ORLANDO - Three-point shooting was one of the Orlando Magic’s biggest weaknesses during the 2022-23 season. They ranked 27th in 3-point attempts, 25th in made 3-pointers, and 24th in 3-point percentage.
With two selections in the lottery (Nos 6 and 11) and another early in the second round (36th), perhaps the Magic will consider adding one (or two, or three) of the premier long-distance shooters from this draft.
Among them are Kansas’ Gradey Dick, UConn’s Jordan Hawkins, Michigan’s Jett Howard, Creighton’s Trey Alexander, Baylor’s Adam Flagler, and Santa Clara’s Brandin Podziemski.
As a freshman for the Jayhawks this past season, Dick made the second-most 3-pointers in the Big 12 with 83 of them and shot 40.3 percent on his attempts from downtown. He knocked down at least five triples in three games, including on Nov. 23 against NC State when he made six of his 12 tries.
“First, people see the shooting,” the 6-foot-8 swingman said. “But, I think at the same time, I’m excited to show my versatility – on the offensive side and defensive side. With my size, I can guard multiple positions. I’m just willing to step up to the plate and just do that, and my mindset is just go out there and kill everything. That’s what I’m going to do from day one.”
Dick says he watches many players to try and gain tips from, including all-time great 3-point shooters Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Reggie Miller.
Hawkins, meanwhile, led the Big East in threes made as a sophomore with 109 of them. That was also the 12th most in all of Division I college basketball during the 2022-23 season. The 6-foot-5, 185-pound shooting guard helped the Huskies win the school’s fifth men’s basketball national championship.
Born and raised in Maryland and a former standout at DeMatha Catholic High School, which is where current Magic point guard Markelle Fultz played several years earlier, Hawkins drilled at least three 3-pointers in five of UConn’s six NCAA Tournament games, including hitting six of them in the Elite Eight against Gonzaga.
“I think I’m the best shooter in the draft,” he said. “My ability to move and shoot. I think that’s a skill – getting open is also a skill. My championship-caliber tenacity I would bring every single day to a team.”
He says he models his game after several players, including UConn legends Ray Allen and Richard Hamilton.
Howard played for his dad, Juwan, at Michigan. His 78 made threes were third-most in the Big 10 this past season. His best performance came on Jan. 12 at Iowa when he erupted for 34 points and knocked down seven 3-pointers.
“Being able to be versatile,” the 6-foot-8, 215-pounder said when listing his main strengths. “Being able to be a secondary ball handler, someone who can create their own shots, something who can knock down open shots, someone if you need me to be a utility guy – I can do all those things.”
Devin Booker and Thompson are players he likes to watch, but he believes he’s one of one.
Not many players made more improvement with their 3-point shooting from the 2021-22 season to the 2022-23 season than Alexander, who helped the Bluejays reach the Elite Eight back in March. He went from shooting 28.1 percent from 3-point distance on just 1.8 3-point attempts during his freshman campaign to shooting 41 percent on 4.4 attempts in his sophomore season.
Twice – once on Christmas Day against DePaul and again on March 1 against Georgetown – he buried seven 3-pointers.
“I’m one of those guys on the team that’s always clapping, always keeping the energy up,” he said. “Obviously, me being able to shoot the ball at a high level, I feel like I’m really good at that. Being able to score at all three levels, but also being able to play the one a little bit and being able to playmake a little bit.”
At 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, he’s looking to show scouts that he can run an offense if called upon to do so. People have told him that Jamal Murray and Dejounte Murray are players that he plays somewhat like.
Another combo guard with an excellent outside shooting touch is Flagler, who won a national title at Baylor in his first season with the Bears after transferring from Presbyterian. That season that Baylor won the championship, he shot 43.4 percent from 3-point range. He had his best overall season, however, this past year with a scoring average of 15.6 points while shooting 40 percent from downtown.
“Shooting, my ability to play the one and the two, ability to manage the game, get guys involved,” the 6-foot-3, 185-pounder said of his top strengths. “My defense has been something a lot of people question, but I’ve been able to show that, especially these past two days (at draft combine), being able to pick up full court and challenge guys.”
Many have compared him to CJ McCollum and Tim Hardaway Jr.
Another recent mock draft riser in recent weeks has been Podziemski, who had a breakout season with the Broncos after transferring from Illinois. He averaged just a shade under 20 points per contest as a sophomore a year after barely playing for the Fighting Illini. At 6-foot-5, 205 pounds, he shot 43.8 percent from 3-point range at Santa Clara.
Beyond shooting, though, he’s an incredibly good rebounder for a guard, averaging 8.8 rebounds this past season. He actually had double-digit rebounds in five of his last six games, including on Feb. 23 against Pepperdine when he pulled down a whopping 18 of them.
“I’m a true point guard. I tell people that I’m a hooper that can shoot, not a shooter that can hoop,” he said.
He says he watches a lot of Manu Ginobili, Luka Doncic, Jalen Brunson, Jrue Holiday and Donte DiVincenzo – players that aren’t necessarily super athletic but are extremely successful because of their high basketball IQ and creativity.
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