Jamahl Mosely should make Orland Magic’s 3-point shooting a priority

Markelle Fultz's driving ability will make him a key in improving the Orlando Magic's 3-point shooting. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Markelle Fultz's driving ability will make him a key in improving the Orlando Magic's 3-point shooting. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

Imagine you are a first-year head coach, getting ready to start your first training camp with your brand new team.

Your roster is set. The coaching staff is in place. The team is gathered for that first day of practice with the endless possibilities of a season in front of them. There is a lot of work and teaching to do.

What changes will you make to the team? What will be your team’s identity? Are there strategies you will implement from a few of your coaching mentors? How will you handle the pressures and daily grind of the NBA?

These are all questions facing Orlando Magic coach Jamahl Mosely in his first season.

Learning from great coaches such as George Karl and Rick Carlisle, Jamahl Mosely understands the importance of approaching every day with a purpose. He was not hired to win the championship this season or even make the playoffs. But there is still a lot he needs to accomplish as he lays the foundation for this team.

Then, there is the arduous task of leading one of the youngest rosters in the league. He was a player development coach through his 14 seasons as an assistant and it is one of the reasons the Magic chose to hire him.

Still, there are immediate areas where Mosley must change the team’s patterns and focus. There are key areas that will be vital to the team’s long-term success that can get addressed in the short term.

Tactically and developmentally, Mosley should focus on improving the Magic’s 3-point shooting this season. He has hinted at this through his mantra that his Orlando team will play with pace, space and the pass.

Three-point shooting is becoming more and more important in modern offenses. It is somewhere the Orlando Magic need to put their focus as they begin to rebuild.

That suggests he wants the team to play up-tempo, spread the floor for shooters and work the ball around the perimeter. Those are all great ideas to get the team going offensively.

Orlando has been a poor offensive team since Dwight Howard left in 2012. And the team has had only one decent 3-point shooting season — finishing 11th in 3-point field goal percentage in 2019.

The league is trending toward more 3-pointers and so this is a skill the team must improve one way or another.

Taking a look at the top teams in the league from a year ago, it is easy to see how important 3-point shooting was to their success.

Nine of the top 10 teams last year in 3-point percentage, made the playoffs. The last two teams standing last season, the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns, both finished in the top half of the league in 3-pointers made per game.

Orlando finished 26th and 27th in these categories. The current roster will limit Orlando from finishing in the top 5 this season, but significant improvements should be expected.

Arguably, the biggest reason Orlando will not thrive from deep this season is the lack of true, back-to-the-basket players. Having a player, who can command double teams in the low post, significantly improves the number of open looks a team will have.

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Open threes come either from players creating their own shots — such as the Portland Trail Blazers or Brooklyn Nets — or from having players who draw double teams off post-ups or drives who then can kick out to the perimeter.

The Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets are two teams who represent this post-up dynamic. Orlando’s current roster features Mohamed Bamba, Wendell Carter and Robin Lopez up front. None of those players are going to command much respect in the post

Carter, who is still only 21, finished 16th in the league in paint touches per game. If he can improve his post-up game and passing percentage, things could open up from the 3-point range for the team.

The addition of Jalen Suggs and the return of Markelle Fultz should also give the Magic more driving threats who can collapse the paint and enable them to kick out to the 3-point line for more open shots. Both are willing passers too who are happy to set others up with the attention they receive from defenses.

Still, there is a lot of work to do. According to NBA.com’s tracking statistics, the Magic took only 15.3 3-point attempts with the closest defender six or more feet away. That is the 20th in the league. It did not help either that the team made only 36.2-percent of its wide-open shots.

At the end of the day, the Magic have to make shots too.

There is a reason for optimism with Orlando’s 3-point shooting, because of its youth and the natural progression that comes from young players.

The Magic will feature several backcourt players, who have played fewer than four seasons in the league. Second-year players Cole Anthony and R.J. Hampton will look to improve last year’s shooting percentages.

Anthony shot 33.7-percent and Hampton shot only 31.9-percent from 3-point range last season. But got better as the season came to a close. Anthony made 34.8-percent from beyond the arc after the trade deadline. And Hampton was especially proficient from the corners, albeit on a small sample size.

There were good signs that their shooting can improve.

Adding Suggs to the mix will open up the floor for these two players. Suggs is great and breaking down the defense as well as creating his shot.

Jonathan Isaac’s return is also a benefit to Orlando’s 3-point shooting hopes this season.

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Isaac has not been the most reliable shooter from deep, averaging only 33-percent for his career. However, he has shown a willingness to shoot the ball when open and at only 23 going on 24, Isaac should continue to develop his shooting efficiency.

If there is one thing Isaac has had the time to work on while recovering from his torn ACL, it is his 3-point shooting. He came back in the bubble an improved shooter although he did not play long enough to know if that was permanent.

Chuma Okeke was another bright spot for Orlando last season. Playing in his first healthy season, Okeke shot almost 35-percent on threes while improving his shooting immensely throughout the season. And this included a long cold-shooting slump when he appeared to hit the rookie wall.

He made three or more 3-pointers five times in the second half of the season.

Injuries cost Okeke a significant amount of games last year. But with good health, he can help this Magic team with scoring, defense, and three-point shooting.

Terrence Ross shot his second-lowest 3-point percentage for his career last season, and it remains to be seen what his future looks like with Orlando. He is a talented wing player who can score in bunches, and gives the Magic a veteran presence they need. Surely he will shoot the ball more efficiently from the 3 point line and closer to his career average of 37-percent.

Mosely was the defensive coach for the Mavericks and that will likely remain his focus. It was the team’s focus in Summer League and the Magic are going to establish some defensive identity this season before anything else.

He has an incredible amount of talent on this roster to excel on that end. He has made it very clear that defense will be a priority for this young Magic team.

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However, without a significant improvement from the 3-point line, this team will not be able to make as much progress as needed for a successful season.