Orlando Magic 2023 NBA Draft Preview: Anthony Black’s versatility shines

Arkansas guard Anthony Black grabs a rebound in traffic during an NCAA tournament game in the second round Saturday, March 18, 2023, at Wells Fargo Arena, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Arkansas guard Anthony Black grabs a rebound in traffic during an NCAA tournament game in the second round Saturday, March 18, 2023, at Wells Fargo Arena, in Des Moines, Iowa. /

The NBA is all about versatility.

That is the buzzword around the league and teams are searching for players who can defend multiple positions and create mismatches.

Teams switch so much now, a lot of this league is about hunting mismatches and exploiting them. If there is no mismatch to exploit, then teams suddenly find their offense bottled up.

The Orlando Magic value players who can contribute in multiple ways on the court along with size and versatility. In today’s NBA a player must have multiple skills they can fall back on or as in these recent playoffs, a player can be played off the court.

That has been a guiding draft philosophy. The joke around Magic fans and around the league is indeed about the team’s obsession with length.

But that oversimplifies their push for versatility. Orlando has long sought players who can play multiple positions and take on multiple skills. The Magic have two skilled forwards who can pass and score, putting them near the top of rebuilding teams around the league.

It would make sense then as the Magic explore what to do at the Draft that they are looking for players who embody this notion. That they are looking for positional versatility and size versatility at every position.

This is where Arkansas guard Anthony Black sits.

He provides size and the ability to contribute in many ways. At the point guard spot, he brings the versatility that teams are looking for. And that is what helps him stand out in the crowded draft field.

Anthony Black is a player who could provide the kind of positional versatility the Orlando Magic love at the guard spot. His defensive flexibility too makes him a key prospect for the draft.

Black is listed at 6-foot-7 and became the full-time point guard during his time at Arkansas which has greatly improved his play-making ability throughout the season. He now is able to play both on and off the ball at his size.

Black’s season at Arkansas had its rough moments though. He averaged only a meager 12.8 points per game to go with 3.9 assists per game with shooting splits of 45.3/30.1/70.5. That has raised plenty of concern about Black.

But he still showed plenty of potential and his defensive energy and determination make him one of the more coveted players in this draft class.

It was a learning experience and has the frame to be able to play make at the next level. He certainly seems like a player who would benefit from the improved spacing that comes in the NBA.

But there are still a lot of intangibles that stand out about Black that have him comfortably in the top 10 of this draft class. He measured at the Combine at 6-foot-5.75 without shoes with a 6-foot-7 wingspan.

He is a strong defender, perhaps the strongest perimeter defender in this draft class, and projects well to the NBA. That is where he really shines.

He can guard both positions in the backcourt and will be able to guard on the wing. He averaged 2.1 steals per game and more than half a block at the guard position.

That is the level of versatility on the defensive end teams would want from their guard in a switch-heavy league. Black is also a good rebounder for his position averaging 5.1 rebounds per game to go along with his push-ahead style that will allow his team to score in transition.

While Black’s shooting mechanics are regarded to be fine, he only shot 30.1 percent from three. Shooting will be the biggest question mark for Black entering the league.

He will have to improve in that area in order to take that next leap in the NBA.

There is a foundation as Black shot 45.3 percent overall from the field and 70.5 percent from the free-throw line. But there is still a long way to go.

Anthony has the skill set to be great at the next level and will be able to contribute in different areas which will have Black being a top-10 pick in this NBA Draft.

Black will have to improve his three-point shot in order to be a dangerous threat and will need time to continue to improve his play-making ability. Black is worth the risk for many teams but this will be a prospect that will need time for his true potential to shine.

There is a world where the Orlando Magic and Black make sense.

Black embodies the ability to play defense at different positions and play both on and off the ball offensively. It would be important for the Magic to have multiple players who can attack off the dribble but still be able to play off teammates.

The Magic are also in a position where they can take a player who does not have to start day one and can be patient with their rookie. Orlando can take a shot and project rookie.

Anthony may end up being a player who will be able to fit next to two Orlando guards and go small or can be a big guard in a big lineup. His size while running the point makes sense for the Magic and he has an attack mindset that fits a lot of the Magic’s identity.

But for Orlando the need is still shooting and that is the biggest need Anthony has to add to his game.

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Whether or not the Magic believe Black can add a three-point shot should determine if Black will be under consideration for one of their picks. The Magic have options at pick six and Black may very well be the selection most have not expected.