Orlando Magic 2023 Time To Step Up: Gary Harris’ shot volume

Gary Harris was the Orlando Magic's best sharpshooter last year. But the Magic did not get him nearly enough shots. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Gary Harris was the Orlando Magic's best sharpshooter last year. But the Magic did not get him nearly enough shots. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic need shooting.

That has probably been the lead to several articles this offseason. So it sounds like a broken record to say even if the need is obvious.

There is optimism about the team’s defense after the way they finished the season last year and the consistency they built on that end for much of the season.

Despite having the sixth-best defensive rating after Dec. 7 (you know, when the season actually began for the Magic), the Magic still had a negative net rating and one of the worst offenses in the league. Orlando at this point would just go for being outside the bottom 10 in the league in offensive rating, something the team has done rarely if at all since Dwight Howard left in 2012.

The Magic need offense and that typically falls to shooting.

The Orlando Magic need shooting to take a step up offensively. A lot of that improvement will come from getting their best shooter, Gary Harris, more shots.

The team as a whole was one of the lower-volume 3-point shooting teams in the league. And so the team is looking to increase its volume in any way that it can. The Magic do not have to be a heavy 3-point shooting team, but the team needs to increase its volume.

It is a goal throughout the roster and informed much of the moves and expectations for this season.

Orlando did do some work to add some shooting. The team drafted Jett Howard with the 11th pick in the draft and signed Joe Ingles to a two-year, $22-million deal. It is hard to say the team did not at least look at its shooting need in the offseason.

Still, a lot of this shooting improvement will come from internal growth — Cole Anthony had a strong finish to the season from deep,Jalen Suggs showed positive signs from deep and even Markelle Fultz looked more comfortable from the outside.

If the Magic are going to improve, they need to see their best shooters not only improve but take more shots. And it feels like they have at least one untapped resource they could exploit.

Gary Harris last year averaged only 8.3 points per game, but he was by far the best shooter on the team.

He made 43.1 percent of his 3-pointers, becoming the first Magic player to shoot better than 40 percent from three while playing at least 41 games in a season since James Ennis and Nikola Vucevic in 2021 (D.J. Augustin was the last to do it before them in 2019).

To say the least, having excellent shooters to space the floor and create some gravity is vital for a team’s offense in the modern NBA. It is something the Magic have lacked in many ways.

The problem though is Harris was a great 3-point shooter, but did not get enough shots. He averaged 4.5 3-point field goal attempts per game last year. How do the Magic have a shooting problem and not seem to get their best shooter the ball more often?

That is not abnormal for him (he averaged a career-high 5.0 attempts per game in 2022) nor is it abnormal for someone who is essentially the fifth option in the starting lineup. Harris is not someone who is going necessarily to look for his own shot either.

He is not a volume shooter who will just pull up for three. He is a traditional “corner man” who hangs on the perimeter and shoots catch-and-shoot threes.

Harris getting more shots and increasing his shot volume is more about how the ball moves and works its way to him. He is the outlet that releases the pressure that other players create by driving to the lane.

Last year, 79.0 percent of Harris’ field goals were assisted and 86 of his 94 3-pointers made last year were assisted. On top of this, Harris took 3.9 catch-and-shoot 3-point field goal attempts per game, making 42.8 percent of these shots.

More than that, 194 of his 218 total 3-point attempts (89.0 percent) were either open or wide-open, where the closest defender is four or more feet away. He hit 46.2 percent of these shots.

Harris was in the 92nd in the league in 3-point shot quality according to data from Basketball Index. He was in the 90th percentile in 3-point shot-making. There is not much else offensively that Harris does.

Harris is a reliable 3-point shooter when the ball swings to him. it is really that simple.

So the question facing the Magic is how does the team swing the ball to him?

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Without a doubt, passing was one of the biggest weaknesses for the Magic last season. Orlando was 26th in the league in assists at 26.2 per game. Additionally, the team was 25th in potential assists at 42.4 per game and 28th in secondary assists at 2.3 per game, according to data from Second Spectrum.

The Magic were not a good passing team and this is clearly the area where Harris thrives. He needs the ball moving to him to take advantage. And Harris getting his shots is likely a sign of the team’s offense being fairly healthy.

The most 3-pointers Harris took in any game was 10 in a 3-for-10 performance in the overtime win over the Miami Heat. The poor shooting percentage is not the important point here. The important point is that this game saw the Magic rack up a season-high 34 assists.

Harris had nine 3-point field goal attempts in the win over the Washington Wizards in March about a week later. The Magic had 27 assists in that game (the 16th-best mark for the team that season).

Harris’ highest-scoring game was 22 points in the game against the Washington Wizards in March and another 22-point game against the Indiana Pacers in January. The Magic had a season-high 35 assists in that win.

There is a clear correlation where Harris’ 3-point shot attempts and scoring increase when the ball moves. It is also fair to say the team’s offense works a lot better.

Harris is a byproduct of the team’s offense working well. It is not anything extra he has to do. He is a smart player who knows how to position himself well to get opportunities.

He just needs to get those opportunities.

Really, this is not about Harris changing anything he does. This is about the rest of the team doing the work that leads to Harris getting shots and taking advantage of the space he creates just as he takes advantage of the attention others create.

Harris’ production is usually just a sign the team’s offense is healthy and running well — that Pacers game was the fourth-best offensive rating for the Magic this season and that Wizards game was the 12th-best offensive rating.

Next. Time To Step Up: Paolo Banchero's defense. dark

Orlando needs to improve its shooting and its offense. In a lot of ways, the team needs to just make what it has work a lot better.