Chuma Okeke has a lot going for him.
He is extremely well-liked in the locker room. He grades and stats out as a fantastic defender And he has the potential to be a great 3-point shooter. He has all the skills and the potential to be the perfect 3-and-D of the modern era.
Like so many things with the Orlando Magic, shooting is such a necessary skill and one the Magic are lacking at the moment. And so Okeke is as important as any other player as a potential floor spacer and shooter.
Chuma Okeke is one of the best shooters on the Orlando Magic. But his percentages dropped as he became almost exclusively an outside shooter last year. It is a place he needs to recover.
His rookie season showed him capable of being a solid 3-point shooter. But his second year, saw him come crashing back to earth.
A mixture of early season injuries and a role change within Jamahl Mosley’s more read-based system threw Okeke off. His usage changed as he became almost exclusively a 3-point shooter.
It did not work well for Okeke. And while he still had some strong games, he struggled overall.
Still, his best potential skill is the one the Magic need most. They need his shooting. And so the biggest key and the biggest area Okeke has to step up this coming season is his spot-up shooting. In the end, this is where most of his shot opportunities will come from this season.
Entering his third season, Okeke has a lot riding on him. He has a lot he has to accomplish this coming season and a lot to prove.
The Magic are suddenly loaded at forward with both Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero in the lineup and Jonathan Isaac gearing up for his return. The minutes Okeke has enjoyed may well dry up.
The biggest thing that can separate Okeke is his shooting ability.
Last year, Okeke did not take the step forward many thought he could in his second season. He averaged 8.6 points per game (up from 7.8 points per game). But his 3-point field goal percentage dropped from 34.8 percent to 31.8 percent. His 3-point field goal attempts increased from 3.1 to 5.3 per game.
The decrease in his field goal percentage overall came from the dramatic increase in his 3-point field goal attempts.
Last year, Okeke shot 371 of his 575 field goal attempts from beyond the arc (64.5 percent). In his rookie year, only 43.5 percent of his field goal attempts came from deep. That represented one of the most dramatic usage changes for a Magic player in the transition from Steve Clifford to Jamahl Mosley.
The Magic essentially eliminated all the post-ups that Clifford liked to use Okeke in (and he was quite good at). His 3-point shooting was really only supplemented with cuts throughout last year.
So the biggest downturn for Okeke then as a shooter came from his spot-up opportunities.
According to NBA.com’s tracking statistics, 29.8 percent on spot-up opportunities with a 42.6-percent effective field goal percentage on 4.1 field goal attempts per game. That should point to how many 3-pointers he was taking. The Magic scored 0.84 points per possession on his spot-up chances.
According to Basketball-Index, Okeke shot 33.1 percent on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers last year, placing him in the 40th percentile in the league.
It is not good. Especially considering where he was in his rookie year.
In his rookie season, Okeke made 37.1 percent of his spot-up opportunities with a 50.0-percent effective field goal percentage on 2.8 field goal attempts per game according to NBA.com. The Magic scored 0.96 points per possession on spot-up chances.
According to Basketball-Index, Okeke shot 39.8-percent on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers, putting him in the 76th percentile.
That was the biggest selling point and a bright spot for Okeke. In his rookie year, just like his sophomore season, Okeke had games where he made a bunch of threes at once. Those kinds of burst games had everyone excited.
Okeke had seven games with three or more 3-pointers in his rookie season and 17 with three or more 3-pointers last year. He had five games with five or more 3-pointers.
That is all a sign of how impactful Okeke can be. As a 3-point shooter, Okeke can change games simply by making shots. And making a bunch of them.
Adding on top of that his defense — he rated in the top 10 percent in the league in passing lane defense according to Basketball Index last season — he seemed like the perfect player to add the kind of shooting the team was desperate for along with the defensive identity the team is trying to carve.
So the question for Okeke centers on his shooting. His success and his ability to stay on the court and add value to the team are from his shooting.
As noted, Okeke has a long climb and a lot of players ahead of him on the depth chart that could prevent him from getting consistent playing time. The inevitable injuries — and load management for Isaac — will help Okeke see the floor. His ability to stay on the floor and add something to the team will be dependent this 3-point shooting.
The way the Magic shifted his usage last year suggested they are going to rely on him as a shooter first and foremost. That is where everything for him and the Magic are going to start.
Okeke needs to be a shooter to see the floor consistently. The Magic need him to be a shooter to help give the team some much-needed space.
It is part of the central roster question the Magic have. They desperately need more shooting.
That is what Okeke gives them and what he needs to give them this year. If there is one area he needs to step up, it is quite simply his consistency as a shooter and his ability to hit from the outside.