Orlando Magic must now be better creating spot-up shots

Apr 2, 2023; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando Magic guard Gary Harris (14) shoots a three point shot against the Detroit Pistons during the second half at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 2, 2023; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando Magic guard Gary Harris (14) shoots a three point shot against the Detroit Pistons during the second half at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic did not make waves in the early hours of free agency, but they perhaps made a ripple.

Their signing of veteran forward Joe Ingles turned a few heads as the Magic added a key veteran presence to their bench. It raised a few eyebrows when it came out they paid $22 million over two years for him and then calmed everyone down when it was reported the second year was a team option.

As the league waits for all the signings to be official after the moratorium period ends, the Magic have signaled a pretty important change with their signing.

The Orlando Magic made a ripple in signing Joe Ingles. That added another shooter to a team in need of perimeter threats. Now they have to figure out how to get them the ball more.

First, the team put its focus on adding a veteran to the group. Ingles is now by far the oldest player on the team. He should be a good locker room presence — he is beloved in Salt Lake City where he spent the majority of his career.

And Orlando still has one roster spot open pending their delayed decision on Bol Bol’s final year guarantee (the two sides agreed to delay the deadline to guarantee that deal to a yet-unreported date).

Second, the team has clearly put a bigger focus on its shooting. It was the biggest need the Magic faced this offseason and they addressed it in several locations from the surprise drafting of Jett Howard with the 11th pick to the signing of Joe Ingles to the retention of guard Gary Harris.

Orlando is not quite awash in shooters yet, but the team has more shooting options. And there is always the confidence that there will be internal improvement from Paolo Banchero, Markelle Fultz and Jalen Suggs to be better shooters.

The addition of these new players though is going to require a new approach to the team’s shooting.

Ingles represents one of the elite catch-and-shoot players in the league’s recent history. Harris too is a solid catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter. And Cole Anthony showed tons of growth as an outside shooter throughout last season.

Orlando was noted last year for not being a heavy passing or assist team. The Magic have done some work to improve that in both signing Joe Ingles, an excellent passer and decisionmaker, and in drafting Anthony Black, who is praised as much for his size as his basketball IQ coming from Arkansas.

The team is going to have to change its shot profile and some of its philosophy. The Magic have to create more catch-and-shoot and spot-up 3-point opportunities to make the most of all these new tools.

It is no secret the Magic were a poor shooting team last year. Their problems go deeper than having a poor percentage though — 24th in the league at 34.6 percent from deep.

It starts with the team’s low volume of 3-pointers. Orlando took just 31.1 3-point attempts per game, 27th in the league. That combined with a defensive strategy that focuses on protecting the paint and gives up a lot of attempts at times created impossible situations for the Magic to overcome.

Orlando needed more shooters to try to increase their shot volume. But it is also about the quality of the shots they are getting. The Magic need to do better getting quality catch-and-shoot and spot-up 3-pointers.

Last year, Orlando ranked 18th in the league in catch-and-shoot 3-pointers according to data from Second Spectrum, hitting 36.0 percent of these shots (22nd in the league).

The poor percentages were certainly a factor in the distribution of these shots.

Harris made 42.8 percent of his 3.9 attempts per game. Wendell Carter made 35.6 percent of his 3.8 attempts per game. No one else took more than three catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts per game. Chuma Okeke was next, making 32.0 percent of his 2.8 attempts per game.

The Magic’s acquisitions this offseason are going to change this profile.

Ingles made 39.0 percent of his 3.0 catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts per game. Howard made 38.6 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts.

Jett Howard will give a boost to Orlando Magic's 3-point shooting. light. Related Story

When it comes to spot-up opportunities, the Magic also rank very poorly.

Orlando ranked 22nd in the league in spot-up possessions per game at 25.3 possessions per game. They shot 22.6 field goal attempts per game in spot-up situations (21st in the league) and 39.1 percent on these attempts (18th in the league). Their 51.8 percent effective field goal percentage was 22nd in the league.

Orlando’s 1.00 points per possession on spot-up opportunities was 23rd in the league.

These stats track much of the Magic’s shooting shortcomings. It should not be surprising to see the team near the bottom of the list on these shooting stats.

Individually, Carter led the Magic in spot-up opportunities at 3.6 possessions per game with a 59.8 percent effective field goal percentage and 1.13 points per possession. Banchero got the second-most spot-up opportunities with 3.2 possessions per game but shooting only a 44.3 percent effective field goal percentage and 0.86 points per possession.

Harris tallied only 2.5 spot-up possessions per game with a 60.3 percent effective field goal percentage and 1.19 points per possession.

Ingles, for his part, scored 1.03 points per possession on 2.2 spot-up possessions per game with a 56.1 percent effective field goal percentage.

What this should show is that adding shooters on their own is not going to change the Magic’s 3-point shooting profile. Having more shooters will help increase these numbers, but there is something deeper the Magic are going to have to improve.

If the Magic want to get the most out of players like Harris or Ingles or Howard, the team has to become a better passing team.

According to NBA.com’s tracking stats from Second Spectrum, the Magic last year ranked 27th in the league in total passes with 268.6 passes per game. They were 26th in the league with 23.2 assists per game and 25th in the league in potential assists per game at 42.4 per game. Orlando was 27th in assist points created at 60.4 per game.

Some of this is a credit to the Magic going to the foul line a whole lot more. There are no assists for a free throw attempt (the NBA does not track free throw assists).

But to be this low in every passing category suggest the bigger issue is the Magic are not moving the ball to open shooters or getting quality looks with the pass.

To that point, Orlando was 14th in the league in wide-open 3-pointers per game (where the closest defender was six or more feet away) at 16.6 per game making only 37.5 percent of those attempts. The Magic were 27th in the league in open 3-pointers per game at 11.4 per game at 31.7 percent shooting.

As much as the Magic need more shooters to create space and be a threat, their bigger issue might be their passing and their ability to create good opportunities for their shooters. These two things go hand in hand.

Related Story. Retaining Gary Harris was a no-brainer. light

Shooting was a critical need for the Magic, but so were playmaking and passing. And that is actually an area the Magic addressed by grabbing Black and Ingles this offseason too.

But like all things, the Magic’s improvement will rely on internal growth. Orlando needs better passing from players like Fultz, Suggs and Anthony. They need smarter decision-making from Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner.

Orlando has touted its ability to get a lot of smart and big playmakers, but they are still growing and developing.

The Magic worked this offseason to add more weapons to improve their shooting. But that is not going to be enough without smarter ball movement to create the quality shots that are easier to make.

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Orlando undoubtedly made its offense better. But the team is not a strong offense yet.