After playing sparingly throughout the regular season and in the first two rounds of the playoffs, Brandon Bass has been unearthed.
After two successful seasons with the Mavs averaging nearly 20 minutes a game, Bass was boxed up and hidden away in Stan Van Gundy’s attic. There were just too many big bodies worthy of playing time on the Magic roster, and between Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Marcin Gortat, Ryan Anderson, and Bass, something had to give. Or, y’know, be banished to the end of the bench.
No longer, as SVG turned to Bass in Games 4 and 5 as an energy big off the pine. He doesn’t have Howard’s size or finishing ability or Lewis’ mobility, but Brandon does have offensive utility. The limitation to Bass’ production — and the reason he didn’t play significant minutes in the regular season — is his defense.
Bass is not a bad one-on-one defender, particularly in the post. He makes up for his lack of height with strength and reach, and he fights for defensive position down low. It’s when he’s asked to rotate and help that things get a bit difficult. If the ball is anywhere but in the hands of his defensive assignment, Bass looks lost, and that’s problematic.
That much was true even in the last two games. But you know what? Brandon can contribute. He was fourth on the team in points per 36 minutes in the regular season, and his time with the Mavs shows that it’s no sample size error. He can hit an open jumper, nail the turnaround in the low post, and work the offensive glass. Bass’ defensive value is certainly limited, but given what he’s been able to offer on the offensive end in his last two outings, he could definitely be useful as Orlando looks to stay alive tonight.
This isn’t a J.J. Redick parallel, where a guy clearly deserves an increased role even it comes at a cost. Redick was outplaying Matt Barnes and Vince Carter in phases, and was facilitating the Magic offense when he was on the floor. Bass doesn’t have such a clear advantage to his rotational counterparts, but if Orlando is in need of scoring and energy in Game 6, Brandon should see (and likely will see, given Van Gundy’s willingness to adjust) additional time.
Bass’ strong play in Game 5 doesn’t change his faults. It doesn’t mean that SVG was wrong to hide him on the bench all of this time, or to look to Ryan Anderson or Marcin Gortat at the 4 instead. All it means is that against the Celtics, Brandon can be an asset. The Magic won’t lean on him or rely on him, but could benefit from his presence tonight if things start to get sluggish. And against the Celtics’ defense in Boston? You better believe that it could be.