Cole Anthony and R.J. Hampton’s development will be crucial for the Orlando Magic

R.J. Hampton had his moment as the Orlando Magic raced past the Detroit Pistons. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
R.J. Hampton had his moment as the Orlando Magic raced past the Detroit Pistons. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

As the 2021 season comes to a close, the Orlando Magic are looking for any bright spots to close a rough year. Look no further than Cole Anthony and R.J. Hampton as they continue to show growth to close out the year.

Both players have turned in impressive performances in the closing weeks of the season. Anthony with his audacious late-game heroics and has made a name for himself beyond Orlando. Hampton has slowly grown with more playing time and is starting to put together some impressive performances, including his first two career double-doubles in his last two games.

Their play has been the brightest spot in a difficult end to a season of change.

Cole Anthony and R.J. Hampton have made huge strides as their rookie seasons come to a close. The Orlando magic will need both to take this momentum into their offseasons and next year.

And their development is going to be crucial for Orlando as the team goes into the offseason and gets ready to compete in the 2022 season.

Both Anthony and Hampton have faced up and downs throughout their rookie years.

For Cole Anthony, it was getting thrown into the fire after Markelle Fultz went down and dealing with a rib injury just as he was playing well and getting his bearings in the league.

He was rusty when he first returned but has slowly started to regain his form. But in his last 10 games, Anthony is averaging 14.7 points per game and 5.3 assists per game while shooting a 47.6-percent effective field goal percentage.

He had a string of 12 straight games scoring at least 10 points broken earlier this week as the Magic have started to manage his minutes some more heading toward the end of the season.

For Hampton, it was being drafted to the Denver Nuggets and struggling to find opportunities to play as he was a part of a contending team and behind Jamal Murray. He averaged only 9.3 minutes per game in 25 games for the Nuggets.

Orlando gave him an opportunity to play. He has averaged 24.3 minutes per game in 21 minutes. That playing time has allowed his game to grow and he has taken full advantage of it, averaging 10l.2 points per game on a 47.6-percent effective field goal percentage since his arrival in Orlando.

Both players have broken through their slumps and have been playing well as they show flashes of what they can become.

Anthony has grown as a pure point guard throughout the season in terms of being able to keep the team organized and finding his teammates. Before the All-Star Break, he averaged 3.8 assists. It is up to 5.2 per game since the break. His assist-to-turnover ratio has also improved from 1.84 to 2.44.

Not only has he improved as a passer but even as a scorer and as a shooter.

Anthony is averaging 13.8 points per game since returning from the break, which is up from 11 points per game beforehand. He is doing this on better shooting splits from 37.5-percent to 41.8-percent and 32.5-percent to 33.9-percent from three. This also includes a drastic improvement from shots within nine feet of the basket, jumping from 38.5-percent to 48.0-percent.

As he continues to improve, his confidence continues to increase. In his game against the Memphis Grizzlies, where he scored 26 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and had six assists, he grabbed the moment and reveled in it. It was a bold shot to hit the game-winning three after leading a comeback from 20 points down in the second half.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

The Magic need a player who wants that type of moment and excels in it.

As for Hampton, he continues to improve as he gets more time on the court.

Through the eye test, you can see the difference in his game from when he first arrived in Orlando and to now. The biggest change has been the speed of the game. It is noticeable that the game is starting to slow down for Hampton as he is being better at picking his spots and not recklessly attacking the paint.

In his last four games, he has averaged 15.8 points, 5.8 assists, and 7.0 rebounds per game while shooting 44.7-percent from the field and 45.5-percent from beyond the arc. While it is a small sample size, this is the first time Hampton has received extended minutes in the NBA.

Hampton is showing flashes of becoming a combo guard who is capable of stuffing the stat sheet. This type of playstyle helps a team that is trying to play faster and create opportunities to score. Also, once this team has a training camp, his play will improve and be more controlled, which will help the team.

This is not to say these players are close to being perfect. They both have to find ways to use their respective skillsets to improve on the defensive end on the court. But the effort is there, and an offseason would help their technique.

With Fultz coming back next season and the Magic likely to add a high lottery pick, there is a scenario where this is Orlando’s backcourt off the bench.

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A key to becoming a great team is having the ability to keep a consistent way of playing no matter who is on the court. Both Anthony and Hampton can play with speed and talent to find opportunities to score for themselves and their teammates. They both do have the talent to start as well, so whether they are starting or coming off the bench, their development will be crucial for the future.