With so much depth on the Orlando Magic roster, Coach Frank Vogel has to figure out the best distribution of minutes. The first preseason game against the Memphis Grizzlies gave us a look at one of his options.
The starting lineup used in the Magic’s first preseason game was solid finishing out last season(19 games together). The bigger reason for the teams disappointing season was the bench. During the offseason the Orlando Magic acquired some key pieces to help solve the issue of balance throughout the roster. Because of the new additions, the competition for minutes has gotten a lot tougher.
The debate still rages somewhat on whether Nikola Vucevic should start over Bismack Biypmbo. Jonathon Simmons has made it known that he wants to be a starter on this team which puts pressure on Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross. The addition of Shelvin Mack will keep DJ Augustin on his toes and Aaron Gordon has to be wary of Jonathan Isaac waiting behind him. One way to resolve the battle for minutes is for Frank Vogel to institute a platoon system to rotate lineups. Vogel used this a little during the game against the Memphis Grizzlies. If you are unfamiliar with this concept let me explain.
The starting five of Elfrid Payton, Evan Fournier, Terrence Ross, Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic would always be on the court together (for the most part). When substitutions are made the entire lineup would get substituted instead of just 1 or 2 players at a time. For instance, DJ Augustin, Jonathon Simmons, Mario Hezonja, Jonathan Isaac and Bismack Biyombo would all sub in at the same time. Once that unit needs a break the first unit would come back in. An example of this is the 2014-15 University of Kentucky Wildcats Men’s Basketball team. Coach John Calipari has since stated he will not go back to the platoon system. Many believe his reason for abandoning the system is related to recruiting, not the teams success.
Reasons to Platoon
At the moment the Magic do not have clear cut starters locked in. Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon may be the closest ones to a secure spot but even they were benched by Vogel for stretches last season. Using a platoon system helps to distribute minutes more evenly and gives players an opportunity to show what they can do.
In addition to the fair spread of minutes, the Magic would benefit to have an entire unit come in fresh while opponents may have 2-3 players on the floor that need a break. Not many teams have enough depth to replace entire lineups. This will cause matchups to be disrupted and possibly force opponents to sub when they are not ready. Another benefit to the platoon system is building chemistry within those units. The current starting five has a bit of chemistry carried over from last season and it shows. Being able to build that chemistry on the second unit would be a little easier if they played all their minutes together.
Like everything there can always be room for improvement. The Orlando Magic have 82 games to play in the season. Within the first quarter of the season Coach Vogel can experiment with these lineups until he gets the perfect balance. Maybe Jonathon Simmons would work better in the first unit. Maybe Shelvin Mack should run the second unit tonight. Vogel can match his lineups to get an advantage on the opponent. The groups don’t have to be set for the entire season, they can change game to game if needed.
Reasons Not to Platoon
In the case that it’s just not going well for Terrence Ross on a given night it would be foolish to leave him in the game to get taken advantage of. On the flip side, if Ross is having a monster game you wouldn’t take him out. Subbing him out to replace other guys that aren’t getting it done wouldn’t make sense. The only other negative of running the rotations this way is players might not like it.
For someone like Jonathon Simmons who signed with Orlando so that they can blossom, having to share minutes isn’t optimal. For guys looking to have great stats or make an All-NBA team they need more time on the court. Most professional athletes say winning comes first, so the stats and minutes shouldn’t matter if the team is winning. The Magic have a good group of guys who are being overlooked. They all want to be winners and turn the franchise around. If a platoon system can do that, the ego’s shouldn’t be an issue after all, but it could be.
That’s it. That’s all I got for reasons not to use the platoon system. The Magic have a ton of depth. Frank Vogel will have his work cut out for him deciding who should start and how minutes are distributed. At least for the first month or two the Orlando Magic should give equal playing time using the platoon system. Until someone makes it clear that they are the better option, making substitutions this way would be beneficial to Orlando.