Orlando Magic's Big Questions at the Four Spot

Wil BradleyCorrespondent IJune 10, 2010

ATLANTA - MAY 08:  Marcin Gortat #13 of the Orlando Magic against the Atlanta Hawks during Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on May 8, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Like most sports, the NBA consists of two seasons—the regular season and the playoffs. The NBA's post-season differs from its regular season, perhaps more than any other sport.

Take a look at the past two seasons. The team with the best regular season record, has not reached the NBA Finals.

In the NBA playoffs, games tend to slow down, and open looks for jump shooters become much more scarce. Defense dominates. Getting shots in the paint becomes a premium.

Not just because of the increased field goal percentage, but also because of the increased free throw opportunities.

For the Magic, two consecutive 59 win seasons, fostered hope that the post-season would end in a championship.

Needless to say, that never came to fruition.

The Magic's most glaring weakness has been a lack of toughness and ability to bang on the inside. Many believe improved play from the power forward position—meaning a more traditional four man, would increases the chances for post-season success.

Based upon the current roster, that may not be the answer the Magic want. Head coach Stan Van Gundy gained two new weapons at power forward this past season.

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Brandon Bass, a free agent pick-up from Dallas, created excitement that the Magic had finally found a true four. Van Gundy confounded many onlookers when Bass played very few minutes during the season.

Then the Magic acquired Ryan Anderson via the Vince Carter trade. Anderson surprised many early in the season with his ability to shoot from long range. His three-point shooting made him attractive to Van Gundy, who began working him into the rotation.

Reserve center Marcin Gortat, has stated he may skip the FIBA World Championships this summer, to work on his mid-range shooting. He wants more playing time. He knows Dwight Howard owns the center position, and more playing time will come as a forward than as a center.

General manager Otis Smith could find an option via free agency or trade. That would seem more difficult considering the Magic's contract and salary situation.

Ultimately, Van Gundy could make the discussion moot. If he stays dedicated to his offensive philosophy, we'll still see Rashard Lewis at the four.

As of this moment, shooting carries a higher premium than inside play for the Magic.  Sticking with the current philosophy, changes would come at the wing.

Finding a two guard who could play the point in relief, shoot and create shots would help maintain the team's current style of play—mainly by keeping Lewis, a shooter, at the four spot.

When Smith acquired more big bodies during the off-season, many thought the Magic had already committed to a more traditional inside game—the season proved otherwise.

A very disappointing series against the Boston Celtics, reinvigorated discussions about adding another inside weapon. Conventional wisdom says, a big forward with a mid-range jumper could help clear the lane for Howard.

Van Gundy's offensive scheme should accomplish the same results. In theory, outside shooting keeps the lane open for Howard.

In the last two seasons, the team's shooting let the coach down.

We've even seen shooters as great as Ray Allen and Kobe Bryant struggle with their shots. It's been the play of the Lakers' bigs, that has given them the edge in this year's NBA Finals.

If statistics influence offensive choices, history dictates that teams that rely on the three don't win championships—we all remember the Phoenix Suns.

The Dallas Mavericks slightly changed their approach, looking to score more in the paint.

That said, one must wonder if Van Gundy would willingly change his approach. Willingness to change could hinge on how much Gortat, Andersen, or Bass improve.

Van Gundy could be also be influenced by who Smith potentially attracts via free agency or trade. Acquiring Amar'e Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, or David Lee, would put more pressure on the head coach to utilize such an effective weapon.

Because expectations for the Magic have risen to championship level, fifty-nine win seasons will no longer keep fans satisfied.

More will be made of player performances and coaching decisions during the next season than in the past.

As the 2010-11 season progresses, be sure Orlando fans will scrutinize play from the four.

If the season ends without a title, the second guessing will begin with the four.