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July 21, 2009

More on the Magic

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 1:28 am

The NBA moves quickly. Since my column on the Orlando Magic’s offseason was posted this morning, Magic GM Otis Smith has continued to stay busy with the kind of minor moves that can make all the difference between success and failure in the postseason. ESPN’s Marc Stein reported this afternoon that Orlando is close to a two-year deal with forward Matt Barnes, late of the Phoenix Suns. This evening, the Oakland Tribune is reporting that the Magic will also ink point guard C.J. Watson to an offer sheet.

In particular, the Magic looks like it could be getting a bargain should the Warriors decline to match the offer to Watson, a restricted free agent. Flush with lead guards after dealing for Speedy Claxton and Acie Law and drafting Stephen Curry, Golden State may well let Watson walk despite the very reasonable offer.

To the extent I argued that the Magic’s moves weakened the team on the perimeter, that concern would be rectified with the additions of Barnes and Watson. Orlando would be as deep as any team in the league, with an entire 12-player active roster that could reasonably be counted on for rotation minutes. The only real argument you can make at this point is that the Magic would have been better off choosing talent over depth and consolidating that money on re-signing Hedo Turkoglu. Otherwise, it’s a lot of money to spend, but none of it unwisely and not in a way that really limits Orlando’s flexibility.

The other upside of signing Barnes is it makes it less likely that Rashard Lewis plays extensively at small forward. My contention that the Magic is much better with Lewis at the four has been the source of much debate amongst Orlando fans, but ultimately there’s some objective evidence here. Per 82games.com, Orlando outscored opponents by 9.8 points per 100 possessions with Lewis at power forward. When he moved to the three (which was, granted, just 3 percent of the team’s total minutes), that net efficiency margin dropped to 8.1 points per 100 possessions. As you might expect, the Magic defended better with Lewis alongside a true power forward, but Orlando’s Offensive Rating dropped off by 9.3 points per 100 possessions when he played small forward. I stand by the notion that the Magic is a much more dangerous, and a much better, team with Lewis spacing the floor at power forward.

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