If one thing has characterized the Orlando Magic during the last decade, it has been its poor offense and especially poor 3-point shooting.
The Magic largely spent the previous decade redefining how the 3-point shot could help a team win. They were one of the first teams to be a predominately 3-point shooting team to win at a high level. Surrounding Dwight Howard with four shooters and firing away from deep was painfully obvious and logical, but also revolutionary.
Orlando has been unable to stay with that progression.
The Magic have a long way to go to build their offense. But they are not going to be afraid from hitting these modern trends. If anything, the style of offense Jamahl Mosley began implementing last year was about modernizing the team in a significant way.
It is still about the process over results as the Magic build their foundations and build up their roster. As more pieces come into place, the rest of the offense will come into place.
The Orlando Magic were not afraid to shoot from deep last year and if their Summer League is a preview of anything, they will still be unafraid to fire from deep.
That is no more abundantly clear than it is in Summer League. As they did during the regular season, the Magic have not been afraid to shoot from three. They are, in fact, encouraging players to shoot from three while open — even non-shooting big men like Emmanuel Terry and Aleem Ford.
As with everything in Summer League, Orlando wants to play the way the team will play in the regular season even in this summer setting. That goes for the effort, energy and defensive intensity the team has shown and has carried it through these four games.
It goes to the team’s 3-point shooting strategy too.
The Magic have not been afraid to shoot from deep in Summer League. The team entered Thursday’s Summer League game fifth in the entire Summer League with 33.0 3-point attempts per game.
They were not afraid to fire away in their 102-89 loss to the New York Knicks, shooting 45 3-pointers in the 40-minute game. The Magic took 86 total field goals. Orlando was not afraid to shoot it.
There are different qualities to 3-point shots and the way the Magic used the 3-pointer in this game — and throughout Summer Leauge — only highlights the difference between a good 3-pointer and a bad 3-pointer.
But the team is going to hunt out 3-pointers. They are not going to hide from this apparent weakness.
That was on full display throughout Thursday’s game for sure.
When the team struggled to touch the paint and settled for threes, as the team did down the stretch, their shots tended to be no good. This is when the Knicks built their leads — as they did in building an initial 11-0 push powered by run outs and threes and as they did in their final push.
Orlando cut the deficit to one with about five minutes to play in the fourth quarter after Tommy Kuhse rang the bell, stealing the ball and saving it from going out of bounds to Devin Cannady before getting it back for a lay-in. New York was in control the rest of the way as Orlando struggled to get inside and they died on their outside shooting.
But that was not how the Magic got back into the game. The Magic got back into the game and stayed in the game doing all the things the team is going to try to do in the regular season.
They spread the floor out, using centers Emmanuel Terry and Jeremiah Tillmon as screeners to create space. They looked to get their guards — whether it was Tommy Kuhse, Zavier Simpson, Devin Cannady or Justin James — going into the paint where they looked to kick out.
Orlando made plenty of threes to keep themselves in the game. Those runs of 3-pointers are what made the game tight.
In all, the Magic made 12 of 45 3-pointers in Thursday’s loss. Showing the kind of mixed bag the Magic had.
Kuhse was the most impressive scoring 25 points to go with five steals. he made three of his five 3-pointers.
Simpson made one of his four 3-pointers. Kwan Cheatham Jr., earning his first start in his first game of Summer League, made two of six.
The usually reliable shooting Devin Cannady hit only two of his 10 3-pointers while Caleb Houstan missed all six of his.
Orlando certainly was not getting the same looks they got earlier in Summer League when Paolo Banchero was able to create better looks. The Orlando Magic shot 14 of 33 in the win over the Houston Rockets and 8 of 29 in the win over the Sacramento Kings.
Quantity is not quality. And the Magic certainly missed the attention Paolo Banchero and even R.J. Hampton could soak up.
If there is a lesson in all of this it is that the Magic have been missing that central offensive focus. And the team became more reliant on 3-point shooting — going hot and cold throughout the course of each game — with Banchero sitting on the bench.
But Orlando is not going to be afraid to shoot it. And creating good 3-point shots with multiple ball-handlers and creators will be key.
That is why the team has put so much focus on its versatility in Summer League even without the same length and personnel they will have in the regular season. It is easy to see how some of the things the team is doing will translate.
The question is whether the Magic will have the players to make it all work.
During its post-Dwight Howard rebuild, the Magic have struggled to find reliable shooting or any kind of offensive identity. It has always felt like the Magic were stuck in the past and only the 2019 season seemed to present some kind of breakthrough as Nikola Vucevic learned how to shoot from deep.
Orlando does not quite have the personnel to be a strong offensive team yet.
The Magic were at the bottom of the league in almost every offensive category — including 29th in offensive rating (103.9 points per 100 possessions), 28th in field goal percentage (43.4-percent) and 28th in 3-point field goal percentage (33.1-percent).
Last year, though, Orlando finished 11th in 3-point attempts at 36.9 per game.
The team’s Summer League group is living and dying on the 3-point shot a lot. That can be OK for a Summer League team.
It is a preview though for how the Magic are going to try to play. When their offense worked, they were able to touch the paint, fight for offensive rebounds and kick out to the 3-point line. It still starts with drawing two to the ball and moving the ball.
It always goes back to the mantra from last summer — space, pace and the pass.
Those principles are still in play as the Magic’s offense continues to evolve. But the team is not going to be afraid of what some might perceive as its greatest weakness.
The Magic are not going to be afraid to shoot it. That much has been clear. They have previewed this during their Summer League run.