Orlando Magic's Jett Howard gains valuable experience in the G-League

Jett Howard has not had much time playing for the Orlando Magic this year. His stint with the Osceola Magic got him some real playing time and prepared him to return to the main roster.
Jett Howard has gotten limited playing time with the Orlando Magic. His time with the Osceola Magic gave him a chance to get up to speed.
Jett Howard has gotten limited playing time with the Orlando Magic. His time with the Osceola Magic gave him a chance to get up to speed. / Jonathan Bachman/GettyImages

During the Orlando Magic's nine-game win streak, Jett Howard was largely on the sideline.

He was not even on the sideline. He was with the Osceola Magic for a good chunk of the win streak, trying to get some playing rhythm and game experience.

That did not mean Howard was not part of some winning or some memorable moments.

The Osceola Magic trailed by as much as 31 points in Tuesday's game against the Texas Legends before rallying to cut the final deficit to four points. Howard was a big part of that even on an off-shooting night, scoring 17 points on 5-for-20 shooting overall.

This is what the Orlando Magic wanted their rookie to experience in sending him down to the G-League -- and it is not the first time this Osceola team has rallied from a deep deficit, coming back from a 28-point deficit to defeat the Memphis Hustle 125-116 on Nov. 17.

The G-League is definitely a different animal. But there was not much playing time for the 11th pick of the 2023 NBA Draft. And so a chance to get him some minutes and some exposure to the speed of the game -- even the hyperfast G-League -- is a valuable one.

Howard rejoined the Magic from his G-League assignment Thursday. With Jalen Suggs out for Friday's game and potentially out for longer -- coach Jamahl Mosley described his evaluation as game-to-game Friday -- Jett Howard may soon find himself called into action for this young Magic team.

He needed to be ready and that is why the team had him do an extended trip with Osceola.

"I had a lot of fun," Howard said of his G-League stint after shootaround Friday. "Just going down there and playing with a great group of guys. They have a lot of firepower there. It was more like learning from them. They are older and they are more experienced. Just buying into the team first."

Stats are not always the most important thing with the G-League. Howard said the coaches told him their goal for him was to go there and play his NBA game and play the right way. In the end, it was not much different than what he did at Michigan -- warts and all at times.

Jett Howard joined a fairly veteran team with G-League veterans like Trevelin Queen and Mac McClung. McClung was named the G-League's Player of the Month. Howard has had to fit in and find his shot all the while playing in a league with a lot of shot opportunities.

In all, Howard has played in four games during this G-League stint. He averaged 19.0 points per game and shot 37.1 percent from the floor and 32.5 percent from three. He took 40 3-point attempts total in his four games. Howard has not been afraid to shoot and has worked to try to get a rhythm.

The highs for Howard were very high. He scored 34 points in his G-League debut against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, making 7 of 16 3-pointers in the game.

He also had a pair of 17-point games, including an 8-for-16 shooting effort in a win over the Austin Spurs. Howard displayed some of what made him the pick for the Magic in last year's draft.

The important thing was getting him that on-court experience to get him up to speed even if the consistency was not quite there with him dropping in quickly into the fray.

Howard still has a lot to learn and playing helped him focus his work.

"I think he just understands the pace he has to go through things," Mosley said after shootaround Friday. "He's still in the building early, still working late, still talking to the coaches. None of that has changed from his body of work and his professionalism. That has always been there. Now he is just realizing what it looks like in real rep time. Especially in the G-League being a higher-paced game and a higher-scoring game."

This was a consistent message from Mosley on what the Magic wanted Howard to get from the G-League experience. Last week, Mosley said much of the same thing after Howard rejoined the team for Friday's game against the Washington Wizards.

The goal it would seem is just to keep Howard in game shape and at game condition because he has not been able to get much playing time. The Magic want to see Howard make strides defensively. That is ultimately his ticket onto the court.

That is why it is not so surprising Howard's shot was a bit off. He just has not played many games so far this season.

With the Orlando Magic, Howard has played a total of 23 minutes in five games with the Magic this season. Predictably, he has made only one of his 10 field goal attempts. None of those minutes came when the game was in the balance. Considering Howard is a shooter -- he has missed all eight of his NBA 3-point attempts -- he needs time to establish his rhythm.

Howard is the kind of player who needs to play. And getting him some time in the G-League is a big deal for him.

"It's fast-paced," Howard said after shootaround Friday. "Just trying new things out that I've been working on here. I have the ball in my hands a little bit more down there. Just experimenting like that and I obviously played like that in college."

That is what the team is trying to get him back to. He was a volume 3-point shooter at Michigan, making 36.8 percent of his 7.3 3-point attempts per game. Orlando drafted him for his 3-point shooting. As the Magic struggled with shooting this year, there have been more than a few fans asking whether Howard could help.

He certainly could with his shooting. But the Magic need to get him up to speed. That is what they hoped would happen with his stint with Osceola.

Whether Howard will get in will determine on how the game goes and how the coaches feel. The team is still getting their grips into this rookie player. Howard needs to be ready when that opportunity comes.

"Just locking in," Howard said after shootaround Friday. "No matter if we win or lose, it's the same. Everyone is just the same and focused on the win. No matter the outcome, they are going to play hard. That's probably the most common thing."

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Howard has had to wait for his turn on the sidelines. He has had to watch and learn what it will take to be a winning team -- whether that is in the NBA or in the G-League.