Orlando Magic’s offense suffers from poor shot selection

Apr 4, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier (10) drives to the basket against Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) during the first quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 4, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier (10) drives to the basket against Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) during the first quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

Nylon Calculus recent released updated visualizations for offenses around the league. We break down what the Orlando Magic’s chart looks like.

The Orlando Magic struggle to score.

That was not too much of a surprise even before the season began. Looking at the roster, there were few proven scorers and little perimeter shooting. The Magic were trying to use defense to spark fast breaks and then pound the team in the block.

That was the kind of team they had. They believed defense alone would be enough to get them into the Playoffs.

That plan did not exactly work out.

The first quarter of the season, the Magic played stellar defense but struggled to score and struggled to win. As the defense slipped, the team’s offensive problems became even more pronounced.

The post-All-Star Break change to a smaller lineup has seen the team improve offensively. The Magic are scoring 103.1 points per 100 possessions after the All-Star Break after scoring 100.5 points per 100 possessions before the Break.

Offense was the problem and figuring out exactly why does not take a lot of work. The team does not have the most offensive talent and the playing style did not exactly fit. Coach Frank Vogel said throughout the team’s deepest struggles that the Magic often struggled to “trust the pass” or did not do so naturally.

Nylon Calculus recently released its visualization of offense throughout the NBA. They look at how teams go about running their offense by looking at several distinct measures:

  • Ball Movement, measured by average touch time
  • Player Movement, measured by distance traveled per 24 seconds of offense
  • Pace, measured as the length of an offensive possession
  • Shot Selection (see below)

Being good at one area does not necessarily mean the team is good at offense. These charts are just meant to look at how a team runs its offense. They quantify things that we can readily observe.

A visualization of the Orlando Magic’s offense via Nylon Calculus.
A visualization of the Orlando Magic’s offense via Nylon Calculus. /

Surprisingly, it seems the Magic have an average player and ball movement. They will move the ball on plenty of occasions and keep the pace up. Where the team struggles is in shot selection.

How Nylon Calculus measured shot selection is a little complicated, so I will use their explanation:

"Shot selection continues to be the trickiest measure. In the past, I had used Seth Partnow’s XeFG% which estimates what a team’s effective field goal percentage should be given the location of their shots, the mix of catch-and-shoot and pull-ups, and how close the nearest defender was. However, those stats were built on the player tracking shot logs which stopped being publicly available on Jan. 25 of last season. This year I went with a more simplistic measure and used MoreyBall percentage — in this case, the percentage of a team’s true shooting opportunities that came at the rim, from the free throw line, or on a 3-pointer. It’s a generalized measure but captures something about how much each team hews to the shots that are, on average, the most efficient."

In essence, it seems the Magic end up taking a lot of inefficient mid-range jumpers. And that is why the team seems to rate so low in that measure. An improvement there might help the team improve its offense. Or at least its offensive opportunities.

In fact, the Magic take 12.4 field goal attempts per game from 15-19 feet this season, 11th most in the league. That is not necessarily the measure of a bad offense (the San Antonio Spurs take more) but because the Magic shoot 39.2 percent on those shots it becomes a problem.

The only other area the Magic take more shots is in the highly inefficient 20-24 feet area where the team takes 14.7 shots per game. That is one of the lowest among the league, but again the Magic 35.0 percent on those shots, third worst in the league.

Orlando takes the sixth fewest shots from within five feet in the league. So the Magic struggle to get the kind of efficient looks analytical stats enjoy.

If there is good news, this has improved since the All-Star Break. The Magic are taking 11.7 field goal attempts per game from 15-19 feet and making 40.6 percent of those shots. And they are taking 15.8 field goal attempts per game from 20-24 feet for a 33.3 percent field goal percentage.

Orlando is shooting more from beyond the arc or close to it. The team just has to make shots.

Perhaps then the Magic need more effective player and ball movement to get them quality looks. All these factors certainly play and feed into each other.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

It is hard to find a good visual comparison for the Magic’s offense — a team that is average in pace, player and ball movement but poor in shot selection.

The closest probably belongs to the Indiana Pacers (15th in the league in offensive rating). And that is not surprising considering Pacers coach Nate McMillan was an assistant under Vogel. If anything, the Magic have more player and ball movement than the Pacers.

It is also important to note the chart above reflects only the Magic’s offense for the entire season. It might be interesting to take a look at how different the chart looks between the pre- and post-All-Star Break lineups.

The Magic certainly seem to have increased their shot selection and pace since then. The chart may look more similar to the Golden State Warriors and other teams that are on the fringes of the chart in every category.

The Magic have worked hard to modernize their offense for sure.

Next: Orlando Magic must learn to survive the lulls

Whether that will continue on into next season likely depends on the personnel they acquire in the summer. And the Magic clearly need to continue to find better shooting to produce results on the court.