Marc Serota/Getty Images
Somewhere between the Van Gundy firing and the word “blackmail,” it became abundantly clear that Dwight Howard probably isn’t coming back to Orlando next season. This has gone on for too long, with too many superlatives thrown about in the process, and with Dwight’s loyal downright bizarre opt-in episode in March, the Magic have been afforded with a rare second opportunity to play the trade market instead of just watching their superstar leave in free agency.
The future of the rest of the roster, however, is very much in flux. Ryan Anderson has been signed-and-traded for Gustavo Ayon, J.J. Redick got his no-brainer of a guarantee for next season, and Jameer Nelson is fresh off a new, questionable 3 year deal, but their long-term prospects are still completely dependent on the new direction that will eventually be chosen by general manager Rob Hennigan. With Hennigan as much of an unknown as any other portion of the roster, any speculation –- even the kind that shrewdly points to Hennigan’s OKC background and the supposed Presti Teardown Blueprint -– is incredibly premature.
In the meantime, it will be Hennigan’s responsibility to devise a course of action, and subsequently put either an effective or an abjectly horrible team on the floor. And that sort of squad will consist of a completely different make-up than what Magic fans have gotten used to. Howard’s mere presence on the floor significantly alters the style of play of his teammates, and yet, Orlando’s entire roster is working with the market value of Dwight’s teammates. On a team looking at major changes, these disparities between Dwight-inflated value and Dwight-less production can be exploited to bump up from a 32-win team to a 39-win team –- or, conversely, to trade a secondary player for a better asset that will further help a rebuild.
Having said that, here is a look at Orlando’s seven rotation players from last season, and the way they played both with and without Dwight. I set the cut-off at 50 games played, thus conveniently absolving myself of the responsibility to acknowledge Quentin Richardson in now-former head coach Stan Van Gundy’s rotation. So without further ado.
To the naked eye, Big Baby thrived as a starting center and an offensive focal point with Howard out of the picture, averaging 19 points and nine rebounds in the Indiana series. Indeed, the numbers show us a similar picture. Taking Howard out of the lineup coincided with a huge bump in Baby’s usage rate, True Shooting percentage, and rebound percentage, with the only negative coming with a slight bump in turnovers. As for team performance, the expected is once again the truth, as Orlando played much better offensively and much worse defensively with Davis alone instead of Davis and Howard together.
It’s not hard to understand why this is the case –- Davis seems to think he is a decent mid-range shooter, but he is horribly wrong in this regard. Pairing him with Dwight pushes him out of the paint, where his strong build helps him gain position and his surprisingly agile feet lead to a nice little array of moves. Indeed, we can see that Davis shot virtually the same number of mid-range shots with and without Howard, but his shots in the restricted area nearly tripled with him working as an offensive center, with his success rate on those shots going way up as well.
|Dwight On Court||Dwight Off Court|
|Shot Type – Detail||FGM||FGA||FG%||FGM||FGA||FG%|
|In The Paint (Non-RA)||12||29||41.4%||20||54||37.0%|
Davis’ value is much higher as an undersized center than as a roaming power forward; with Dwight on the team, he was more of the latter, which caused a major hit in his production. That Orlando traded for him because Dwight wanted to play with him shows us once again Dwight’s skill at putting together a roster, but he wasn’t wrong in the sense that Davis is a productive player. He could certainly be the sort of guy who can give the team a lot once Dwight leaves, although the new head coach, whoever he may be, will have to think of a way to compensate for his size defensively.