Orlando Magic should focus maturity on limiting turnovers

Markelle Fultz's return helped increase the Orlando Magic's pace. But the end of the season saw an uptick in bad turnovers. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Markelle Fultz's return helped increase the Orlando Magic's pace. But the end of the season saw an uptick in bad turnovers. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /

Orlando Magic coach Jamahl Mosley has the “leveling up” mantra and charge he has for his team.

That has been what he has spent his time this offseason pitching as the team’s overarching goal for the season. He is adding the next area to that, charging his team with “dominating the simple.”

Everyone will get to those “coachisms” as training camp begins next week. Putting all of these sayings into action on court will be another matter entirely.

At least until we see the team play in its preseason games starting on Oct. 3 in Memphis and then the team’s first regular season game on Oct. 19 against the Detroit Pistons, everything is mere conjecture.

So where can the team get to this work of “dominating the simple?”

The first step is obviously to control what a team can control. And Mosley has spoken extensively about the team focusing on the details and limiting mistakes and miscues, learning from them in real-time and not repeating them. It is about maturity as much as anything else.

And where is the one area young teams always struggle? It is indeed turnovers.

The Orlando Magic as a young team are expected to struggle with turnovers. As they mature and improve, their ability to limit their mistakes will be key to their progress.

What will be the biggest sign of the team’s growth and maturity in this area? Look no further than turnovers, the clearest sign of mistakes any team can make and correct.

The Magic are a young team and will make mistakes. But the way games can go from competitive to out of hand is with turnovers. If there is anywhere and any metric the Magic will use to evaluate their progress, it likely will be with their ability to protect possessions.

Dominating the simple almost assuredly included improving the team’s standing with turnovers — and especially transition defense, which is often an offshoot of turnovers.

The Magic finished 23rd in turnover rate last year at 14.4 percent. It is one of the few offensive stats the Magic were not in the bottom five of the league. But it is still not good.

The picture was not all bad though.

Orlando gave up 16.8 points off turnovers last year, ranking 20th in the league. It is a good sign the team could at least gather itself and defend a bit even coming off their turnovers. To be 23rd in turnover rate (their 14.5 turnovers per game is 25th in the league).

The offshoot of that is the team’s transition defense. Orlando did fine there, giving up 12.2 fast break points per game, ranking 14th in the league. These are all positive signs that Orlando’s defense can get itself set and hold the line when the team does mistakes.

That is nothing to celebrate yet. It is a number the team can improve upon.

And the Magic’s margin for error still feels very small, even with expected defensive improvement. Orlando still lacks great outside shooting and spacing and the team’s offense is still a major question mark. A rise into the middle of the pack offensively would be considered a success.

To even approach that, the team will have to be better at protecting the ball and limiting the easy opportunities opponents got against them.

Still, there are positive signs aside from the relatively low number of fast breaks and points off turnovers the team gave up in comparison to their total turnover number.

Orlando has five games with 20 or more turnovers last season. There were very few of these large turnovers games. And the Magic actually won two of those games.

It should be noted that three of those games came after the All-Star Break when the team was giving into injury and packing it in for the season — beyond playing Markelle Fultz.

To that point, the Magic averaged 14.0 turnovers per game (22nd in the league) and posted a 13.7 turnover rate (19th in the league) after the All-Star Break. But they gave up 17.4 points off turnovers (21st in the league) and 13.6 fast-break points per game (19th in the league).

If the goal is to improve as the season goes on, the Magic did limit their turnovers. But it also appears the turnovers they did commit led more directly to points and hurt the team more.

Further, the biggest shift after the All-Star Break was Fultz’s addition to the lineup. The Magic had a 13.2-percent turnover rate with Fultz on the floor. So even Fultz’s presence did not completely change the Magic’s turnover outlook — that rate would put the team 15th in the league.

It cannot be understated how important it is to limit turnovers and, more importantly, limit those points off turnovers. The Magic cannot be sloppy with the ball and lead to those points in runouts. That is again how losses compound.

Orlando had 26 games giving up more than 20 points off turnovers. The Magic won just seven of those games, showing off how rare it is to win those games. Some of the team’s worst losses came when the team gave up a ton of points off turnovers — including 38 points off turnovers in a 126-95 loss to the Golden State Warriors (do not turn the ball over against the Warriors).

There is nothing more logical and obvious than, “good teams limit turnovers” (for the most part). Nobody is inventing the wheel by saying that.

The Magic are trying to play with pace and get out in transition more themselves. That also lends itself to committing more turnovers. Increasing possessions also tends to increase turnovers as well, something the Magic are working toward too.

So this will be perhaps one of the great battles and one of the great storylines for the team this season. It will be a battle against themselves.

Orlando is focused on itself right now and its own development. There are not any talks of making the playoffs or anything external.

The Magic want to improve. That is their goal.

The easiest way for the team to make significant improvements and put the team in a position to win is to control its own mistakes. Limiting turnovers will be a sign of the team’s maturity and its growth.

The Magic as a young team will be battling their own immaturity and mistakes. Their offense may struggle still because of a lack of shooting. But they should not do a whole lot more to help their opponents. They have to limit their turnovers and their mistakes to take the team to the next level.

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It will be something to watch and hopefully improve as this team matures and, indeed, “levels up.”