The NBA Draft process is always a long one.
If trying to predict who the Orlando Magic are going to pick or what a team is going to do, it feels a bit like the stock market. We are all trying to read the tea leaves of mock drafts, self-evaluation and knowledge of a team’s wants and history to try to figure out who each team will pick.
The Magic do a good job keeping their intentions fairly private, leading to plenty of guessing. But this year, a favorite did appear to emerge late in the process — or at least for the No. 6 pick, nobody saw who the Magic were taking at 11.
Anthony Black seemed to check all the boxes for the Magic and president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman. He is a 6-foot-7 point guard, meaning he has positional and skill versatility. He is a tenacious defender, perhaps the best perimeter defender in his draft class. And, by all accounts, he is a good player who is absolutely beloved by everyone associated with Arkansas.
The Orlando Magic are eager to welcome Anthony Black and see him out on the floor. We meet him from Arkansas’ perspective as the former Razorback prepares for Summer League.
The questions with Black fell to his shooting, which clearly was a bit of a work in progress. His percentages were not good in college. But he is a constant driver who puts pressure on the defense. His size works for him on both ends of the floor.
At the end of the day, both of the Magic’s picks fit their profile and that is why they have him.
So who is Anthony Black? The Orlando Magic are going to find out very quickly Saturday when they make their Summer League debut against the Detroit Pistons. All eyes will certainly be on Black for that moment.
Philip Rossman-Reich, Orlando Magic Daily (@philiprr_OMD): Everything I have heard about Anthony Black from Arkansas is that everyone in Fayetteville loved him and the way he played. What stood out about Black’s year with the Razorbacks and what made him so beloved even after one year?
Jacob Davis, Arkansas Fight (@JacobScottDavis): Anthony Black is a lovable character on and off the court. He brings so much energy every single game and maximum effort as well.
Something that stood out about him this year is being intentional with fans. Off the court, he made sure to take pictures with fans, hand out autographs and such. Obviously, the hair stands out so it makes him recognizable to average fans and kids.
Philip: Everyone seems to know Black for his defense first and foremost and his basketball IQ and playmaking. How did that develop throughout the season and what stood out about it as the season went on?
Jacob: Looking back at some of his breakout performances in Maui was the ability to score the basketball. As the season went on, he became more of an unselfish character looking to distribute but score when needed.
The three-ball was not always there but he did get better throughout the season finishing at 30 percent. If he continues to develop as a perimeter shooter the sky is the limit.
Philip: Are you concerned about his shot long-term? How did Black work around his shooting shortcomings last year?
Jacob: I am not very concerned about it as much as others. Like I said in the last question, he did get better as the season progressed.
Black has a beautiful shot that with repetition could iron the wrinkles out of it. He is dedicated to shooting the basketball and, with more spacing, his mid-range could be a game-changer for his career.
Philip: What influence did Eric Musselman have on his season and development? How key do you think it will be to have a coach with NBA experience for his adjustment to the NBA?
Jacob: It will be an easier transition than most because Musselman has so many connections around the NBA. He knows the game and what the league is looking for with future talent.
“Space and Pace” is the name of Arkansas’ game under Musselman and will continue to be like that. It helps develop current players’ skills and makes them professionally ready.
Black’s familiarity with the NBA system is key to his future success because of what he learned at Arkansas. Deep film sessions and scouting reports are very impressive and that is what he has already been influenced by with being a Razorback.
Philip: You wrote that you believe Anthony Black can win Rookie of the Year this season. What do you see as his ceiling in the NBA?
Jacob: His raw abilities as a slasher and a bigger guard capable of making the most of his opportunities at the rim will make him an exciting player to watch.
Black has sneaky-good athleticism and balances himself well while creating contact in the lane.
Being on a larger floor with more room to operate will help with his distributing skills, too. Black is readymade to be a playmaker in the league and should help the Magic be a more exciting team now and in the future.
My thanks to Jacob for taking the time to answer some of our questions. Black makes his Orlando Magic Summer League debut on Saturday in Las Vegas.