Here’s What We Can Expect from Orlando Magic Newcomer Cole Anthony

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO - Less than a minute into his first game with the North Carolina Tar Heels last November, Cole Anthony, the son of former NBA player and current NBA TV and TNT analyst Greg Anthony, scored his first college bucket. What it showed was his ability to make a tough shot, as he kept his dribble alive going to his right despite hounding defense from Notre Dame’s Rex Pflueger before dropping in a difficult floater high off the glass.

That night turned out to be an extraordinary one for the 6-foot-3, 190-pound guard, who finished with 34 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. In every possible way, Anthony found the bottom of the net. He hit several off-balance shots, buried a few step-back jumpers, rose up from deep and drilled threes, took contact and got to the free throw line, tricked several Fighting Irish defenders with crafty dribble combinations to create space, and used his aggressiveness in transition to score on the move.

That’s what the Orlando Magic’s newest addition is capable of doing on a routine basis at the next level.

While it’s true that Anthony wasn’t very efficient in college, making just 38 percent of his shots overall and 34.8 percent of his 3-point tries, there’s no denying just how explosive of a scorer he can be playing in the right pro system.

Anthony, just 20 years old, has supreme confidence with the ball in his hands. He can score out of pick-and-roll action, in isolation, off the bounce and off the catch. He can pull up in transition or find his sweet spots in the half court.

In his first game back after missing 11 games due to a knee injury, the crafty guard tallied 26 points against Boston College, 14 of which came at the free throw line, proving how fearless of a competitor he is. Initiating contact is something he does well, important considering Orlando has ranked near the bottom in free throw attempts the last few years.

NBA comparisons range depending on what aspects of his game you choose to focus on. Coby White, who played at UNC the year before Anthony arrived in Chapel Hill, is one player some compare him to. Jamal Murray is another, as like the Denver Nuggets superstar, Anthony has shifty, unpredictable movements that help him carve out space for his floaters and step-backs.

He’s also similar to former NBA All-Star Mo Williams, an extremely good offensive player throughout his 14-year professional career.

Also a positive is that Anthony, who was born in Portland, Oregon while his father was playing for the Trail Blazers, can impact the game on both ends of the floor. He’s a solid defender. He’s tough, has a powerful lower body and possesses enough lateral quickness to keep opposing guards between him and the basket.

One play in particular from college highlights his defensive potential. In the first half of UNC’s third-place game against Oregon in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas, Anthony met Shakur Juiston at the rim and swatted away the 6-foot-7 forward’s dunk attempt.

One of the keys with the Magic is how he will mesh with Markelle Fultz, one of the NBA’s most improved players last season. Orlando Head Coach Steve Clifford believes the two will complement each other well.

“It would give us two pick-and-roll players on the floor at one time,” Clifford said. “As he (Anthony) becomes more comfortable and they’re more comfortable together, look at the great success that Toronto has playing (Fred) VanVleet and (Kyle) Lowry together. I think that we could definitely do it. They are big enough and they are both physical enough to guard bigger players.”

Anthony is looking forward to showcasing all of his skills when the season tips off next month. He believes he will be able to step in right away and make a positive impact.

“I think I can score, pass, rebound, defend. I don’t think there’s anything I can’t do on the floor. It’s just a matter of what the team needs,” an elated Anthony said shortly after the Magic drafted him. “Markelle, he’s very skilled. I think that our games will complement each other. I personally am looking forward to playing with him. Besides that, you got someone who is going to come in and just wants to win. (I’m) just going to do whatever I can to help the team win.”

Where does Anthony need to improve? Probably No. 1 on that list is playmaking. Especially when he’s the primary ball handler on the floor, Anthony will need to learn to create for others. He’s definitely more of a score-first combo guard, but he does have good enough vision and instincts to develop that skill.

As good of a scorer as he is, shot selection was somewhat of a problem with the Tar Heels. Good or bad depending on perspective, but he’s unafraid to take tough shots, which is partially why his field goal percentage was below what you’d expect from a high level prospect. What’s good about that is that a poor shooting performance is not going to shake his confidence.

Turnovers were a bit of an issue as well in college. He averaged 3.5 giveaways as a freshman. Most were just passing miscues. He generally did a good job preventing defenders from stripping the ball away from him.

Let’s not forget that Anthony, who played his first three years of high school at Archbishop Molloy in Briarwood, New York and his last at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, was widely considered one of the top five players in the nation this time a year ago. He has a really high ceiling, which is why getting him with the 15th overall pick could turn out to be a steal for the Magic.

“We like a lot about Cole,” Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman said. “First and foremost, we love who Cole is as a person. He’s smart. He’s tough. He’s battled a lot of adversity and we feel he’s going to be an excellent NBA player.”


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