2020 Orlando Magic Draft Preview: Cole Anthony is the home run pick

CHAPEL HILL, NC - FEBRUARY 25: Cole Anthony #2 of the University of North Carolina dribbles the ball during a game between NC State and North Carolina at Dean E. Smith Center on February 25, 2020 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
CHAPEL HILL, NC - FEBRUARY 25: Cole Anthony #2 of the University of North Carolina dribbles the ball during a game between NC State and North Carolina at Dean E. Smith Center on February 25, 2020 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images) /

One of the more divisive prospects in the draft, Cole Anthony is expected to fall to the late lottery. He could be the home run the Orlando Magic are looking for.

When it comes to accolades, Cole Anthony has a ton of them.

He was the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American Game. He was the MVP of the Jordan Brand Classic. He was the Nike Hoop Summit MVP. Coming out of the high school, all Cole Anthony knew was being the best player on a court full of future NBA players.

Hailing from Oak Hill, many experts had Anthony as a top 5 draft pick and the best point guard in the class. He was ranked the fourth-best prospect overall by Rivals.

Then his freshman year at North Carolina happened.

Playing for a team that severely underachieved, Cole Anthony received several “red flag” labels during the college season as he struggled to make good on his promise and his talent. The Tar Hells cratered with one of the worst seasons in that storied program’s history.

Many called him a “chucker”, someone that refused to play within the offense and settled for bad shots. Some scouts began to question his defensive effort, leadership capability, and motivation.

These labels are not off-base, but scouts are overlooking his strengths and true potential. He still has all that promise and he still produced some incredible raw statistics.

This is the kind of prospect who slips through the cracks. Recency bias and bad feelings hiding a player who is incredibly talented. This is the kid of player that drops lower than he should and helps a playoff team break though.

Any NBA team will be lucky to land Cole Anthony in the mid-first round and that team should be the Orlando Magic.


Cole Anthony’s strengths jump off the screen when you watch him play, they all just come with an asterisk.

We know he is aggressive, confident, and can score at will. He has shown that he is a fearless driver that will challenge anyone at the rim. But can he reign this all in and play within an NBA offense?

The answer is yes. Anthony possesses a knack for creating offense, whether it be with the jump shot, floater, or finishes with both hands. He can shoot off the catch, off the dribble, and on the move.

Anthony, despite all the perceived struggles at North Carolina, averaged 18.5 points per game and 4.0 assists per game. He added 1.3 steals per game too, showing at least some opportunistic defensive ability.

He made only 38.0-percent of his shots overall and 34.8-percent of his 3-pointers. That inefficiency is likely driving a lot of the doubt with Anthony. But he can put the ball in the basket.

At North Carolina, Anthony was given the keys to the car right away. The problem is that car was damaged and barely functional. North Carolina ran jumbled offensive sets, possessed no spacing, and faced chemistry issues the entire season.

There is a reason you don’t see any other Carolina players in mock drafts this year.

On top of this, Anthony missed almost all of December and January after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus — the same injury that kept Al-Farouq Aminu out for almost the entire year.

Before his injury, Anthony averaged 19.1 points per game, 6.3 rebounds per game and 3.6 assists per game. Although he remained inefficient as a shooter, Anthony’s season was hampered significantly by a significant injury.

In the NBA, Anthony will find himself in a better situation. There will be more space to operate, he won’t be the only playmaker every time he steps on court, and he will be given more spots to use his combo guard skills.


Cole Anthony’s weaknesses are mostly a result of his best skills not yet being harnessed. Scouts question his shot selection, his ability to create for teammates, and as previously mentioned, his ability to play within a team system.

North Carolina Tar Heels Basketball
North Carolina Tar Heels Basketball /

North Carolina Tar Heels Basketball

His physical profile has also been called into question. At 6-foot-3, Anthony has good height for a point guard but is a little undersized as a two-guard. He has a 6-foot-3.5 wingspan, which is not great length in today’s league.

Watching the tape, it is clear Anthony needs work in many areas, but what prospect in this draft does not?

Anthony’s weaknesses are all fixable.

No ability to play within a system? A franchise can fix that. Struggles to create for teammates? Let’s give him some real talent and see what happens. Questions about his defensive ability? He’s athletic and will learn to pick his spots.

Every prospect in this draft has their weaknesses, but Anthony’s floor is high and ceiling is even higher.

Fit with Orlando Magic

If it were not for his one season in college, Cole Anthony may be the number one pick in the draft. Any time the Orlando Magic can get that level of talent in the mid-first round, they need to jump on the opportunity.

When that player fits exactly with their team needs, that is what constitutes a home run.

The Magic need a guard and they need players who can create offense. Cole Anthony is both of those things.

This draft is widely known to be a down year and it could be very likely that some of best players are drafted outside of the top ten.

Cole Anthony has more star potential than most of the players that are going to be selected before him. This is perfect for a Magic franchise looking for a direction.

If it does not all click, his floor is still a serviceable NBA player, like Mo Williams or Austin Rivers.

If it does all work out, it would not be a surprise if Anthony is wearing an NBA All-Star jersey within his first four or five years in the league. His ceiling is the best player in the draft — think Jamal Murray or Kemba Walker.

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This is the type of calculated risk the Magic need to make to change the direction of the franchise.