The Orlando Magic Problems Start on the Offensive End

The Orlando Magic are a mess. More like a quick cleanup on aisle three in the grocery store type of mess — for the moment.

You name it and the Orlando Magic probably have done it and not in a good way.

They have traded assets for essentially nothing. They have overpaid veterans and signed players to bad contracts. They have leaked the future free agency plans inadvertently. They rank towards the end of the league in team efficiency despite brining in 10 new players this year than last year. Despite all of this, the Magic have one glaring issue to address before they start winning again — the offense.

Let’s talk numbers for a minute. Here are a few offensive categories and where the Orlando Magic rank in those categories.

Win percentage – 35.4% (27th)

Points – 101.1 (T27th)

FG % – 44.0 (29th)

3pt % – 32.5 (30th)

FT % – 74.5 (26th)

Ast – 22.1 (18th)

OfRtg – 101.3 (29th)

So what do the numbers suggest?

The Orlando Magic are one of the worse offensive teams in the league, which really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in terms of their current player personnel.

Now before people start screaming bloody hell, allow me to explain.

The Magic have the right personnel.

Elfrid Payton is capable of leading the team every night in transition and setting up the half court sets. As a team, the Magic are near the middle of the pack in assists.

Aaron Gordon is the dirty work guy who utilizes his mismatches on offense.

Nikola Vucevic is the low post scoring threat and offensive rebounder.

Evan Fournier and Jodie Meeks are capable of lighting up from downtown on any given night.

Terrence Ross is a three and defense type of swingman.

The rest of the role players are complimenting the core players just fine.

But are the Magic playing the way Frank Vogel intended for the team beginning the season?

…but we’re also going to play a style offensively where we adapt to the way today’s NBA game is played on the offensive end. We’re gonna play with pace, and we’re gonna take advantage of the athleticism we have on the roster, run the floor, and we’re also gonna space similarly to the way a lot of these teams are playin’ in today’s NBA.

…I’ve got a great desire to play up-and-down, great desire, and I feel like we have the athleticism and youth to achieve that right away.

                                                                           – Frank Vogel

Earlier in the year, the magic ranked towards the end of the league in offensive pace. They rarely got up and down the floor like the team should have been able to do and most of that had to do with a clog in the middle with a trio of big men that didn’t fit together. They didn’t play the way Vogel expressed he wanted his team to play.

Fast forward to after the trade deadline and the acquisition of wingman Terrence Ross and now the Magic are looking like an NBA caliber team – at least on offense. They have finally accepted a smaller lineup and a faster playing team.

The clear issue was the offensive schemes and lack of efficient play calling. During the Serge Ibaka era, the Magic would settle for setting up in a half court set and force feeding Ibaka on the low post. Aaron Gordon would camp at the three-point line waiting for force a bad shot and not be in position to battle for an offensive rebound. At times they would move their best rebounder in Vucevic to the three-point line to create more space for Ibaka to work. The problem with this scheme was Vucevic and Gordon were always out of position limiting their effectiveness.

Insert Terrence Ross into the lineup and remove Ibaka and now the same offense gets out and runs openly as Ross sets up as a better three-point threat while Vucevic runs down low to set up his position for a second chance rebound or a mismatch. Aaron Gordon slashes to the rim instead of camping out at the three-point line and now we have rotations and positions that make basketball sense. The end result is usually a dunk or high percentage three-pointer.

It took Vogel and staff, five months to adjust and make a change and that just shouldn’t happen at the NBA level.

Moving forward, the Magic have a blueprint to build from but it will take finding a way to consistently put players in position to score easier to truly elevate this team. The three alarming categories the Magic must address this off-season need to be three-point percentage, free throw conversion percentage, and field goal percentage.

Looking at the numbers the Magic need to get more production from two main positions, small forward and shooting guard. These two positions should feature the heavier load of three-pointers allowing Aaron Gordon to use his athleticism more in the paint and Elfrid Payton to penetrate and kick to wide open players or finish at the rim.

By playing Gordon, Payton, and Vucevic closer to the rim, the Magic should be able to see an upswing in their field goal percentage increasing their offensive efficiency. This will also translate over to the transition game.

The area of concern still remains at free throw percentage. While near the league bottom in attempts per game as a team 21.6 (26th), at the very minimum Orlando needs to aim to convert closer 80% than the current 74%. A lot of this falls on center Bismack Biyombo but with a talented guard/small forward this pressure shifts from Biyombo late in games to their scoring player(s). As of now Orlando doesn’t have a player who can get to the foul line 8-10 times per game and they desperately need someone who can do so consistently.

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The Magic seem like they will add a high offensive rookie this summer to fill the holes on offense and follow-up with established veterans via free agency and trades.

Whatever they ultimately decide, they need to address the offense first and allow the defense to come afterwards.

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