Chuma Okeke will have to find his fit through shooting for Orlando Magic

Orlando Magic forward Chuma Okeke had some struggles in his second year. But he will need his shooting to stand out. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Orlando Magic forward Chuma Okeke had some struggles in his second year. But he will need his shooting to stand out. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic are a young team with a lot of things to sort through. That is perhaps going to be the biggest piece of this season. It is going to be a general accounting of what the Magic have on their roster and how best to move forward.

The Magic, at the very least, have something to get excited about in the first overall pick, Paolo Banchero. And they have plenty more to get excited about with so many young players on the roster eager to break through.

If there is a concern for the Magic as they enter next season, it is that they will not have enough playing time to make sure everyone gets their opportunity. Not to mention that with so many young players, there is bound to be some inconsistency that occurs that keeps the team from winning at the highest levels.

It is going to be a season full of intrigue on multiple levels.

But the team does have a clear identity. Or at least a player type it continues to focus on. The Magic are loaded with big forwards in Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero, Jonathan Isaac and Chuma Okeke who are going to soak up all the forward minutes.

As always, there may be someone left out of the mix when it comes to minutes. And there is going to be plenty of internal competition. They all will have to find a way to differentiate themselves.

In the crowded frontcourt for the Orlando Magic, Chuma Okeke is going to have to work to stand out. His 3-point shooting is the big differentiator and the biggest area he needs to improve.

Sorting out the minutes at forward will not be nearly as difficult as the guard spot. But there are a lot of minutes accounted for.

Banchero is the top pick and will likely soak up plenty of minutes. Wagner too has established himself as a starter.

The biggest mystery is Isaac. Nobody really knows what to expect from him after he sat out the last two seasons with a torn ACL. The Magic have made it clear they will bring him along slowly because of that extended absence.

That means Orlando will need Okeke throughout the season one way or another. But it might be for just clean-up minutes and when someone gets hurt.

Nobody wants to be just the fill-in guy though. And Okeke is good enough to warrant minutes and a place in the rotation. Or at least he is theoretically.

There is still a lot to unpack in Okeke and what he can bring to the Magic. But his second season was a bit of a disappointment.

He averaged 8.6 points per game, an increase over his rookie season. But he shot just 31.8-percent from beyond the arc as his 3-point attempts jumped to more than 5.0 per game. He took 64.5-percent of all his field goal attempts from beyond the arc.

Whether it was the right decision or not, the Magic made him almost exclusively a three-point shooter last year.

That is why his shooting is likely his ticket to a spot in the rotation and where he needs to continue improving. Or where he needs to solidify his play.

There are plenty of reasons to think Okeke can make this leap as a shooter.

The biggest one is how he played when he was healthy. Unfortunately for him, injuries have been the biggest story of his career.

Okeke missed his true rookie year to recover from an ACL. During his rookie season with the team in 2020, he got hut four games in the season with a bone bruise in the surgically repaired knee that slowed his time. But once he got settled in and comfortable, everyone could see how good he could be.

Okeke again dealt with a little injury early in training camp and had to play catch up at the beginning of the season. A young player needed that training camp to establish himself. It felt like Okeke was playing catch up the rest of the year.

But things got better.

In the second half of the season, Okeke shot 36.0-percent from beyond the arc on 6.2 attempts per game. After the All-Star Break, he shot 33.6-percent on 6.5 attempts per game.

Like all young players, Okeke is still hunting for consistency. And the Magic need him to do so.

But there are plenty of signs that Okeke can improve and get there.

For the season, Okeke was about league average, shooting 38.3-percent from the corners. Getting him more open looks will help too. Basketball-Index gave his 3-point openness rating at -0.62, ranked in the bottom quarter of the league. Only 13.8-percent of his 3-pointers were considered open.

That is pretty poor for a player who is essentially only taking catch-and-shoot 3-pointers.

There is something to trying to diversify his offensive attack. He was still pretty effective moving and scoring off cuts. But the team just dried up those opportunities for him last year compared to his 2020 season.

For now, Okeke’s success will depend on his ability to shoot.

And the Magic need him to be able to shoot. Orlando finished last year 28th in 3-point field goal percentage. Undoubtedly outside shooting is and remains one of the team’s biggest weaknesses.

The Magic will not be afraid to shoot from deep. They finished last season 11th in 3-point attempts per game. And they kept firing throughout Summer League. Three-point shooting is going to be a key part of the offense, one way or another.

The team needs internal development as shooters and to do a better job creating open looks. Then they need to make them.

Okeke will still get his opportunities to play. He was a strong defender last year and that is still his fundamental NBA-level skill. That always has value and has value with this team and the culture it is trying to build.

But there is a lot of internal competition going on. And there is going to be a fight for minutes. Everyone is going to have to do something to stand out.

Okeke has to show he can hit from beyond the arc consistently. That is how he can stand out. The Magic tried sculpting him into that 3-point shooter last year to mixed effect.

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It is clear his success will depend on that shot. That is where Okeke will find his way to stand out.