Gary Harris’ 50/40/90 chase is Orlando Magic’s to win

Gary Harris fills a super important need for the Orlando Magic. They have to find a way to get him more shots. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Gary Harris fills a super important need for the Orlando Magic. They have to find a way to get him more shots. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

Gary Harris had to be as disappointed as any of the Orlando Magic’s players were in the midst of their frustrating shooting night against the Philadelphia 76ers. He had buried three of the Magic’s eventual six 3-pointers for the game.

Harris went 3 for 9 that game and 3 for 8 from beyond the arc. That would be a typically solid game for the Magic’s 3-point specialist. Still, it somehow felt disappointing. For one, the Magic needed more 3-pointers and so each miss seemed to weigh the team down.

It also felt disappointing because Harris is working on a very special season. A season that the Magic have not really ever seen in the franchise’s history.

That inefficient 3-for-9 shooting dropped Harris below 50 percent shooting for the season. That is not enough to erase what has been a fantastic year so far, but it means Harris has work to do to join a vaunted club in NBA history.

He has gone 6 for 11 from beyond the arc since then, helping him maintain his shooting percentage from deep, but not enough to help him climb back over 50 percent from three for the season.

Harris has quietly been working on a low-usage (granted) 50/40/90 season, an exclusive club for some of the NBA’s most efficient players.

Gary Harris is one of the few role players who are working toward a vaunted 50/40/90 season. The Orlando Magic need his shooting more than ever and a way to get him more shots.

There is a reason when teams talk about the Magic ahead of the trade deadline, most of their focus is on trying to get Harris free. And there is a reason the Magic seem to be very hesitant to let Harris go, as Marc Stein seemed to confirm on his Substack on Wednesday.

Harris is averaging just 8.9 points per game this season. But he is shooting 49.4 percent from the floor, 46.7 percent from beyond the arc and 88.0 percent from the foul line. His 64.1 percent effective field goal percentage is a career-high.

That is extremely close to that vaunted 50/40/90 club. That would make for such an incredible season, even for a role player who is designed to space the floor and hit 3-pointers.

He is doing this while not necessarily getting the best looks either.

Basketball-Index gives Harris an openness rating of -0.44 putting him in the 29th percentile and only +0.63 in shot quality, putting him in the 75th percentile.

He gets a lot of open shots though with 94 of his 170 field goal attempts and 107 3-point attempts are considered open or wide open (where the closest defender is four or more feet away). The Magic get Harris some really good looks — he is shooting 45.7 percent on these shots.

Harris is an untapped weapon within this offense. There is no reason to think Harris could not keep being effective — maybe not this effective — at a higher volume.

It is curious for sure to think about how he would do on a more developed offense with veteran players — thus why Harris is the most sought-after player on the Magic before the deadline.

However, therein lies the problem. His 6.3 field goal attempts per game are the lowest since his injury-filled rookie year. His usage rate sits at 13.2 percent, a career-low.

The problem for Harris is volume.

The Magic cannot seem to get him enough shots. Because when the ball does work its way to him in the corners, he is a 50/50 bet to make them.

There is not a demonstrable difference in his field goal attempts between wins and losses — 6.3 field goal attempts per game and 4.1 3-point attempts per game in wins compared to 6.3 and 3.9 per game in losses.

Harris is the fifth starter who does not put himself into the game a ton. When the ball does find him, he will make the right decisions and put himself in a position to make shots. The trick is just finding him enough to make it worth it.

Every team is going to have that “fifth starter” and not everyone is going to be able to take 10-plus shots per game. But certainly, the Magic have to find a way to get Harris the ball more. Harris has just three games with 10 or more field goals this season and just nine shots with seven or more field goals in a game.

It is hard to conclude much of anything with Harris because he works so much on the periphery of the team’s offense. That is part of his point, he stays out of the way so Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner and Markelle Fultz can attack the paint with some space. The Magic want those three players to be the main ones putting pressure on the rim.

But it is also abundantly clear how much the Magic need the spacing Harris can bring. They need more of it.

If Harris finishes this season, he will indeed be chasing a piece of Magic history. The team has never had a player hit the 50/40/90 club.

Jameer Nelson in 2009 had shooting splits of 50.3/45.3/88.7 in 44 games before his injury ended his season. That is perhaps the closest any Magic player has gotten to a 50/40/90 season. Pat Garrity also had two seasons where he flirted with shooting 90 percent from the line.

Only eight players in Magic history have hit 90 percent of their free throws who played a minimum of 41 games. The closest players to the 50/40/90 club are Scott Skiles in 1991 (he fell short with a 44.5-percent field goal percentage) and J.J. Redick in 2012 (he shot 42.5 percent from the floor that year).

Role players certainly have an easier shot at hitting this mark. Gary Harris is not so alone in this grouping — players of similar playing time that are near this mark include AJ Griffin, Trey Murphy and Luke Kennard.

Fully healthy Orlando Magic roster is a playoff team. dark. Next

Harris though is having a historical shooting season. The Magic just need to find a way to get him more involved in the offense. That will help the Magic a whole lot more.