Orlando Magic Playbook: The decisionmaking, trust at the heart of the Magic

The Orlando Magic's offense is not based on sets or actions. It is based on reads and the trust the coaches and players have in each other to make the right decisions.
Paolo Banchero has the ball in his hands a lot and the Orlando Magic trust his decisionmaking as they trust the entire team to run their offense.
Paolo Banchero has the ball in his hands a lot and the Orlando Magic trust his decisionmaking as they trust the entire team to run their offense. / Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Magic were coming to the end of the game in Detroit last Saturday. They had given up their lead and called timeout after Cade Cunningham beat the switch to get to the basket and finished over Paolo Banchero, who rotated late to protect the basket.

The Magic would have the last say. They had the last possession.

As the Orlando Magic All-Access cameras caught, the play the Magic would use was fairly simple, get the ball to Banchero and trust him to make the right decision with the game on the line.

If the double came, pass it to Franz Wagner or the open space. If not, take the shot. It was incredible trust in the second-year player, something Banchero was choked up about (while fighting his illness) throughout his postgame press conference and walk-off interview.

But this is a big part of the Magic and their philosophy. A lot of Jamahl Mosley's offense has put his players in the position to be decision-makers.

They want to be a bit more unpredictable. But more importantly, they want to take what the defense gives them. If you are simply reading the defense and making the right decisions, there is technically no defense that can stop you.

For the Magic, it becomes about making the right decisions. And so plays like that final shot from Banchero against the Pistons is a simplistic way of looking at how decision-making changes things for the Magic.

The Magic were always going to Banchero first. When he catches and notices Jalen Duren is on him, he resets and clears out. The Magic give Banchero the entire left side of the floor to himself. And when the double is late to come, Banchero goes into attack mode.

This is different than the game-winners the Orlando Magic set up against the Chicago Bulls in November. Those came on straight-post-ups, using Joe Ingles to space the floor and prevent the defense from doubling him. When they doubled anyway in the second game, it freed up Franz Wagner to have space to attack downhill.

With no double coming and the Magic working to ensure they get the last shot, they put the ball in Banchero's hands to make a decision. They trust Jalen Suggs more to hit those threes (as he did when Paolo Banchero set him up several times in the win over the Utah Jazz) and so he is the first open.

Paolo Banchero also may have Wendell Carter cutting along the baseline and Franz Wagner crashing from the wing to get the offensive rebound or open space if the double comes.

The double never comes and Banchero makes the tough shot.

He had to make a different decision in the fourth quarter of Thursday's game against the Jazz. Here Banchero made the pass to Suggs to be the hero.

The Magic similarly set up Banchero in the mid-post to start surveying the defense. As they often do, they use Wagner to make the entry pass to discourage doubling down from the 3-point line. But the Jazz have already aligned themselves to bring the double from the baseline.

Banchero already senses this and does not use his dribble immediately. One of the biggest things he has learned this year is how to wait to read the defense. Whenever he catches the ball, the first thing he typically does is look where the defense is unless he knows he has an immediate lane to attack.

Here Paolo Banchero knows the defense is loading up on him even before he catches it with Collin Sexton guarding him. He feels the pressure come early from Keyonte George. Everyone is spaced properly even with Wendell Carter filling the space Keyonte George leaves open to occupy Lauri Markkanen.

Then Banchero's passing ability takes over and he finds Suggs wide open for the clutch three.

This is the patience the Magic want to see from their young star. He is not forcing anything. He is reading the defense.

These plays came at the end of the game though. That is typically when plays break down and teams go to simplistic sets and decisions. The Magic expect these kinds of decisions throughout the game.

Take this play from the second quarter:

Here, the Magic got the ball to Gary Harris off a pindown. Gary Harris sees he has some leverage on Cade Cunningham after he makes the catch at the top of the key. He drives toward the basket quickly. Jalen Duren to come off Wendell Carter. Carter gets the space to finish at the rim after a great pass.

As coach Jamahl Mosley revealed after the game, this was not something the team drew up. This was something Harris and Carter saw and executed in real-time. That is exactly what the coaches want him to see.

"That was Wendell and Gary. That's not coaching," Mosley said after Sunday's game. "That was them. And this is what we've always asked them to do and be. . . . That's the communication, that's what we've asked them to do on the fly because as we get into these tight games, it won't always be my voice on the floor. They'll have to continue to communicate with one another, which is all we've asked them to do."

Mosley noted too that Banchero and Carter switched responsibilities. It was Banchero who fed Harris on the pin down rather than calling for a pick and roll. And Harris made the decision to get downhill from there. That is the page the Magic want everyone on at all times.

Every game is a product of all of these decisions. It is a product of all the trust the Magic have put into these decisions every game.

There are still hiccups. The Orlando Magic are still among the worst teams in the league in turnovers -- just look at how Tuesday's game against the Charlotte Hornets started.

Tougher schedule 03.05.24. Orlando Magic must continue to build as schedule toughens. dark. Next

But the Magic are putting this trust in the decisionmaking in these young players. That is the key to their success.