Jett Howard will lean on shooting to make impact like other rookies

Michigan guard Jett Howard (13) attempts a 3-point basket against Ohio State during the first half at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023.
Michigan guard Jett Howard (13) attempts a 3-point basket against Ohio State during the first half at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023. /

The NBA season is still some two months away. It is feeling closer than ever, but still pretty far away. The FIBA World Cup is going to have to tide us over.

As is the anticipation for the season — such as the latest edition of NBA 2K coming out in a month. Do not get too excited about where the Magic rate, while the game seems to be pumping up the ratings of the most notable star players, everyone else seems to be getting a fairly disappointing ranking.

And rookies always turn out on the lower end as Anthony Black and Jett Howard revealed:

Even Howard seems a bit disappointed with getting a 72 for his first appearance in a video game. That is just how it goes. There is simply a lot to prove for every rookie when they enter the league.

Nobody knows what to expect from rookies. And these players are still seeking to establish themselves not only in the eyes of the almighty 2K algorithm but with the fans and their team.

That goes double for someone like Howard who was seemingly picked above where many expected. He is someone that simply has a lot to prove as a rookie.

The problem for rookies is that everything needs to be simplified. Everything has to be about the basics as they learn the league and go through the ups and downs of the league. If a rookie wants to make an impact they have to do what got them there.

For Jett Howard to make an impact and make his mark for the Orlando Magic, he will need to follow the footsteps of rookies who shot well at volume immediately.

This is the advantage that Howard has as a potential rookie. His skill is one that is potentially translatable and necessary for the Magic and their success this season.

If Howard wants to earn playing time and carve out a role, he has to be a shooter and an excellent one. And there is every indication he can do that.

Howard shot 36.8 percent on 7.3 3-point attempts per game in college. He made 40.0 percent of his 6.7 3-point attempts during Summer League. Those are solid numbers. And Howard is a high-volume 3-point shooter and something the Magic likely need desperately — Franz Wagner and Gary Harris led the team with 4.5 attempts per game last year.

Shooting is the skill that got him into the NBA. Orlando knew it needed shooting and surefire shooters to complete and bolster its lagging offense. Getting that with one of the two draft picks was almost a requirement for a successful draft.

Still, there were questions about whether Howard was the right guy. Most online mock drafts and big boards had Kansas sharpshooter Gradey Dick and UConn wing Jordan Hawkins rated ahead of him. Both were available when the Magic were up to pick at No. 11.

There was some amount of shock the Magic took Howard — especially considering his struggles at the end of the season and Michigan’s struggles overall.

Howard was dealing with an ankle injury for much of the Big Ten conference season. President of basketball operations Jeff Weltman admitted the team had to do a re-scout on him during the draft process to try to sort out what was the injury and what was real.

They clearly felt comfortable enough to take Howard over the others. Some of that has to do with their own philosophies about what they want in players — Howard is bigger than both Dick and Hawkins and moves and attacks decently for his size.

Everything they want to layer on top of Howard and grow with him will come in time. This season is truly all about his shooting and what he can contribute from beyond the arc.

Howard was a volume shooter in college. And it is safe to assume the Magic will ask Howard to take a lot of threes once again — probably almost exclusively threes.

Orlando needs to find a way to increase its 3-point volume and adding a player like Jett Howard — as well as free agent acquisition Joe Ingles, who took 4.4 3-point attempts per game in 22.7 minutes per game last year — will certainly help increase that volume.

There have been only 24 rookies in NBA history to average 5.0 or more 3-point attempts per game. Of those 24, 16 shot better than 35.0 percent from deep. So it is possible for rookies to be volume 3-point shooters.

Among the players in that list were similar players to Jett Howard like Saddiq Bey, Keegan Murray and Kyle Kuzma. There are a lot of more ball-dominant scorers on that list. They had some great players and point guards setting them up and that is the role Howard is likely to fill.

Howard was a solid 3-point shooter, with a good 80.0 percent free throw percentage suggesting his shooting will translate to the NBA, at Michigan. Volume shooters in college who become good shooters in the NBA tend to translate.

Even looking only at Magic history, Dennis Scott made 37.4 percent of his 4.1 3-point attempts per game his rookie year after shooting 41.4 percent of his 9.5 attempts per game in college in the early 1990s. J.J. Redick made 38.8 percent on 2.3 attempts per game in his limited minutes as a rookie after being a prolific scorer and shooter at Duke.

These players also spent multiple years in college and did not enter the NBA at 19 years old. So it may take further time for Howard to get up to speed at the NBA line.

Like Redick too, there are no guarantees Howard will play. The Magic have a suddenly deep roster, especially at guard, and it will be difficult to play everyone.

That should make Howard’s focus on his 3-point shooting even more important. That is the skill the Magic drafted him for and the skill that separates him from his teammates. He can do something that not everyone on the roster can do reliably.

Howard’s rookie year ultimately will get judged on his shooting. He will need to contribute in other ways obviously, but the rookie season is about doing the simple things. And for Howard, the simple thing is to shoot the ball and shoot it well.

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If he can do that, he will likely find himself in the rotation and becoming a contributor to the team in the long term.