Five seasons removed from his college basketball career at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, Josh Magette finally found his opportunity to play at the NBA level. After four seasons in the NBA G League (formerly D-League), four NBA Summer Leagues with four different teams and stints in two different leagues in Europe, the Atlanta Hawks valued Magette enough to award him one of the team’s two two-way contracts to start the 2017-18 NBA season.
Players trying to work their way on to an NBA roster will tell you that the opportunity to play is equally as important as the ability the play. In the 2017-18 Hawks, Magette found the right opportunity to showcase his skills at the NBA level and to demonstrate the value he can bring to an NBA organization.
A team that is rebuilding, resetting, transitioning to a younger core, or whatever one wants to call it, was just the opportunity Magette needed. Playing for a young team that dealt with numerous injuries throughout the season, Magette made 18 appearances for the Hawks while also playing 36 games for the organization’s G League affiliate, the Erie Bayhawks, and leading them to the G League Eastern Conference Finals.
At the NBA level, Magette played in 18 games averaging 12.0 minutes per game in those contests. To little surprise, he demonstrated that he is a pass-first ball-distributing point guard who is comfortable running an NBA offense. He averaged 2.6 points, 3.2 assists with just 0.5 turnovers per game. On a per-36 minute basis, this translates to 7.7 points, 9.5 assists and 1.5 turnovers. The 9.5 assists per 36 minutes and 6.3 assist-turnover ratio easily led the team, albeit in limited action.
He also made eight of his 22 three-point attempts for a clip of 36.4% which is right at the NBA league average. But, when you consider Hawks’ point guards Dennis Schroder (29.0%) and Isaiah Taylor (25.0%) both struggled at the three-point line, Magette’s long-range shooting was an asset comparatively.
Magette’s NBA debut came on Oct. 18 in Dallas. In a little over four minutes of action, he registered three points, making his only field goal attempt, and two assists in a 117-111 win over the Mavericks.
October 18, 2017 — Magette takes, and makes, his first NBA field goal attempt, a three-pointer versus the Mavericks.
His best game of season came on March 11 at home versus the Bulls. Magette played 22 minutes off the bench behind Taylor as the Hawks played without Schroder and Malcolm Delaney. Magette scored seven points and matched Taylor’s team-high eight assists in a 129-122 loss to Chicago.
March 11, 2018 — Magette and Mike Muscala execute a pick and roll that results in a Magette assist and a Muscala three-pointer versus the Bulls.
Offensively, Magette has shown that he has NBA skills. His ball handling and three-point shooting translate just fine to the NBA level. He is an excellent ball handler who makes good decisions with the ball and rarely turns the ball over. The 28-year-old delivers the ball on time and hits players in rhythm as they are ready to shoot the basketball — a skill that can sometimes be overlooked, especially as Magette makes this part of his game look easy.
However, in a Mike Budenhozler system, the point guard is expected to initiate the offense as a ball-handler and scoring threat working especially in pick and roll situations. A Budenholzer point guard needs the ability to punish opposing bigs who gets switched on to them using the ability to knock down jumpers against bigger, slower defenders while also being able to explode past those defenders and score at the basket. It is the latter of those skills that does not fall into Magette’s strengths.
As mentioned, Magette made eight of 22 attempts from behind the three-point line for the Hawks this season. But, on two-point attempts, Magette made just seven of twenty-four attempts for 29.2%. In the G-League this season, he made 42.8% of this two-point attempts which was actually the lowest in his 4-year G-League career.
Nevertheless, in the right role in the right offense, Magette has demonstrated that he can contribute at the NBA level. A reliable bench point guard who can take care of the basketball and run a second unit offense is certainly valued in today’s NBA game.
On the defensive end, there are more questions as to whether Magette’s game translates at the highest level. In November, our own Jeff Siegel wrote a terrific piece on Magette’s game with some fantastic observations about his defensive abilities.
In this piece, Siegel notes that Magette knows how to defend, is willing to defend, but does not necessarily possess the quickness, size and physicality needed to defend NBA point guards. On the season, Magette’s defensive rating of 106.0 in limited playing time is not really enough of a real indicator to draw conclusions from that metric alone.
During his NBA playing time this season, we did see that Magette is a smart and capable help and recover defender. However, when opponents would try to use pick-and-roll action to get Magette switched on to a big, Magette wisely made the effort to work over and through screens to stay connected to the guard he was defending. Still, opponents were able to utilize an edge in quickness and athleticism to exploit Magette’s limitations on the defensive end.
March 22, 2018 — Kings’ rookie point guard Frank Mason loses Magette and converts an open jump shot as a result.
Like many players in Magette’s situation, each season is a new endeavor to find the best, or any, opportunity to earn an NBA roster spot. In his favor, Magette now has NBA regular season game film that prospective teams can use to evaluate him. The minutes were not plentiful, but 216 minutes are enough to remove some of the guess work in that evaluation.
Working against Magette is his age. In a backup point guard role, most teams are looking for a younger, higher ceiling player that can be developed or a proven NBA veteran that can play meaningful minutes and even start should an injury force him into a starting role. Magette fits neither of those molds.
What Magette does offer is a steady and reliable player who can be an asset for teams developing younger players at the wing or front court positions.. Whether its running an NBA bench unit in practice, working off an NBA bench as a third point who can on occasion be a second point guard when circumstances require or running a first unit the G League, there is no doubt that Magette can be an asset to an NBA organization.
Much like heading into the 2017-18 season, the questions surrounding Magette including what kind of role he can occupy and with what organization he will land. Surely, Magette will aim for a full-time NBA roster spot for the 2018-19 season.
Regardless of whether he gets that opportunity or finds another opportunity that doesn’t quite live up to his goal, Magette will surely work hard, play smart basketball and bring value to the NBA organization that gives him the opportunity.