First off, a big congratulations to the Orlando Magic.
I know I’ve repeatedly referred to them as frauds, but they got the job done in convincing fashion by closing out the Cleveland Cavaliers last night.
The difference in the series?
Well, besides the Magic bench, which we’ll be discussing in depth tomorrow, Orlando’s 3-point shooting was just too much for the Cavs to overcome. Orlando has SIX good to great 3-point shooters on their club, many of whom can score from inside and out. So when Dwight Howard decides to dominate like he did last night (the first time I’ve seen him look like a true future MVP), teams are forced to leave these gunners and pray that they miss.
For most of this series, they didn’t, and now Cleveland finds itself sitting at home watching the NBA Finals, much to the dismay of Nike and NBA Executives I’d imagine.
One of the assassins in last night’s game was Rashard Lewis.
At one point he was completely dominating Cleveland; hitting the 3-ball, driving to the rim and contorting his body in the air to score with his left, posting up and hitting the turn-around J, and even showing some mid-range form. He was a key player in the first and second quarter and a few of his open 3's seemed to demoralize the Cavs as he kept adding nails to Cleveland's coffin.
Suddenly, I found myself focusing on only Lewis when the Magic were on the attack, and it struck me that perhaps it was Lewis rather than Disco Dirk that Raptors’ fans should be comparing Andrea Bargnani’s developing game to.
In fact I’m not sure Andrea will ever get to the Dirk level for various reasons, but is it not quite feasible that Bargs could approach Rashard Lewis proportions?
If you watch Lewis closely in the finals, you’ll notice some eerie similarities between the two players:
-Both tend to start their offence from beyond the arc and work in
-Both are mismatches on the perimeter due to their foot-speed and athleticism
-Both are major long-range threats but are more volume shooters then pure marksmen ala Kapono or Nash (when they’re on they’re on, when they’re off, things can get ugly)
-Both lack in terms of mid-range game (a major difference between Andrea and Dirk at this point)
-Both are sub-par rebounders for their positions, but solid defensively one-on-one
Andrea is of course taller, but if you were to shrink him down a few inches, I’m not sure how much difference there is between these two in terms of style of play.
At points in last night's game I was able to even see similarities in terms of head fakes, jab steps and well, neither are exactly the most jubilant and expressive types on the court.
In fact, I went back and looked at the stats from Rashard Lewis’ third season in the NBA and compared them to those of Bargnani from last season:
FG% - .480
3P - 1.6-3.7
3P% - .432
FT - 2.3-2.7
FT% - .826
STL - 1.2
BLK - 0.6
TO - 1.7
REB - 6.9
AST - 1.6
PTS - 14.8
FG% - .450
3P - .1.5-3.7
3P% - .409
FT - 2.8-3.4
FT% - .831
STL - 0.4
BLK - 1.2
TO - 1.7
REB - 5.3
AST - 1.2
PTS - 15.4
Lewis is obviously the superior shooter right and rebounder, but the rest of the stats, right down to turnovers, are very similar.
Of course when Lewis was with Seattle in his third year, he had more of a dominant role in the offense whereas Andrea really came into his own later in the season in his third year.
Their third year PER’s reflect this with Lewis hitting nearly 20 (19.49) whereas Andrea sat just below 15 (14.66) last year. Interestingly though, if you compare Lewis’ current role with the Magic I think it’s a lot more of true compare to that of Andrea late last season, and Rashard’s PER during the regular season sat at 16.83, I believe reflects this.
Does this then mean that I think Andrea is the second coming of Rashard?
Not quite, as obviously Andrea still has some work to do to get to that level, but not only that, with his height advantage and what I believe eventually will be superior low-post play, it’s not impossible that he becomes Lewis version 2.0.
That’s not a bad building block if you are a Toronto Raptors’ fan, one that providing the team doesn’t overpay, could be a major force in the Eastern Conference. The hope is that this off-season he puts in the same amount of work on improving his game as he did last summer, in order to get to this level and beyond.
If that happens, suddenly taking a Rashard Lewis with advanced weaponry doesn’t seem like such a bad idea with the top pick in the 2006 draft.
It may never be Brandon Roy, but it’s certainly no Adam Morrison either.