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John Schuhmann

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Magic coach Stan Van Gundy is still in the process of figuring out which lineups work best for Orlando.
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Numbers show Magic have room for improvement


Posted Jan 1 2011 11:00AM

Seven games are just seven games, but things are looking pretty good for the new Orlando Magic right now. After shaking up their roster and losing their first two games with their four new faces, the Magic have rolled off five straight wins, including victories over the best team in each conference.

With the additions of Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu, the trades were expected to make the Magic stronger offensively. But with the departures of Mickael Pietrus and Marcin Gortat, the Orlando defense was expected to suffer.

Thus far though, the Magic have been better on both ends of the floor than they were before the trades. They've won games with both offense (scoring 123 points against the Spurs) and defense (holding the Celtics to 78).

The winning streak has kept the Magic in the top four in the East and within striking distance of the second-place Heat and third-place Bulls. And a look at the numbers shows that Orlando can still get much better.

Magic efficiency with new roster
Games Pace Off. Eff. Def. Eff. Diff.
First 26 92.8 104.8 99.4 5.4
Last 7 96.2 106.6 97.8 8.8
Totals 93.5 105.2 99.0 6.2
Off. Eff. = Points scored per 100 possessions Def. Eff. = Points allowed per 100 possessions

After the trades were made and physicals were passed, Stan Van Gundy decided on a new starting lineup of Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, Brandon Bass and Dwight Howard. And though Van Gundy left open the possibility of making changes in the future, that lineup has started six of the Magic's seven games since their new players have been in uniform, including all five on their current winning streak.

But the Magic are winning despite their new starting lineup, not because of it. The new Orlando starting lineup is already the team's second most used lineup of the season, but it's been outscored by 25 points in 76 minutes.

The Magic are a plus-8.8 per 100 possessions overall in the last seven games, but their starting lineup is a minus-16.4. It's been awful offensively, scoring just 93.3 points per 100 possessions. And it's been almost as bad defensively, allowing 109.7.

The struggles of the new Magic don't stop there. Of their new five-man units, the one with the next most minutes together (35) is Nelson, J.J. Redick, Jason Richardson, Turkoglu and Howard. That unit has been outscored by 12.3 points per 100 possessions, mostly because it's been beyond awful defensively, allowing 128.4.

Beyond those two units, however, things get much better. And an increase in pace may be a key to the team's more potent offense. Arenas is shooting just 36 percent as a member of the Magic, but he's a plus-66 in 172 minutes off the bench.

If the starting lineup continues to struggle -- the Magic have been outscored in five of the six first quarters the lineup has started -- then Van Gundy may have to make a change.

With Bass at power forward, Orlando has one less shooter on the floor than has been typical over the last few years. But Bass was a part of a unit that played well before the trade. Nelson, Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, Bass and Howard were a plus-26.0 in 71 minutes together this season. The key difference between that unit and the current starting lineup is that Turkoglu handles the ball from the three spot and is used to having Lewis at the four in this offense.

A year ago at this time, Van Gundy settled on a new starting lineup, replacing Pietrus with Matt Barnes at small forward. The Magic took off after the change and the new lineup was the best starting unit in the league last season.

This year, with Quentin Richardson replacing Barnes, the Magic's starting lineup for most of the team's first 25 games wasn't nearly as good. Of the 55 lineups in the league that had played at least 100 minutes together through Thursday, the Magic's pre-trade starting lineup ranked 43rd offensively and 37th overall, getting outscored by a point per 100 possessions.

The new starting lineup has been much worse. But if it starts to improve as it plays more minutes together, or if Van Gundy goes with a more effective unit to start games, the Magic will have a chance to climb back up the standings.

All numbers are through Thursday, Dec. 30 and were compiled with the help of the NBA and StatsCube.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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