magic Basketball

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Feb 01

Stan Van Gundy is coaching bad players

Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

On Monday in the second quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers, head coach Stan Van Gundy was forced to use a second unit that consisted of Larry Hughes, Von Wafer, Quentin Richardson, Earl Clark, and Glen Davis. Van Gundy briefly utilized that 5-man unit in the fourth quarter as well.

If it hasn’t become clear by now why Dwight Howard wants out or why the Magic aren’t very good at the moment, witnessing Hughes, Wafer, Richardson, Clark, and Davis play on the court at the same time should put things into focus. Orlando is bad because there’s a lot of bad players on the roster right now.

The funny thing is that it wasn’t too long ago when the Magic were one of the deepest teams in the NBA, if not the deepest.

During the 2009-2010 season, Orlando trotted out — by all accounts when looking at the numbers — the best team in franchise history. Literally from top to bottom, the Magic had quality players at each position. The point guards were Jameer Nelson, Jason Williams, and Anthony Johnson. The wing players were Vince Carter, Matt Barnes, J.J. Redick, and Mickael Pietrus. The bigs were Rashard Lewis, Ryan Anderson, Brandon Bass, Dwight Howard, and Marcin Gortat. For Van Gundy, this was Noah’s Ark on steroids — he didn’t have everything in twos, but in threes and fours.

And give general manager Otis Smith credit at the time. With a savvy trade and ownership’s blessing to spend, Orlando was setup nicely that year until they ran into the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Unfortunately for Smith, what he built he also destroyed (with some help from guity parties like the Celtics).

Out went Williams, Johnson, Carter, Barnes, Pietrus, Lewis, Bass, and Gortat. In came Chris Duhon, Hughes, Jason Richardson, Wafer, Hedo Turkoglu, Quentin Richardson, Clark, and Davis. And let’s not forget the Gilbert Arenas experiment either.

In case you’re keeping score, this has what the Magic have become.

2009-2010 G MP PER 2011-2012 G MP PER
J. Nelson 65 1860 15.5 J. Nelson 18 519 9.7
J. Williams 82 1703 12.9 C. Duhon 21 425 9.3
A. Johnson 31 406 12.4 L. Hughes 8 100 -5.6
V. Carter 75 2301 17.1 J. Richardson 17 481 11.8
J.J. Redick 82 1808 15.0 J.J. Redick 21 554 16.4
M. Barnes 81 2097 13.6 V. Wafer 14 179 12.1
M. Pietrus 75 1687 11.9 H. Turkoglu 19 590 13.8
R. Lewis 72 2369 14.0 Q. Richardson 14 227 5.1
R. Anderson 63 910 18.1 R. Anderson 20 598 23.3
B. Bass 50 648 16.5 G. Davis 21 469 8.2
D. Howard 82 2843 24.0 E. Clark 13 121 9.8
M. Gortat 81 1088 13.9 D. Howard 21 785 24.0

Let’s get this out of the way. PER is not an end-all, be-all stat. Like any other linear metric, it has its flaws. That’s why when evaluating a player, it’s best to marry scouting (the eyes) and statistics (the numbers) together. That being said, it’s the advanced statistic that’s probably the most publicly visible. In this case, PER will be used to offer a snapshot look at the transformation of Orlando from an elite team and championship contender to an also-ran.

Warning: it’s not a pretty picture.

In 2010, every player for the Magic was rotation-quality. For example, when Nelson tore his meniscus in his left knee, Williams filled in as the starter, Johnson stepped in as the back-up point guard and Orlando didn’t miss a beat. That type of depth is a luxury any head coach would like to have in the league during the regular season (depth doesn’t matter as much in the playoffs). For Van Gundy, he had a harder time finding minutes for Bass and Anderson as the 10th man in the Magic’s rotation. It was an embarrassment of riches.

Not so much in 2012.

For those that have played more than 100 minutes in the regular season so far, Orlando has six players with PERs under 10 (the league average is 13.8 this season; for those that are curious, the league average was 12.7 in 2010). Six. And in Hughes’ case, he has a PER in the negatives. Oh but there’s more. Granted, he’s played in roughly 300 less minutes this season but Wafer has a higher PER than Jason Richardson. The same Wafer that was a throw-in to the Davis-Bass trade. It’s true that Richardson is nursing a sore knee but still.

Again, PER isn’t perfect. There are other linear metrics out there, like WARP, that are also valuable evaluators of a player’s worth and should be used in conjunction with PER. But let’s liken PER to the first layer of many that reveal the inner-workings of a player or team. In the case of the Magic, it doesn’t take long to realize there are a lot of bad players on the loose. Van Gundy is being forced to use six players that shouldn’t be seeing any minutes.

Not to mention that, in the case of Turkoglu, he’s playing like he doesn’t care right now. As for Howard? It’s more than obvious that he’s regressed compared to last season, whether it’s due to him coasting at times or whatever. As for Anderson and Redick, they’ve played well up to this point but it’s not enough for Orlando to be competitive.

When the Magic were winning, it was because Howard, Anderson, Redick, and Turkoglu were performing close to or up to their standards simultaneously with sporadic support from the others. During Orlando’s recent slide, it’s been Howard and little else. And when Howard’s been bad, you get a 56-point clunker against the Celtics on January 23.

People may want to point the blame on Van Gundy but he didn’t trade away nearly the entire roster or offer 4-year contracts to Jason Richardson and Davis during the offseason (what was the point of the NBA lockout again?). This is the bed Smith has made. Unfortunately for Van Gundy, he has to sleep in it.

Eddy Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.

5 comments
CarloSimone
CarloSimone

Man that 2010 team was gully. Boy do I miss that. Our bench was like a 7-8 playoff seed team. How things change so quickly. I guarantee we can be good again but it's going to take patience. I don't know if this front office has shown that patience at all.

I was watching ESPN First Take (first mistake) the other day and Stephen A. Smith was talking about how much he respected SVG but that he was going to lose his job. I don't care which gods I have to pray to in order for that not to happen but I will slaughter a goat in worship of their awesome power if needs be. Stan has my eternal respect for how well he prepares his teams and how hard he pushes defense, high quality shots and efficiency in his players. Please give this man a team of talented, athletic players with some heart. I promise he won't disappoint.

philrsquared
philrsquared

Needed to be said... Great post, Eddy. Stan Van Gundy is trying to build a house with lincoln logs and sandbox shovels. He needs some bulldozers, wrecking balls and cranes.

JosephC23
JosephC23

Turkoglu was on the team that went to the 2009 NBA Finals vs LA then the dealt him and got him back this past year...go figure.

erivera7
erivera7 moderator

@CarloSimone Agreed. SVG is one of the best coaches in terms of maximizing talent. Unfortunately, there's not much around him now to maximize much of anything.