Projecting the future of the Orlando Magic point guard position

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

The Orlando Magic have been lacking a true lead guard since the days of Jameer Nelson manning the point at a near all-star level a decade ago.

Since that time, the Magic have longed for a dominant presence at guard that can be a tone-setter and facilitator for the offense. Players like D.J. Augustin, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Michael Carter-Williams showed signs of lead guard prominence in their time with the Magic but failed to take the reins of a roster lacking in dynamic guard play.

This season may have been hard for Magic fans to experience, but one of the few silver linings was the emergence of exciting point guard play from rookie guards R.J. Hampton and Cole Anthony in addition to the strong play from Markelle Fultz to begin the season.

Suddenly, the Magic seem stacked at the point position.

The Orlando Magic have been looking for a strong lead guard for some time. Suddenly, the team seems flush with young talent at the position and mapping time for all of them to grow will be a tricky challenge.

The play of these two young guards plus Fultz’s imminent has left the Magic with an enviable predicament: finding playing time for all three young and exciting players. Not to mention the prospect of adding another ball-handler in this year’s NBA Draft. The team may be forced to run two-point-guard lineups and it may be their best lineup.

We will examine all three guards and offer arguments as to why each player should be the point guard the Magic should focus on moving forward.

Cole Anthony


The first thing that stands out when watching Cole Anthony play is his confidence. It is clear from his poise and style of play that Anthony has the mindset of being the guy. This radiant confidence is something that transcends into his style of play — particularly on offense.

Anthony has taken control of the starting point guard position since his return from a mid-season rib injury that sidelined him for the better part of two months.

Since his return in April, Anthony has seen across the board increases in all major statistical categories — corresponding in even greater confidence in his game. He is averaging 14.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game in the 19 games since his return and is shooting 33.3-percent from beyond the arc.

Anthony has shown some nuance in his game — particularly on the offensive end.

Cole Anthony begins this play by switching onto the bigger P.J. Washington on the perimeter from a Mohamed Bamba screen and roll.

Anthony shows his ball-handling skills and a keen understanding of his defender’s limitations by taking Washington off his base via a savvy off-the-dribble move to take him to the left side post — one of Anthony’s favorite spots on the court.

Sensing that Washington is walling off the post to take away Anthony’s path to the basket, Anthony backs down the larger Washington and uses an impressive post move to draw Washington off-balance before sinking an impressive turnaround fadeaway jumper.

This play against Charlotte is indicative of Anthony’s already impressive knowledge of defensive positioning as well as his own confidence and poise by staying patient when confronted with a larger player in the post and trusting his instincts to make his own shot.

In a year where the Magic offense has been (for lack of a better word) stagnant – 29th in the league in both total offensive ranking and points per game — Anthony’s willingness to create his own offense has been a godsend for a team that needs to improve offensively in the coming years to have a chance at being a playoff contender.


Cole Anthony has the issue that most confident shooters have when paired with a high usage percentage (27.4-percent in May). He can be inefficient and prone to tunnel vision.

Since his return in April, Anthony has seen increases in his basic statistical output but this has been accompanied by shooting splits that leave much to be desired (38.7-percent field goal percentage in May).

Anthony’s high free throw percentage (90-percent in May) suggests that his efficiency issues stem not from a broken shot, but a tendency to shot chuck in the vein of J.R. Smith and Dion Waiters. Some of that just might be the realities of a roster where Anthony is depended on to carry a larger than normal scoring load.

Anthony is able to take his defender off his defensive position by using a crossover to get to his position on the left post.

However, when Anthony Edwards applies help defense to pressure Cole Anthony, Anthony rushes to get a shot off instead of backing down and understanding he has an open man in the corner three.

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  • This results in a rushed shot that is erased by Edwards.

    Anthony has good intentions here and is trying to help his team. But as a rookie, he is still getting exposed to a lot of new situations and reads. He should improve on these with time.

    And not helping matters now is the attention defenses are giving him after his scoring binge a few weeks ago. He is being put in new situations all the time.

    Before anointing Anthony as the next flame-throwing, shot-chucker disciple off the Smith family tree, a little context is necessary. Anthony is aggressive due to the dearth of offensive weapons on the roster and he has shouldered the scoring burden in response.

    The hope is with the addition of other skilled offensive players, Anthony could be able to rein in this shot-hunting tendency.

    There is hope in this belief — Anthony had seen an increase in his per game assist numbers until May when his efficiency plummeted in accordance with his passing numbers.


    Anthony has a key advantage over the other two players on this list in that he has the ability to confidently take and consistently make his jump shots — particularly from range.

    This, at the very least, makes him valuable as an off-guard that can make his own shot while also operating as a primary playmaker in lineups where he has to run the point. By offering this versatility, Anthony becomes a valuable player in multiple lineups as either the main ball handler or off-ball shot creator.