Analyzing Paolo Banchero's Dilemma from Downtown
Today’s NBA is full of 3s, and the emergence of shots casted from all spots and distances beyond the arc has started to come at an unimaginable volume. The 3-pointer’s dominance has taken over the league by storm with surprising speed. More than a third of all shot attempts over the past few seasons have been 3s; before this decade, no individual team had taken such a high percentage of its shots from three-point range in a single season. And the new-found pattern may not be abandoned anytime soon. Unfortunately, the Orlando Magic have failed to follow suit in this trend adopted throughout the league, especially this season.
Orlando Magic 3PT Shooting Break-Down
3PT Shooting (59 GP) *22-23 Season
3PT Shooting (8 GP) Feb
A main talking point this season has been the offense's failure to find the back of the rim from downtown. An offense gasping for air as defenders sag off from perimeter shooters has caused rookie sensation Paolo Banchero to be one of the victims of this nightmarish three-point shooting season.
Coming into this season, the number one overall pick was the organization’s most coveted asset and significant source of optimism—a tantalizing physical specimen with all the tools to fit in and enhance just about any lineup. Still only 20 years old, he’s been everything the Magic have hoped for and more. In 52 games, Banchero has logged 20+ points 29 times this season, the most by any NBA rookie, much of which has been rewarded by winning rookie of the month twice through three months (third player in Magic history to be named the league's Rookie of the Month in consecutive months). His shot diet consists of rumbling downhill and finishing through contact, and drawing whistles at a veteran level, which has been uber impressive. Banchero, however, has been the newest member of the victim club on a team aching for perimeter consistency – he has connected on only one three-pointer in 27 attempts in eight-game (s) in February for 6.7% from downtown.
Paolo Banchero 3PT Shooting in Feb (8 GP)
3PT: 1/27 (3.7%)
8 = Pull-Ups (0/8)
20-24 ft. (0-5)
Above the Break: 1/23 (4.3%)
16 = Jump-Shots (1/16) 6.3%
25-29 ft. (1-22) 4.5%
Right/ Left Corner: 0/4 (0%)
3 = Step-Backs (0/3)
The way a defense (and opposing head coaches) views your tendencies dictates how they try to manipulate your offensive possessions. A player may only generate a small fraction of his individual offense from downtown, but it’s how they are viewed as a long-distance threat that holds value league-wide. A hefty sample of frightening results from the perimeter leads to defenders baiting players into that weakness. It changes how they position themselves on the court (sagging back, a daring pull-up jumper, and castaway bombs), clogging the interior and low block. If the shooter doesn’t make them pay once, the lack of respect is evident. It will instantly have a negative effect on the entire team. On every trip down the floor, that players' defender will grow more confident in the strategy of helping off and shading the other ball-handlers when the poor shooter doesn’t have the ball.
There’s a typical pattern to these videos: defenses just don’t care enough about the threat of Banchero’s 3-pointer, and go so far as to encourage it actively in drop coverage or not bothering to alter his shot with a late contest.
Paolo Banchero 3PT Shooting Defender Distance
Closest Defender Distance
6+ FT (Wide Open)
4-6 FT (Open)
2-4 FT (Tight)
Despite the minimal success Banchero has posed as a perimeter shooter this month. He’s been wide open on 15 of his 27 long-range attempts (55.6%) through the eight games played in February leading up to the All-Star Break. That’s one of the highest rates in the league and amongst rookies; however, it hasn't translated to Banchero finding his groove, as he's connected on only 1/15 of wide-open 3’s. His willingness to attempt these shots, though, poses a constant threat to the defense, making him a nightmare to cover in pick-and-roll actions.
Due to the Magic’s inability to shoot 3’s at a level of competency this season, Jamahl Mosley has inherited a majority of the offensive scheme to stem from pace and space correlating to one of the more utilized sets they’ve run this season to counteract defenders clogging the paint and low block. (5-OUT Offense)
This five-out style of offense has been a staple in the NBA as of late and has filtered into a coveted play set for Orlando, keeping the paint open and allowing for dribble drives that are tough to guard. Orlando recently has spread out the offense to spray the ball to three-point shooters in half-court as well as transition. The 5-OUT spacing of the Orlando Magic allows for more leisurely driving lanes, easier reads, and more space for playmakers to get downhill to attack or create kick-out dishes. It would be tactical malpractice for ANY team to swear off the 3-pointer, but their INABILITY to have multiple perimeter threats offensively has cost them a plethora of wins. The cumulative effects of this offense are twofold. First, Paolo is taking 3s because those are the looks most readily available to him. But for all his strengths, he has never turned the 3-pointer into a highly efficient shot.
Paolo Banchero 3PT Shooting in (52 GP)
3PT: 61/217 (28.1%)
Above the Break: 55/191 (28.8%)
Jump-Shots: 36/125 (28.8%)
Right/ Left Corner: 6/26 (23%)
The second effect is that when Banchero decides to drive, he’s no longer scoring at will (shooting a mere 31.6% from 5-9 ft). He’s still one of the most explosive athletes on the team when engaged—but it’s harder to leverage that advantage against a thicket of awaiting defenders.
When Banchero has used the spacing of the 5-OUT offensive scheme to leverage his threat inside, it hasn't garnered results – only 11 of his 31 attempts have found the back of the rim in the (Non-RA) 35.5%. His lack of making 3’s has started to deteriorate his skill set as a whole – his lack of an outside touch has catered to more bodies inside of 18 feet, more blockades near the rim, and a huge mental hurdle that can be steep to overcome. On the season, the Orlando Magic have hoisted 21 shots in the painted area with 0-2 feet of the closest defender – connecting on only 4 of them (19%), 4th WORST in the NBA.
With the trade deadline past, the Orlando Magic have little choice but to stay the course. They have repeatedly chosen to opt out of the 3-point duels that define the modern NBA. Only five players on the roster averaged more than one 3-pointer made per game in February: Harris (2.0), Wendell Carter Jr (1.7), Jalen Suggs (1.6), Franz Wagner (1.4), and Caleb Houstan (1.3) As the Magic’s leading scorer, Paolo Banchero averages 1.2 made 3P every game — a crucial aspect of his shot diet has relied on pick-and-roll actions and leveraging his defender near the rim for a bucket or drawing contact to get to the charity stripe. In order to offset this reality, the Magic need to load up on efficient shooting guards in the off-season/free agency who could complement not only Paolo Banchero but Markelle Fultz around the perimeter as well.
The Magic face the laborious task of outscoring opponents with a higher volume of lower-value shots, as they turn into this final 23 game stretch with their play-in hopes in sight. Sitting at 24-35 through 59 games the Orlando finds themselves.
4 games behind TOR
4.5 games behind WAS
As of now, the difference between the No. 8 and 13 seeds is just five games. The record of the Magic's remaining teams on the schedule is exactly .500, (17th in the NBA)
Washington Wizards (.497)
Chicago Bulls (.496)
Indiana Pacers (.488) are behind Orlando on the list
Atlanta Hawks (.523)
Toronto Raptors (.520) rank among the five toughest schedules remaining
Despite the ongoing struggles the Magic pose as a team from a long distance, they are 19-15 in their last 34 games, after a 5-20 start, hoisting the NBA’s tenth-best record since December 7th behind rookie sensation Paolo Banchero. Shooting 3.7% from long range in February hasn’t slowed Paolo from the rest of his rookie class, still averaging 15.5 points per game (3rd most amongst rookies). Though Paolo has not turned the 3-pointer into a highly efficient shot in his rookie season, thus far when he has made two threes in a game the Magic are 11-6 as opposed to 10-25 when he fails to connect on more than one.