The first play for the Orlando Magic during their 122-105 preseason win over the New Orleans Pelicans was a simple play.
Markelle Fultz brought the ball up and made a simple pass to the corner for Wendell Carter to make a three.
This is at least a little unremarkable — it was certainly an unremarkable play as the Magic did not even get any penetration to the paint. Carter has slowly established himself as a 3-point shooter, at least someone who has to keep the defense honest.
Orlando itself is still growing its relationship with the 3-point line. The Magic were 27th in the league in 3-point field goal attempts per game last year at 31.1. Seeing the Magic hoist 45 three-pointers and make 15 of them — including shooting 10 for 32 through three quarters before the deep bench players took over in the fourth quarter.
It is one game and teams tend to settle for 3-pointers in the preseason. Attempts go way up.
Still, Carter stood out. Something was different about him. He scored a team-high 18 points in the preseason victory. He did so on 4-for-5 shooting from three, including three corner 3-pointers, a rare shot he took last year as his 3-point game expanded.
Carter showed how lethal he can be from behind the arc if left open. If he is able to continue this, it will open up Orlando’s offense in more ways compared to last season.
Wendell Carter was surprisingly the standout player for the Orlando Magic in their preseason opener. The expansion of his 3-point shot could be a big difference-maker for a hungry Magic offense.
The numbers from Orlando beyond the arc were not exceptionally crazy. They were 24th in the league last season as a team when it came to three-point shooting at 34.6 percent. Orlando did not shoot even that well in Tuesday’s game, including through three quarters at 31.2 percent.
Shooting will remain one of the Magic’s big weaknesses, despite solid performances from deep from Cole Anthony (2 for 4) and Jett Howard (2 for 5, playing mostly fourth-quarter minutes).
Carter though stood out with his shooting. He made a career-high 35.6 percent of his three-pointers and a career-best 1.4 makes and 3.9 attempts. This is one of the few instances where a player increased his volume and improved his efficiency.
His four 3-pointers tied the total for the most three-pointers he has hit in a game as he has done so four previous times since 2021 all in a Magic uniform.
In Tuesday’s game, Carter mostly posted up in the corner for those shot attempts. He took advantage of New Orleans’ lacking defense and Orlando’s focus on moving the ball quickly. Carter was the beneficiary of all of this.
Last year, Carter made 22 of 50 of his 3-pointers from the corner last year (22.2 percent of his total attempts last year). On top of this, Carter took only 11 total field goals from the right corner, making four last year. To see him make both of his three-pointers from that specific spot in one game shows both how his offensive game and the Magic’s offense have evolved.
The right corner has historically been his best career spot from behind the three-point line. When shooting from the right corner in his career, he has gone 37.2 percent which is a tick smaller than the league average from that same spot.
It could be of some use for Magic coach Jamahl Mosley to create some offensive sets that put Carter into that spot. This could allow the Orlando center to get some valuable attempts and maybe copy the results he had in the first game against New Orleans.
Carter had a lot to say about how good he felt after the shooting spurt he had in postgame interviews:
"“It feels good because you put in all the work during training camp,” Carter said after Tuesday’s game. “Sometimes you will have off nights and sometimes you will have on nights. It felt good to have the first night be an “on” one for me and for my teammates to find me.”"
The mark he had comes as a surprise as Carter also was not necessarily bad but rather okay from beyond the arc last season.
He finished with a shooting average of 35.6 percent from three. It was not a bad mark for a center. He ranked ninth among centers for most three-pointers made by a man of that position last season.
But he was not Orlando’s number one three-point shooting threat. Seven Magic players ranked above him in three-point percentage and Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner and Gary Harris all had more three-point makes than he did.
Carter is by no means Orlando’s number one three-point option. There is at least some argument that he can sometimes settle for 3-pointers and eschew going into the paint.
But his ability to take it and make it adds a new layer to the Orlando offense. He put it on display against the Pelicans and it will be something to watch going forward as the preseason progresses leading up to opening night.
The results he had can boost Orlando’s three-point shooting from last season if the team around him emulates what he did from beyond the arc. It is just preseason game number one, but both Carter and the Magic as a team can make something of themselves if the three-point shooting continues like this.