Cole Anthony's three-point shooting will be key to Orlando Magic's offense

Cole Anthony's three-point shooting has dropped off slightly. His shooting from deep will be a crucial gear in the machine that is the Orlando Magic's offense for the rest of the season.

New York Knicks v Orlando Magic
New York Knicks v Orlando Magic / Rich Storry/GettyImages
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With the second half of the NBA season upon us, the Orlando Magic will look to push toward the playoffs with all they have got.

One thing they do not have that they will need is three-point shooting. It remains the biggest need the Magic have on the roster. The team is at the bottom of nearly every shooting category. The Magic are where they are in the standings because of one of the best defenses in the league.

The Magic are still figuring out how to fill this shooting need. They are starting to take fewer threes and emphasize getting into the paint more.

But as the playoffs come into sharper focus, they will need to be able to hit from the outside with more consistency. They will need their best 3-point shooters to step up.

That puts a lot of focus on the team's spark plug off the bench in Cole Anthony.

Anthony went through an extended shooting slump that has led him to hit career-worst numbers. Entering Thursday's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Anthony was shooting a career-low 32.6 percent from deep on 3.2 attempts per game. He was averaging a career-low 11.9 points per game.

Thursday's game then was a breath of fresh air. It was a breakthrough for him in a run of solid games. Anthony had 13 points on 6-for-8 shooting, making his only 3-pointer. He played a vital role in ensuring the Magic picked up the win.

His 3-point shooting team still needs to turn around. But Anthony was able to hit shots and pace the Magic's second unit.

The responsibility to hit from the outside should not solely fall upon Anthony but he plays a big role in improving the team's 3-point shooting.

He had shown earlier in the season how lethal his three-point shot can be. His presence from beyond the arc and performance from deep will be huge for the Magic's offense for the remainder of the season.

Anthony was one of the best long-range shooters on the Magic a year ago who played significant minutes. They need him to get back to those marks again to boost an offense that can lag and struggle to hit from the outside.

As a team, the Orlando Magic are 28th in the NBA in three-point percentage (35.1 percent), sitting just ahead of the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies. They make the fewest three-pointers by any team per game (10.9) and take the fourth fewest per game (31.1 per game).

Even in Thursday's game, the Magic were selective with their 3-point shots, taking only 25 and making 14 in the win. This is a low-volume 3-point shooting team. The Magic are not seeking out or hunting 3-point shots.

That makes sense for a team that struggles to make threes. But it puts the Magic at a deficit. And Anthony's volume continues to decrease among the players the Magic have who they should feel confident categorizing as shooters.

The team needs to fix this effort as a whole. But, it is critical to focus on Anthony because he plays 20-plus minutes per game and takes more than three three-pointers per game, being one of six Magic players to hit that mark this season.

He is having his worst three-point shooting season of his career at 32.6 percent. The beginning of the season showed how much of a threat from deep Anthony could be.

In November, Anthony shot 37.9 percent from deep while taking around four three-pointers per game. He had eight games that month with two or more three-point shots. The Magic's record over those eight games was 6-2.

Anthony's fall-off came in January. That was a challenging month for Orlando in general.

He took fewer than three attempts from long range per game and made fewer than one per game. All of this totaled his three-point percentage in January to 23.8 percent.

Leading up to the All-Star break in February, Anthony was beginning to hit his stride shooting the long ball again. He shot 36.4 percent in February heading into the All-Star Break, going 4 for 11 through all his games.

His shooting struggles, particularly from mid-range though, cut into his playing time. The Magic did not lose faith in Anthony, but his effectiveness pushed the team to limit his minutes. He played fewer than 20 minutes in five of the seven pre-All-Star break games in February.

Even in Thursday's game where he made six of eight shots, he logged only a little more than 19 minutes of playing time. Anthony still finished the game, playing nearly the entire fourth quarter to boot.

Orlando could see the team still needs a shooting boost from Anthony. His contributions and his shot-making are still vital to the team.

The biggest tell-tale sign correlating Anthony to three-point success is just taking shots. At the beginning of the season, when he took more threes, he tended to make them more often. This is the opposite when he takes fewer shots, as it skews his percentages.

Orlando also wins with Anthony taking more shots. In games this season when he shoots at least three three-pointers, Orlando is 21-15. They can win with Anthony taking three-pointers at a high rate.

Cole Anthony continues to play the backup point guard role, even with Markelle Fultz still in and out of the lineup. But the Magic need Anthony to anchor the bench unit's scoring as he did Thursday night. They need him willing to take shots and work to set up his shooting too.

Does all of the three-point shooting struggles fall on Anthony?

No, it is clearly a team thing if Orlando is sitting as one of the worst teams in the NBA shooting the deep ball efficiently.

Next. Playoffs goal 02.23.24. Playoffs are the only goal that matters for Orlando Magic. dark

But, it is important to make note of how Anthony shot the three well back in 2023 and how his increased attempts and more minutes could help both him and the Magic down the stretch.