Shooting was a major point of the Orlando Magic’s offseason. The long-range shooting was not there during the 2023 season, as Orlando ranked 25th in the NBA in team three-point percentage and 27th in the league in 3-point attempts per game.
In a league that has seen an explosion in 3-point attempts and in a league where the 3-point shot is essential to a team’s success, the Magic were plainly falling behind.
Every need and everything the Magic needed to add to their roster inevitably came back to this shooting need. Every player simply had to get better from beyond the arc. That was the only way for the team to improve on its moribund offense.
It was an obsession for fans in the offseason looking to add to this team in one way or another.
The Magic had a quite offseason, but they still at least tried to address shooting in some fashion, if not controversially to some fans. The Magic did this by signing veteran sharpshooter Joe Ingles to a two-year, $22-million contract. Last year with the Milwaukee Bucks, he shot 40.9 percent from beyond the arc and is a career 40.8-percent shooter from deep, making him a viable shooting threat and veteran presence off of the bench for Orlando.
But, on a team that is all about praising its youth and developing its youth. Orlando needed this kind of shooting from someone younger. They have those options on the team with players like Cole Anthony, Franz Wagner and even occasional spurts from starting center Wendell Carter.
However, a bonus to this three-point shooting development within the Orlando squad came in the 2023 NBA Draft. Shortly after Orlando selected Anthony Black with the sixth overall pick, they spent their 11th overall pick on Michigan guard Jett Howard.
Shooting was a major emphasis for the Orlando Magic this offseason. Despite being a controversial reach in the 2023 NBA draft, Jett Howard is starting to look like one of those options for Orlando.
Howard had his flaws and those flaws painted the Magic pick at 11th overall as a slight reach. Orlando Magic fans certainly questioned taking Howard over other available shooters like Toronto Raptors guard Gradey Dick or New Orleans Pelicans guard Jordan Hawkins.
Still, Howard’s 3-point shot put him in the class of shooter Magic fans had targeted with the 11th pick. At Michigan, he shot a great 37 percent from three in 29 games during his only collegiate season.
That carried over to Summer League too, where Howard impressed with his shooting ability making 8 of his 20 (40.0 percent) 3-pointers in his three-game stint, in addition to his size and ball-handling. Knowing the Magic’s proclivity for size and versatility, it was easy to see why the Magic leaned in his direction.
Fast forward to the first two preseason games for Orlando, and Howard has been nothing but impressive from beyond the arc as was needed from him.
In game one against the New Orleans Pelicans, Howard went 2 for 5 (40.0 percent) from three-point land in 15 minutes of play. Looking beyond the three-point attempts, he attempted 8 total shot attempts in that game.
It was a great start to NBA play for the first-rounder. But he would look even more impressive two days later when the Orlando Magic played in Cleveland against the Cleveland Cavaliers. In a 108-105 win for the Magic, Howard once again played 15 minutes and went 2 for 4 (50.0 percent) from three shooting a total of six shot attempts.
Howard also made attempts in transition to get the ball inside using his 6-foot-8 frame against the Cavs’ defense. This can make him more dynamic against NBA defenses and it improves his transition game beyond measure. That size is what helped him stand out in the draft process.
One thing to look at too is who Howard has played with while he has gotten minutes in the first two preseason games.
He has mostly come in late in the game with some of Orlando’s exhibit 10 players like Trevelin Queen, Mac McClung and Brandon Williams. Howard has gotten his feet wet and had to hunt his shots in less-than-ideal lineups for the young player.
The Magic have yet to try Howard very much with players the team expects to have in the rotation like Cole Anthony, Joe Ingles or Moe Wagner to see how he does with them.
It also gives the Magic a look at how he could match up with some other starting lineups and key bench players from other teams prior to opening night on Oct. 25. The only game left for Orlando to really do this would be on Tuesday against the New Orleans Pelicans once again at the Amway Center. But, this works in Howard’s favor as he has already faced the team once this preseason and at least saw what their starters and role players bring to the table.
Still, it is important to see that Howard can hit these shots even in less-than-ideal situations. And everyone can see just how valuable his spacing can be. As Orlando continues to work to ease their rookies in and blend them into the lineup, the team should be looking to give Howard more opportunities.
Howard’s shooting has earned him some credit so far through two preseason games. He may be working his way toward getting minutes of value in order for him to expand his game as well as expand Orlando’s three-point shooting.