The one thing the Magic know they will have to get better at this season is 3-point shooting. Offenses in the NBA are built around the 3-point shot now thanks to the analytics movement and with so many player on the team now who drive the ball — think Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton — the 3-point threat is going to be bigger for the Magic to give them space.
Last year, the 3-point shot was a considerable weakness for Orlando. The team shot 35.3 percent from beyond the arc, 19th in the league. The Magic took the 21st most 3-point attempts too. It was not a weapon the team availed itself of very much.
The 3-pointer should become a bigger issue this year. Orlando let its top two 3-point shooters by attempts go in the offseason. Arron Afflalo was the team’s top 3-point shooter at 42.7 percent last year. Jameer Nelson shot 34.8 percent from beyond the arc last year.
The Magic have seen their top 3-point shooters leave a team that was already not a great 3-point shooting team.
Granted, the Magic addressed some of this in signing Channing Frye and Ben Gordon. Both have been good 3-point shooters throughout their career. The Magic also have to expect Victor Oladipo, Maurice Harkless and Tobias Harris will improve their 3-point shooting as well.
Will the 3-pointer become a bigger weapon for the Magic this year? It sounds like it will have to be to start winning games. Certainly it will have to be to open driving space for guards Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo, along with Aaron Gordon and Tobias Harris while their jumpers continue to mature. The 3-pointer would help Nikola Vucevic work int he post as well. It is an incredibly important weapon.
So what can the Magic expect from beyond the arc this year?
That is kind of what Daryl Blackport of Nylon Calculus tried to determine when 3-point shooting stabilizes. It is really incredible work. Mathematically, he determines, it stabilizes at around 750 attempts. Through that study, then, we can theoretically figure out exactly what kind of 3-point percentages to expect from the Magic’s perimeter shooters.
Remember, 750 attempts is a lot. We will not have a good read on Oladipo (226 attempts, 32.7 percent), Harkless (271 attempts, 33.6 percent), Harris (257 attempts, 28.0 percent) or Evan Fournier (291 attempts, 38.1 percent). They just do not quite have the experience of the attempts for us to say definitively what kind of 3-point shooters they will be.
Take a look at the Magic veterans though.
Channing Frye was brought in specifically to be a 3-point shooter. For his career, he is shooting 38.5 percent for his career. Interestingly for Frye, he really did not become a 3-point threat until he arrived in Phoenix in 2010. He took just 69 attempts in his first four seasons with the Blazers and Knicks.
Phoenix is well known for its 3-point proficiency.
Looking at Frye’s last 750 regular season 3-point attempts, Frye has taken 695 3-point attempts his last two seasons (remember he missed the 2013 season because of an enlarged heart that prevented him from playing). Including the final 55 attempts of the 2011 season, Frye has made 270 of his last 750 (dating back to March 29, 2011). That is 36.0 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
Frye though has the respect of defenses as a 3-point shooter. As noted plenty of other places, Frye’s ability to pop out for threes on pick and rolls is a really deadly option. He will take enough 3-pointers to make that kind of shooting more than acceptable. The 3-pointer has become almost exclusively Frye’s weapon offensively.
What about the other Magic veterans?
One of the real confusions about the Ben Gordon signing is that he has really struggled from beyond the arc his last two season — dipping below 40 percent and cratering at 27.6 percent last year. But his 29 3-point attempts last year with Charlotte are hardly enough of a sample size to see what Gordon’s shooting could be like this year.
In Gordon’s last 750 3-point attempts, he has made 304 3-point attempts, meaning he is shooting 40.5 percent from beyond the arc.
That would suggest that, with playing time and more chances at 3-point attempts, Gordon could be in for a major return to his mean and a major improvement on his 3-point shooting. Frankly, considering Gordon has struggled so much the last few years, if he approached Frye’s number at 36 percent, the Magic would likely be pretty happy.
With how low expectations from fans are for him, they would be very happy.
Unlike Frye, Gordon has never been a volume 3-point shooter. His 750 attempts date back to April 9, 2010.
Finally, a look at Luke Ridnour.
Ridnour too is not a volume 3-point shooter. For his career, he has shot 35.0 percent from beyond the arc. The Magic are not going to expect a ton from him beyond the arc. His 3-points hooting has stayed around that number in his last 750 regular season attempts (dating back to January 15, 2010). Ridnour has hit 266 of his last 750 attempts for a 35.5 percent 3-point field goal percentage.
It should be noted that because Ridnour and Gordon do not shoot a whole lot of 3-point attempts, their 3-point percentage from year to year could vary greatly. That is how Gordon could shoot so poorly in so few attempts. It would even out the more he takes, so the theory goes. Frye you can count on shooting around 36 percent from beyond the arc because he will take a lot of 3-pointers.
These numbers are more of a guide at this point. The Magic are likely expecting somewhere around these percentages from their new players.
Of course, past results are no guarantee of future success. New teammates, a new offensive system and age begin to creep in and affect a player’s ability to execute these shots and in general. A player may be in decline, but it may not be reflected in the last 750 3-point attempts.
Maybe the 3-point attempt model should be used only on young players who appear on the rise of their careers in determining what kind of 3-point shooting they will provide for their careers. Frye, Ridnour and Gordon are certainly on the downside of their careers. Their numbers could potentially continue to slip.