Last night UNC’s latest one-and-done freshman Cole Anthony was drafted by the Orlando Magic with the 15th-overall pick in the NBA Draft. This draft was tricky, because Anthony was projected to be drafted as early as 15th, or as late as one of the last first-round picks of the draft. However, it’s clear that the Magic had their sights set on adding another point guard to their roster, and he was their best option remaining on the board. Cole Anthony is now the 117th overall Tar Heel to be selected in the NBA Draft.
Now that we know where Anthony will spend at least the first couple of years of his NBA career, the question is how does he fit with his new team? Let’s take a look at what the current situation is for the Orlando Magic, and how Cole Anthony can help them get where they need to go.
The State of the Magic
The Orlando Magic have had an interesting two seasons. In the 2018-19 season the Magic clinched a playoff berth for the first time since the 2011-12 season before getting eliminated in the first round by the eventual NBA Champion Toronto Raptors. The following season comparatively was a bit disappointing, as they finished the regular season with a 33-40 record, but still made the playoffs once the NBA restarted thanks to a weak Eastern Conference. Unfortunately the past came back to haunt them, and they lost in the first round to the Milwaukee Bucks with the same 1-4 game differential that they suffered by the hands of the Raptors.
Now here’s where Cole Anthony starts to factor in. Prior to the draft, the point guard depth chart consisted of Markelle Fultz, D.J. Augustin, and Michael Carter-Williams. Augustin started the 2019-20 season as the starting point guard, only to have his spot stolen by Fultz in early November. From there Fultz started every game until the NBA shut down, which is when the Magic went back to Augustin for the starting role.
While it sounds like the roster has a good amount of point guard depth, it appears that this isn’t exactly the case. According to Zach Oliver at Orlando Pinstriped Post, Augustin and Carter-Williams will be hitting free agency this Friday, which makes the pick of Anthony a no-brainer:
“In the SB Nation NBA Mock draft, we selected Anthony with this selection to help add more depth to the point guard position for the Magic. With both D.J. Augustin and Michael Carter-Williams set to hit free agency on Friday evening, getting someone who could play point guard was important for the Magic.”
Should both of these point guards leave Orlando, that leaves Fultz and Anthony as the two primary floor generals. The good news is that Fultz is looking more like the player the league hoped he would be when he arrived, Anthony’s game will without a doubt fill some holes that Fultz simply cannot. Let’s now take a look at what the Magic’s newest point guard will bring to the table.
How Cole Anthony fits in
The long and short of what any Orlando Magic fans reading this need to know is that Cole Anthony is a much better player than a lot of people across the country have suggested. He spent most of the 2019-20 season injured, so his hype was never able to match what he was able to display on the basketball court. Another big factor in his production was the players around him. Jake Lawrence stated in his draft announcement article that if Coby White and Cole Anthony traded teams for their UNC careers, Anthony would’ve been much more productive than he was, and I think that is spot-on.
When looking at Fultz and Anthony, the biggest difference between these two players is the polish of Anthony’s offensive game. Fultz has had some well-documened issues with his shooting stroke since entering the NBA, but Anthony has always been strong in that department. Yes, his stats in college weren’t the greatest, as he only shot 38% from the field and 34.8% from deep, but his injury for most of the season and the need to take quite a few ill-advised shots played a huge role in that. He has an excellent pull-up jumper and made a number of off-balance jumpers when situations called for it. I would also be interested to see how officiating in the NBA benefits him, as he got bullied around quite a bit when trying to attack the paint. Long story short, Anthony will be the offensive player that Fultz may never be able to become.
As a point guard, Anthony is also better in that department than perceived. To continue beating the drum of how bad the 2019-20 UNC team was, Anthony did a good job for the most part when it came to running the offense and making the right passes. He had his share of turnovers, but ultimately I think his assist-to-turnover ratio would have been much better if he was surrounded by more players that were able to put the ball in the basket. I expect him to show improvement in this department almost immediately in Orlando.
In short, I feel like Cole Anthony landed in one of the best situations possible for him in this NBA Draft. The Magic had a clear need at the point guard position, and not only will Anthony fill that role, but he may even have a chance to compete with Fultz for the starting spot. Will that happen this season? I would say probably not, but as Anthony continues to develop and prove his worth, it’ll be difficult for that conversation not to get louder and louder. Another recent Tar Heel in the NBA can relate.
As far as his career overall, I think Anthony is a NBA player through and through and will remain in the league for a long time. I don’t often say that a player is more built for the NBA game than the college game, but I do think that was the case here. Anthony’s game flourishes with space, in the pick-and-roll, and most importantly, with talent surrounding him. Now that he will have these things, it’s time to see what this kid is really made of.