2. The Trigger-Happy Vince Carter
In 2008-09 in New Jersey, playing with Devin Harris, Brook Lopez and a cast of role players, Carter used 27.0 percent of the Nets' possessions. Having traded in those teammates for three players who were All-Stars a year ago, the seemingly safe assumption was Carter would step into a smaller role. Instead, he's actually using possessions at a higher rate--27.5 percent. It's not as if Carter is shooting so well the Magic feels compelled to go to him time and again. His 49.8 True Shooting Percentage is the worst of his career and also the lowest among Orlando regulars.
Oddly, what is happening with Carter seems to be along the lines of what I feared with the other NBA Finalist. While Ron Artest has sacrificed scoring opportunities to fit in with the L.A. Lakers, Carter is forcing things. He's playing a much bigger role than predecessor Hedo Turkoglu, who used 23.1 percent of the Magic's possessions while on the floor, and Rashard Lewis has complained recently about his lost shot attempts. Other more efficient options, most notably Howard, are also suffering because of Carter's shoot-first mentality.
Take a look at the breakdown of usage and efficiency for Orlando's key players.
Player Usg SORtg
Carter .275 90.6
Anderson .239 103.4
Howard .229 100.5
Nelson .222 89.4
Lewis .203 100.9
Barnes .180 93.3
Pietrus .176 98.5
Redick .173 108.7
Williams .150 94.9
Gortat .133 90.9
That last number is what I call "Simple" Offensive Rating--points scored divided by possessions used. Basically, it's like True Shooting Percentage with turnovers. By this measure, Carter comes out slightly better than Nelson, but it's still clear that something is fundamentally wrong with how Orlando is distributing its possessions. Both Carter and Nelson are getting way too many looks.
Advocating more shots and touches for Howard and Lewis is not exactly like expecting a role player to remain equally efficient when having to create for himself. These players are All-Stars, and both had higher usage rates a year ago. Howard used 26.2 percent of Orlando's possessions in 2008-09, while Lewis was at 22.1 percent. They've proven they can handle a bigger load.
If Carter remains steadfastly unwilling to adjust, at some point Van Gundy may have to consider a lineup change. Carter's high usage would fit in better with the reserves, among whom only the sensational Ryan Anderson uses possessions at an above-average rate. Meanwhile, either J.J. Redick or a bigger wing duo of Matt Barnes and Mickael Pietrus would play complementary roles with the starters. Getting Carter to buy in to such a move might be impossible, but pulling it off could be critical to the Magic's success.
3. I Underrated Hedo Turkoglu
When Orlando let Turkoglu walk as a free agent, replacing him with Carter, I thought it was the right move. Now I'm not so sure, and not just because of the preceding paragraphs. Turkoglu has never rated particularly well by my numbers or most others. Both his per-minute win percentage and PER evaluated him as essentially an average player this season. But the success the Toronto offense has enjoyed since adding Turkoglu, ranking fourth in the league, has made me rethink his value.
In paying tribute to Steve Nash earlier this season, I referenced hoopnumbers.com's breakdown of adjusted plus-minus into the Four Factors at both ends of the floor. Of the top 13 players in adjusted impact on their team's effective field-goal percentage, 11 were All-Stars last year. The 12th is Deron Williams, and I think it's safe to say he belongs in the All-Star category despite the fact that a logjam of point guards in the West has kept him from actually making the team. The last player? Turkoglu, who ranked seventh by increasing his team's eFG% by 1.34 percent while on the floor over the last three seasons when accounting for the quality of his teammates.
What I'm starting to suspect is there is something about how Turkoglu helps an offense that is not picked up by his individual stats. Whether it is because of his versatility, or his ability to run the pick-and-roll, he makes his teammates more efficient without generating a ton of assists or scoring all that efficiently (or that often) himself.
Now, that still doesn't mean letting Turkoglu go was a terrible move. The five-year contract he got from the Toronto Raptors will take him through age 35 and could get ugly on the back end. Also, Carter ranks 16th on the same list of adjusted eFG%, so Orlando should be deriving a similar benefit from his presence. Still, there is some statistical evidence to explain why the Magic would miss Turkoglu.