The Orlando Magic plan to run a pace-heavy offense this year. It is unclear exactly what that looks like. But there are some elements the Magic need to win.
The frantic pace of practice was on purpose. This is how the Magic want to play — fast, quick and with pace.
The ball would find its way seamlessly into an offense of movement and speed, eventually working its way to Mario Hezonja who drained a 3-pointer.
What little is known about Frank Vogel’s philosophy and how he wants the Magic to play entering Monday’s first preseason game was seen in that brief snippet of play. It was the buildup of a week of common refrains of what this team was going to be like on offense.
Vogel said the team would play at a fast pace. Magic players have talked about running a lot in the first week of camp. It is the big theme of training camp.
And the Magic are seemingly making good on that promise. It was a big ask for a new team.
Orlando’s new offense requires as much commitment and effort as the defense that will surely be its identity. The offense is a reflection of the team’s hopeful defensive mentality.
“You’ve got to commit,” Vogel said. “You’ve got to be in shape, first and foremost, which is what we are trying to do with a lot of running. You’ve got to commit to it. You can’t fall into the trap of running with the pack. You can’t be 10 guys running like a swarm of bees. Everybody on the floor offensively has to have the mindset that every time we get possession, we’re going to outrun our man. We are going to try to get layups or create seams to get layups.”
The Magic are going to pressure and use their length and athleticism to dictate terms on their opponent. On both ends.
So what are the elements for the Magic’s offense? How can they get a successful fast-paced offense with this team — or any team.
It all starts on defense. Just like everything else for the Magic.
“First you have to get stops,” Nikola Vucevic said. “That’s the big thing. And get the rebound. If we limit teams to just one shot, we can get out and run. We definitely have the players to do that. I think so far in camp, we have been doing that. Obviously you have to run and switch ends really quick. It takes a lot of effort. That is why coach put emphasis on running, getting in shape and being ready. I think so far we have been doing it.”
It is hard to get fast-break points and transition buckets without stops. It takes that first step to catch the other team off guard and beat them into a mismatch on the other end. Orlando has spent its first week focusing on defense.
That is the genesis for everything the team will do.
Aside from that, the team has been running and working on conditioning. That much has been made abundantly clear. The second step to any fast-paced offense is actual speed. And the ability to carry on that speed late into games.
“Conditioning. One,two and three,” C.J. Wilcox said of the what is important in the Magic’s offense. “We’ve been doing a lot of running and getting in shape. Just getting up and down the floor and getting to the corners. We have D.J. [Augustin] and Elfrid [Payton] in there to drive and kick. We just need to be ready and in good condition to shoot.”
With the Magic’s lack of consistent options in the half court and their general athleticism on the wings, getting out in transition seems the best way to go. Vogel has claimed he always wanted to play at a quicker pace.
Orlando promised to play with pace last year as did Frank Vogel in Indiana with the Indiana Pacers. Both teams struggled to make good on that.
The Magic finished 14th in pace at 98.2 possessions per 48 minutes and the Pacers finished 10th at 99.0. Neither team was exactly what they wanted to be.
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This year though seems to be different.
There seems to be a much more concerted and focused effort to shoot into the shot clock earlier and push the pace. The offensive strategy very much builds off the defensive philosophy and is a foundation for the Magic for both ends.
And that is seen in the amount of work the team has done in pushing the pace and working on their conditioning throughout the early part of camp. There is seeming an over-emphasis on getting shots up quickly and getting into the offense earlier.
In scrimmages, Vogel said the staff have given transition points added value to encourage players to push the ball. From the first day of camp, Vogel was pushing his team to go harder and faster than any other team. That kind of effort will be what makes the Magic successful in the end.
What that will actually look like is still a mystery. Will the team run a motion offense, pick and rolls, dribble handoffs, horns, floppy, post ups, dribble-drive? What the Magic offense looks like is a huge mystery.
The elements of the Magic’s offense are relatively straightforward. Orlando needs to get stops and get up the floor quickly. The team needs to spread the floor with the shooting they have to open up driving lanes.
Operating in the half court may remain difficult without the kind of sure floor-spacers or drivers other teams have. The Magic will try to use speed to keep defenses off balanced.
Success though is still dependent on the defensive end.
“Spacing is probably the most important thing offensively,” Evan Fournier said. “But again, when you get stops and you are willing to run, that’s when you get baskets. It is a little bit more complicated than that. Everything is tied together. When you play good defense, you get easy buckets. I would say in the half-court, it is definitely about spacing. But we have to be able to run, get into deep corners and play fast.”
The Magic will get their first real look at how this offense works this week in the first preseason games. The elements and necessities are all there for the team.
All that is left is to see it in action.