At the end of the day, the key for the Orlando Magic is shooting

Terrence Ross found his shooting stroke as the Orlando Magic zoomed forward offensively after the All-Star Break. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
Terrence Ross found his shooting stroke as the Orlando Magic zoomed forward offensively after the All-Star Break. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic have struggled to shoot consistently all season. A sudden surge propelled the offense after the All-Star Break. And it remains the concern.

Sometimes the solutions to the most complex questions for a team are the simplest answer. It should not take rocket science to agree with the following statement when it comes to the Orlando Magic’s season:

The difference between the Magic’s anemic offense for the first 50 games of the season and the dominant team after the All-Star Break is simply making shots.

That is the point of the game after all. And shooting, especially in today’s NBA is such a big part of the modern game.

The Magic were not a good shooting team this year. They have made 34.1 percent of their 3-pointers (25th in the league) and 10.9 3-point field goals per game (23rd in the league).

Orlando, as a team, was a poor 3-point shooting team that shot at relatively medium volume — 32.0 3-point field goal attempts per game is 19th in the league. The Magic want to shoot threes. They want to be a 3-point shooting team and use that as a weapon.

But sort of like the struggle to find the right pace, the Magic suffered from trying to be something they were not.

That is until it all clicked.

After the All-Star Break, the Magic are shooting 36.3 percent from beyond the arc (14th in the league). They are still making a relatively few 3-pointers per game — just 12.4 per game, up to 18th. But they are taking more 3-pointers since the All-Star Break — 34.2 per game, 17th in the league.

The Magic are still not a team wholly reliant on 3-point shooting. They know this is not their offensive forte. But even making two more 3-pointers per game and hitting them at a more effective clip helps tremendously. And it is a sign of better offensive health and execution.

Last year, the Magic were similarly a middle-of-the-pack team in 3-point shooting — 15th in 3-point field goal attempts per game, 12th in 3-point field goals made and 11th in 3-point field goal percentage.

It should be fairly clear that 3-point shooting is not the end-all, be-all of an offense. Orlando was middle of the road in 3-point shooting last year and still had the 22nd best offense in the league by offensive rating.

The Magic are shooting worse this year and have slid back to 24th.

Still, it is hard not to see how much shooting changes everything for a team. So much of the Magic’s problems this season were about making or missing wide-open shots.

The Magic shoot 18.9 wide-open field goal attempts per game this season. A “wide-open” attempt is a shot taken where the closest defender is six feet or more away. That is the 15th-most in the league.

But the Magic rank 28th in the league, shooting 51.9-percent effective field goal percentage. They are getting a decent amount of wide-open shots and just missing them.

Even open shots — where the closest defender is 4-6 feet away — the Magic struggled. They shot a 45.5-percent effective field goal percentage on these shots (27th in the league) on 18.6 field goal attempts per game (28th in the league).

But after the All-Star Break, the numbers bumped up to 52.5-percent effective field goal percentage (seventh in the league) on 19.8 such field goal attempts per game (20th in the league).

Individual players also started hitting threes at a much higher clip.

Terrence Ross, stuck in a season-long slump at 35.7-percent 3-point shooting for the year, hit 50.6 percent from beyond the arc on 8.7 attempts per game after the All-Star Break.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

Terrence Ross, known for making tightly guarded shots, also improved in that area.

Ross shot a 58.1-percent effective field goal percentage on 0.8 very tight shots (closest defender is 0-2 feet away) and a 44.4-percent effective field goal percentage on 5.3 attempts per game on tight shots (closest defender is 2-4 feet) for the whole year.

Since the All-Star Break, he shot a 110.0-percent effective field goal percentage on 0.5 very tight field goal attempts and a 54.7-percent effective field goal percentage on 5.3 tight attempts per game.

In all instances, Ross takes the most of these shots by far.

This turnaround is a big part of his individual turnaround and a big part of the Magic’s overall turnaround. Teammates are also shooting significantly better.

Michael Carter-Williams made 36.4 percent of his 3-pointers after shooting 29.4 percent for the entire season. Evan Fournier kept hitting at a consistent clip, making 39.6 percent of his 3-pointers on 7.6 attempts after the All-Star Break.

It is not just 3-point shooting of course. Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon both struggled from deep in the time after the All-Star Break.

Nikola Vucevic is shooting 47.0 percent from the floor — only his 2017 season was worse in a Magic uniform — for the season. But he shot 52.0 percent after the All-Star Break in bumping his scoring average to 21.8 points per game.

Aaron Gordon similarly struggled to shoot from deep after the All-Star Break, like Nikola Vucevic, below 30 percent. But he went from a career-worst 43.3 percent from the floor for the season to 47.7 percent (and 15.4 points per game) after the All-Star Break.

The old truism is that it is a make-or-miss league certainly holds sway. Everything looks better when shots go in. Everything looks worse than they do not.

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There is something to Orlando making shots at an unbelievable clip. Or at least, an above-average clip.

The question — even if the season had continued as planned — is whether the team could sustain those levels. Coach Steve Clifford was certainly concerned about the team’s defense, which had slipped considerably even as the offense zoomed ahead.

But there is something too with how the Magic played to get those shots.

As everyone has noted, they have picked up their pace and started moving the ball a whole lot more. Better passing creates better shooting. As does better execution on offense. There are fundamental ways the magic have improved their offense beyond simply making shots.

In many ways, the Magic are finally becoming the team they always thought they would be.

But there is always that little bit of doubt involved. Michael Carter-Williams is not going to continue his shooting tear. And while Ross is a good shooter with a ton of gravity, he is not this good of a shooter.

So much of what the Magic want to do offensively is dependent on them ultimately shooting the ball effectively. They do not need to be a heavy 3-point shooting team. But they need enough shooting to make defenses respect them.

As the Magic look to add role players to their roster in the offseason, this is surely on the top of their mind. In the short-term for the rest of the season, they hope they can keep the team’s pace up and continue to hit from the outside.

The answer for the Magic’s offense is not entirely shooting. But sometimes the answer is as simple as making shots. Or, at least, the threat of making shots and actually making shots.

Next. Early draft options for the Orlando Magic. dark

That is the point of the game after all.