Meet Orlando Magic rookie Cole Anthony

Cole Anthony entered college as one of the top prospects in the country. His time at North Carolina was a struggle. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Cole Anthony entered college as one of the top prospects in the country. His time at North Carolina was a struggle. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic drafted Cole Anthony despite a difficult year at North Carolina. The Magic hope that was a blip and he can reclaim his potential.

The Orlando Magic were not very active in the shortened NBA offseason, or at least the early parts of free agency. The team mostly worked to shore up depth and retain players from last year’s roster. The team has not found its big move to propel the team forward.

Much of the season is riding on last year’s roster bouncing back from a poor year and the development of young players — not named Jonathan Isaac, who will miss the rest of the season.

With the team’s roster full following the signings of Gary Clark and Michael Carter-Williams, it is safe to say the biggest acquisition the Magic made this offseason was 15th overall pick Cole Anthony.

They made that acquisition official on Saturday, signing him to his standard rookie contract.

Rookies and first-round picks should always be considered major acquisitions. But this offseason, it appears Anthony is the biggest name the Magic have added to their roster. That is disappointing for a team that is hoping to become something more than a back-end playoff team.

Anthony is certainly talented enough to make an impact. He averaged 18.5 points per game, 5.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game, albeit on an inefficient 45.1-percent effective field goal percentage.

Orlando made the right call taking a swing on a player who is extremely talented. He was one of the top players in his high school class. That talent does not go away. Certainly not this quickly.

Putting his college career in context is important in understanding whether Anthony will reach the star potential he showed in high school and in flashes at North Carolina. Orlando has to be comfortable with the reasons he fell and equally comfortable dismissing them as products of the college game or circumstances that will not be present with the Magic.

Orlando feels like it got a strong player to add to its fold. But figuring out exactly who he is will be something the team does in the weeks leading up to training camp. And just how good the Magic can be might well rely on what Anthony can provide immediately.

To get a better picture of Anthony and his impact and struggles at North Carolina, we reached out to Zack Pearson of Keeping It Heel. He answered our questions about the Cole Anthony experience at North Carolina.

Philip Rossman-Reich, Orlando Magic Daily: What were the overall impressions of Cole Anthony at North Carolina? Obviously, it was a tough year for the Tar Heels but how do North Carolina fans view him?

Zack Pearson, Keeping It Heel: Yeah, it was a tough year for the Tar Heels finishing 14-19 but Cole Anthony was a lone bright spot.

Going into the year he was a legit five-star prospect and one of the top players in that recruiting class. He made his impact felt right away with big games against Notre Dame [34 points, 11 rebounds, five assists] and Oregon [19 points, five rebounds, five assists]. But after his injury he suffered, that is when UNC’s season went downhill.

Overall, Anthony was a blast to watch during his brief time at UNC although there is part of the fan base that was a little disappointed. I think because of the hype that Anthony had, fans expected more in terms of UNC not having a bad year. It is not his fault at all as this was a relatively weak roster in Chapel Hill.

Anthony kept it real and got to showcase just how good he could be and I think a lot of fans were excited to get at least one year of him.

Rossman-Reich: What was Cole Anthony best at in college? What made him look like a top-5 pick that many thought he was earlier in the year?

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

Pearson: His ability to score from anywhere on the court. He can flat out shoot the ball as well as find his way inside the paint with his great finishing ability. He was a tough guard to defend with his speed and his ball-handling skills, making him a legit prospect for the NBA.

The thing that hurt him was the lack of shooters on UNC’s roster. Cole Anthony was great in the pick and pop situations but oftentimes he would find open shooters who would miss shots. That forced him to force more shots up, hurting his shooting percentage.

Rossman-Reich: Some have described Anthony as a bit of a ball hog as he tried to carry the North Carolina team. Is this description fair? What was the cause of the Tar Heels’ struggles and how much of that was Anthony’s play style?

Pearson: I think I answered this one a bit in the last question but the lack of scorers on UNC’s roster forced Cole Anthony into having to shoot the ball more. With no scoring options, Anthony took it upon himself to try to score more and it hurt his shooting percentage as well as production for the team.

Sure, I can see where some call him a ball hog but look at UNC’s roster and the injuries they had. Outside of Garrison Brooks and Brandon Robinson, Cole Anthony was the only other scoring threat for the Tar Heels and at times had to force more shots than he wanted to. I do not think Anthony will be a ball hog at the next level but instead be a good facilitator in an NBA offense.

Rossman-Reich: What impact did Cole Anthony’s injury have on his play throughout the season and on the team as a whole? Was that something that held him back?

Pearson: It did hold him back. He looked fine when he returned for the most part but there were times where that injury bugged him, especially when planting for a jump shot or slashing through the lane. That is a big part of his game and the injury certainly hampered him a bit.

Rossman-Reich: How do you see Cole Anthony fitting in at the NBA level? Will his game translate?

Pearson: I think Cole Anthony’s style of play translates well to the next level. You need scorers in the NBA and with teams going with systems that have two point guards that can score, Anthony becomes important. Not only because of that but he can bring the ball up the court as well.

His quickness and vision are a big plus at that next level, especially after showing his ability to find the open man when driving to the basket. The one thing I think he would need to improve on is his defense. It was not awful but there is room for improvement there.

Next. Orlando Magic won't get equal value when they make their move. dark

My thanks to Zach for answering some of our questions and giving us his perspective on his time at North Carolina. Magic fans are certainly excited to see Anthony hit the court. You can follow Zach’s work over at Keeping It Heel and follow him on Twitter @Zack_Pearson and follow Keeping It Heel on Twitter @KeepingItHeel.