Injuries are certainly not an excuse. Every team deals with injuries (Toronto was without Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon in yesterday's Orlando loss) at some point. While they may never be this bad or hit one position as hard (especially on teams with title aspirations who have players willing to play through minor pain), they are not an excuse. It is a fact of the 82-game season.
Every player -- yes, even Chris Duhon -- add some value to the team. And taking out any rotation player is going to throw things in flux.
But, JJ Redick though might be more important than we initially realized.
Redick has missed the last 12 games (nearly a month) since injuring a muscle in his abdomen while trying to rotate out to a shooter during the team's walkthrough before the loss to Golden State. In that time Orlando has gone 7-5. Not a horrible record, but the play during that time has been extremely inconsistent, culminating in Sunday's uninspired loss.
Redick should be getting some notice for Most Improved Player of the Year (along with Ryan Anderson, according to Basketball-Reference). He has been one of the more important players on the team. He is averaging a career-high 10.1 points per game and is shooting 39.7 percent 3-point field goal shooting and 53.8 percent effective field goal percentage. He has a 12.8 PER this year, according to Basketball-Reference.
Redick is not having his best statistical season, but he is getting the playing time and has the trust of Stan Van Gundy. Van Gundy perhaps trust Redick defensively more than any other player on the roster besides Dwight Howard.
Redick's worth is more as a facilitator though. Not the kind that gets assists, but the kind that holds the team together.
Orlando is struggling to score when the starters go out. Part of that is all the injuries the team has suffered, thinning out the bench and what Van Gundy can do with it. But undoubtedly, even just with the eye test, Redick could be the glue that helps keep the team's energy up, facilitates the offense by cutting and shooting. The Magic miss his ability simply to be on the floor being productive.
Redick's absence has had demonstrable effects for several players.
Take Gilbert Arenas for example. As Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post pointed out Sunday, we might be going a little hard on Arenas. Arenas is in four of the Magic's 10-most used lineups and three of them, as Evan describes them, "absolutely blown the doors off Orlando's foes." This to the tune of a 21.7 average efficiency differential.
The big thing I noticed about the four lineups Evan points out is that they all involve JJ Redick.
Arenas' numbers since Redick was hurt: 6.2 points per game, shooting 26.2 percent, dishing out 2.0 assists per game. His effective field goal percentage sits at a paltry 31.5 percent. Arenas is having a bad year, but compared to his 7.7 points per game, 33.5 field goal shooting and 3.4 assists per game he has posted since the trade to Orlando.
Redick and Arenas have shared the floor for just more than 574 minutes, according to Basketball Value. That equates to nearly 58.3 percent of Arenas' minutes have had Redick on the floor. Clearly with that much time on the floor together, Redick and Arenas have to play well with together and impact each other while on the floor. Four of Redick's top seven lineups include Arenas.
Redick has a -6.22 adjusted plus/minus this year, according to Basketball Value. However Redick is involved in six of Orlando's 10 most productive lineups (minus the players traded) this year. Take a look at the numbers from Basketball Value below:
Those 10 lineups are actually all the lineups with current players that have a positive adjusted plus/minus. Howard is in pretty much all of them. So is Jason Richardson. JJ Redick though is a pretty high value player. He is comfortably within the team's most important four or five players.
The Magic are missing JJ Redick. That much is for sure. Not being able to go to six of your best lineups surely puts the Magic at a huge disadvantage.