Orlando Magic feast or famine on mid-range jumpers

Apr 10, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Orlando Magic center Dewayne Dedmon (3) shoots over Miami Heat forward Josh McRoberts (4) during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 10, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Orlando Magic center Dewayne Dedmon (3) shoots over Miami Heat forward Josh McRoberts (4) during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic all season have relied heavily on mid-range jumpers, the most inefficient shot in the game. That came to roost as Miami Heat easily won.

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The Orlando Magic are a team that seems to defy logic in their construction in many ways.

There are guards who struggle to shoot from 3-point range. A center who can shoot jumpers. A team that is focused on perimeter defense, but lacks rim protection.

These are all roster construction questions that will bet raised and perhaps answered next season. Questions that cannot be answered in the middle of the season.

The question that can be raised at all times is what fruits the roster tends to bear. And like everything else with the Magic, even their offensive success and strength seems to defy logic.

Orlando is a mid-range jump-shooting team. As has been noted, Jason Smith and Nikola Vucevic are perhaps two of the best mid-range jump shooters in the league. Victor Oladipo before his concussion had turned around and become an efficient mid-range jumper shooter. Aaron Gordon had a penchant for dribbling to the elbow and firing. Evan Fournier is good both beyond the arc and in between.

This is a team that is out of place seemingly.

Simple analytics tells us the mid-range shot is the least valuable in the game. It cannot be shot at the same rate and efficiency as a layup or shot in the paint and lacks the extra value of a 3-point shot. It is basketball purgatory for an offense.

Yet, the Magic time and time again rely on it. Vucevic pops open for it. Players pull up for it instead of getting deeper into the paint and kicking out or finishing at the rim. It has been a consistent and constant problem for the Magic throughout the year.

And it remains one of the main reasons Orlando has one of the most inconsistent offenses in the league.

Sunday against the Miami Heat, the Magic were relegated to the perimeter once again. They attempted only seven free throw attempts in the first three quarters before Miami pulled away.

The Magic took only 27 of their 83 field goal attempts at the basket. The majority of their shots came outside of the paint and in midrange. Despite those numbers, only 22.9 percent of their points came from mid-range jumpers.

And officially, NBA.com/stats says the Magic took 34 mid-range jumpers and made only 32.4 percent of those shots.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic shot chart from their loss to the Miami Heat on April 10, 2016. /

It was a different story against the Heat on Friday. The Magic took 40 of their 82 field goals at the rim and got to the line for 28 free throw attempts including 15 from Evan Fournier. Orlando was more aggressive and attacking in sticking with and defeating Miami.

And only 14.3 percent of the Magic’s points in that game came from mid-range jumpers.

There is something to efficiency. The Magic are a much more effective offensive team — as any team would be — when they are able to get all the way to the basket. Or kick it out. Scott Skiles has said some of the team’s problems offensively come from the team driving in a bit too far and failing to kick out.

Even that is better than settling for mid-range jumpers as the Magic did Sunday night, their first game since the March 25 loss at Miami. Part of this offensive resurgence has come because the Magic have picked up their pace and started scoring a lot more.

This season, the Magic shoot 41.0 percent on mid-range jumpers and average 24.5 mid-range field goal attempts per game. There is no significant statistical change recently in these numbers. Orlando is simply making these shots at a better clip or picking up the pace enough and scoring around the basket to make this inconsequential.

On the year, the Magic are fifth in the league, shooting 14.8 field goal attempts per game from 15-19 feet. They make 42.5 percent from the floor on those shots, seventh in the league.

This in-between game is clearly an important part of the Magic’s offense. It is something they do for better or for worse. And among the league, they do it as good as anyone else — again for better or for worse.

What was clear was Sunday those numbers were well above even this team’s average in attempts and well below average in percentage. They were such negative outliers, the Magic could not recover. Could not even begin to recover.

The mid-range jumper might be a skill for the Magic and for several players. It might be something that makes them somewhat unique. But still not an efficient shot.

Sunday night, the Magic were caught settling for jumpers. They were not attacking the basket and that cost them the game.