Orlando Magic’s point guard room has space to grow

Cole Anthony is in a crowded point guard room for the Orlando Magic that still has room to grow. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Cole Anthony is in a crowded point guard room for the Orlando Magic that still has room to grow. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic have a very young and promising group of point guards on their roster, but to say they are anything close to perfect is an exaggeration.

To say anything about this roster is set in stone is still a step too far.

Orlando will likely spend this season assessing the players it is building with and figuring out who the team will keep and who the team might have to move on as the franchise completes this rebuild. It is a big year for change.

The future of the point guard position in Orlando has so much potential with 21-year-old Cole Anthony, 23-year-old Markelle Fultz and 26-year-old Devin Cannady. And that does not even include 21-year-old Jalen Suggs, who can handle the ball and play off this group of point guards.

Although potential does not always pan out, they have some major issues in the point guard room they need to address as well. Will they believe in their young core, or try to sign some more proven players?

The Magic have at least three young guards they are eager to evaluate and grow. But it may be a group that still needs some extra support as they come into their own.

The Orlando Magic have three promising young guards all developing on seemingly different tracks. They may need to seek some reinforcements to continue developing.

All three averaged more than 10.0 points per game in the games they played this season. Cole Anthony led the team with 16.3 points per game with three 30-plus point games and seven of 25 points or more.

The increase in his scoring from his rookie year to his second year previews the potential for him to continue growing as a scorer. But there are still areas he needs to improve in his shooting efficiency and ability to finish at the rim, where he made just 59-percent of his shots at the rim.

Defenses tend to gameplan around Anthony and he struggled some with the added attention. With the added help of Paolo Banchero and continuous growth from Franz Wagner, Cole Anthony could look to be a dangerous threat scoring the ball next year.

Markelle Fultz’s averages were meager after his return to the lineup after the All-Star Break. But his impact was clearly felt in his limited minutes — around 20 per game, slowly expanding as the season came to its close.

He averaged 10.8 points per game on an outstanding 47.4-percent shooting from the field. He can also create his own shot. Specifically, he can get to the rim at all costs. He shot 49.4-percent when driving to the hoop, 64.6-percent within five feet of the basket and 50-percent from two overall.

Not only that but he was fantastic down the stretch and in the clutch. He shot 62.5-percent in the fourth quarter. The majority of his shots came on dribble pull-ups where he shot 39.5-percent. Fultz can get to the rim, make free throws, and he scores when it matters, which is why he was 6th on the team in scoring.

Fultz seems set to slot as the projected starting point guard moving forward.

Suggs played 46-percent of his minutes at point guard last year, according to Basketball-Reference. His rookie season was uneven, hampered mostly by injury. But he showed some solid passing ability and a strong ability to get to the rim, even as he struggled to hit from the outside and get his shooting percentages up.

That depth is further bolstered by Devin Cannady. Although he only played five games last year, he averaged 10.0 points per game in his time. Cannady is not as good as an inside shooter as the others, but he is the best shooter of this group, hitting 40.1-percent last year as almost exclusively a shooter.

The Tablesetters

The biggest weakness of the Orlando Magic’s guard crop is their outside shooting and overall shooting consistency. But Orlando also needs table setters for the rest of its lineup. And that appears to be where the Magic have a strength.

Cole Anthony is an improving passer, who averaged 5.7 assists per game. Markelle Fultz nearly matched that at 5.5 assists per game in his limited minutes.

Anthony was 53rd in points created per game as he averaged 36.6 points responsible for per game. His ability to create for himself opens up the floor for him to create for others. He has nine career 10-plus assist games in his two seasons which is more than Fultz has in five seasons.

The Magic still have a major shooting problem with their backcourt. In this way, Orlando has seemingly built a team in reverse. The team has scorers and shooters in its frontcourt while the backcourt are more table-setters.

This is something the team could address in free agency.

Anthony made only 33.8-percent of his 3-point attempts on 6.0 attempts per game. He hit 36.3-percent of his 3.5 catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts, placing him just above the league average.

Although Fultz is elite around the rim, he has never had the ability to space the floor. He shot 23.5-percent from three on 0.9 attempts per game. So not only is he not taking threes, but he is not making the ones he rarely does take.

This remains a glaring weakness for Fultz and something he at least needs to add to his game nominally to keep defenses honest.

Jalen Suggs made only 21.4-percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game. He was a negative from the outside, someone teams were happy to let fire away for now.

Youth served

With some improvement to the roster, and team shooting, the organization should look for their guards’ numbers to go up.

That does not mean the Orlando Magic should neglect the point guard position as they look ahead to free agency. This is an incredibly young group — the third-youngest team in the league as they average 24.7 years of age on their team last year and have an average age of 23.3 in their point guards.

The fact their point guards are doing so well at such a young age shows promise for seasons to come.

Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony are both young athletic guards who love to get out in transition. Their youth and athleticism allow them to play at a fast pace and get in transition where they are best.

This allows them to create the highest percentage shots for themselves and set up their teammates and other members of their young core in transition.

If their young players can continue to make jumps and get better every year, Orlando is going to have one of the scariest point guard duos in the league.

But there are still concerns. All three of Cole Anthony, Markelle Fultz and Jalen Suggs have a history of injury under their belt. Fultz is still in his first full year since recovering from a torn ACL. Orlando may indeed need some cover to boost the team’s point guard depth and add experience and shooting.

The Free Agent Market

The Orlando Magic’s guards are athletic, can score, and make plays. But they lack in other areas.

They cannot shoot the deep ball efficiently, they have little experience, and even if they improve in these areas it’s hard to say they will be healthy enough to show it all season long.

So it is evident the Magic need to bring in another guard in free agency who can help them get over the hump of these struggles. It is extremely vital to be able to shoot it from deep and be healthy to win in this league.

Again just look at the NBA champions.

Three names come to mind when thinking about who they should sign to finalize their point guard room. Avery Bradley, Austin Rivers and D.J. Augustin.

Bradley has 12 years of NBA experience, a championship ring and has been to multiple conference finals. This shows not only is he experienced, but he knows what it takes to win, and be successful.

Not to mention his ability to play and defend both guard positions helps him fit the Magic’s overall building philosophy.

He also would not have to be just a locker room leader, he can still play.

Bradley is a fantastic shooter and an efficient one at that. At 31 years old last season, he had shooting splits of 42.3/39.0/88.9. That is not even the best part of his game as he is an absolute ball hawk on the defensive end.

Bradley is an elite defender as he has been named to two all-defensive teams in his career. He could help the Magic as a leader and a player.

Rivers has 10 years of NBA experience playing 655 games, and he has been on some deep playoff runs with the Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets. He could also be a great teacher for the Magic, as well as a contributing player.

Rivers is another guy who does a great job on the defensive end, which could help a Magic team that finished 19th in defensive rating. On the other side of the ball, he is a career 34.9-percent 3-point shooter and 41.8-percent field goal shooter, as well as a great playmaker.

D.J Augustin will be a cheaper option who can shoot threes at a high level. Augustin shot 42.3/41.5/88.4 last year. He is a very consistent and pure shooter.

He has tons of experience as he has played in 976 NBA games over 14 years, and he has been a part of multiple playoff teams. Augustin is a former Magic player who could be an end-of-the-rotation player to come in run the offense and shoot threes efficiently.

He would be a perfect filler if Anthony or Fultz were to go down to injury. He does not require consistent minutes but can play them if needed.

All three guys would not have to come in and demand minutes. They can play when needed and still give the young guards a chance to go.

They can all teach and lead in the locker room while still being contributors if their name is called. They can all shoot the three very efficiently, they are all guys who have stayed healthy in their careers, all very experienced, and they even bring that defensive pressure that the Magic could use.

Next. Orlando Magic turning Mo Bamba loose to free agency. dark

The Magic do not need a star point guard in free agency, but someone who can come in and guide their young stars in the right direction.