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There’s been a lot of talk about Dwight Howard‘s improvements on offense and the praise is well-deserved, but there’s another player for the Orlando Magic that has improved this year as well. So far, at least.
His name is Brandon Bass.
Bass received a lot of criticism last season for several reasons.
First, Bass was not a natural fit in the Magic’s 4-out/1-in offensive scheme, given that his game on offense centered around the mid-range jumper. And as efficient as Bass was with his jumpshot, he wasn’t a more potent option offensively than Rashard Lewis or Ryan Anderson because he wasn’t, and still isn’t, a three-point shooter. As such, Bass had to make up for his stunted level of production on offense in another way. Second, and this segues to the next point, Bass’ defense wasn’t very good. Bass made it tough for Van Gundy to utilize him on the floor because Bass would routinely miss rotations, display a lack of awareness with his positioning on the court, and blow pick and roll coverages. There’s more, but that’s a start. Another problem was that Bass was barely above the league-average in total rebound rate. Although Bass had a knack for crashing the offensive glass, that veracity didn’t translate to the other side of the ball. Because of all these factors, Bass didn’t play a lot and that irked a lot of Magic fans that wanted to see him play.
Thing is, the only way that could happen was for Bass to improve on his defending and rebounding responsibilities. Then, and only then, would Bass merit the playing time that he desired. It’s the same thing that J.J. Redick had to deal with a few years ago when he was trying to get off the bench and make an impact.
Van Gundy gave Bass a simple task — improve on defense, rebound the basketball better, and he’ll play more.
Needless to say, Bass has answered the call. Certainly it’s helped, also, that Van Gundy is utilizing Lewis more at the small forward position, which has allowed Bass to get more minutes than he may have gotten last season.
But still, Bass’ improvement defensively is borderline astounding.
That’s not hyperbole.