Cole Anthony is typically loud and eager to talk. But on media day he was unusually quiet.
When asked about his contract future, he deferred. That is something nobody would typically accuse Anthony of doing.
He is a scoring guard who is still learning to be a playmaker and attacker. He is still shaking his reputation as too much of a scorer. And he is the favorite quote of the team. Nobody stands up and cheers for his teammates quite like Anthony does.
This is not a guy who is typically quiet. He is loud and his game is loud. He gives the Magic a little bit of an edge.
All of that is certainly still there. But the contract negotiations are hanging over his head. He is eager to prove himself. His entire tea is eager to prove itself and build off the strong finish to the season.
For Anthony though, the urgency is greater because this is a contract year. For him, the Magic seem ready to give Anthony a chance to prove himself completely.
Cole Anthony’s rookie extension deadline is quickly approaching. The Orlando Magic seem likely to slow play him and give him a chance to prove his worth throughout the season.
Like a lot of players, Anthony seemed to be letting his representation handle the business negotiations while he focused on the playing. At the end of the day, that is what will determine what his ultimate value will be.
That is likely why Anthony is not going to sign a new contract extension before Monday’s 6 p.m. deadline. Unlike other players who have signed extensions in his rookie class, he is not clinging to a role in the league or already on a path to stardom.
Eds. Note: shortly after publishing this post, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported the Magic and Anthony agreed to a three-year, $39 million extension.
So much about Anthony is still undetermined.
The Magic view him as an elite sixth man. He has publicly said he views himself as a starter. Something does not vibe there and perhaps a contract in the $18-20 million is not enough to find a place in the middle.
Not yet at least.
Anthony just has so much left to prove. And that is why he is likely to wait. He wants to play himself into a bigger contract. He wants to earn his keep in the league. Earn his role in the league. Earn his place in the Magic’s long-term future.
Anthony rightfully seems poised to bet on himself. Whatever contract the Magic have on the table for him, he can surely increase.
And Orlando is going to create a role that will certainly allow Anthony to showcase his skills. That has to be the part most exciting for Anthony.
This is a common negotiating tactic. Orlando is known to put contracts on the table and challenge its players to outperform those deals. That is something Anthony is certainly probably relishing. And something he can certainly do — no matter what that amount is.
Anthony really did turn into one of the best bench players in the league last year.
He averaged 13.0 points per game on the best efficiency of his career at 52.1 percent effective field goal percentage. After the All-Star Break, Anthony averaged 14.9 points per game and shot a 63.5 percent effective field goal percentage and 41.8 percent from deep.
His overall season average was eigth among all players who played at least 41 games off the bench. And his work off the bench after the All-Star Break was fifth in scoring among players who played at least 10 games after the break.
Anthony could easily be one of the top scorers off the bench and someone who is in the conversation for Sixth Man of the Year, provided the Magic win more games.
And that is the bigger point for Anthony. He still has to prove himself among these elite bench players.
The Magic are not going to put him in the starting lineup. If that is his ultimate goal, he is going to have to convince someone elsewhere to give him that opportunity and then convince that team to pay more than the Magic are willing to pay.
The reality is though the Magic are going to put Anthony in a role and in a system that will highlight the things that will ultimately get him paid and ultimately make him more valuable to the Magic.
Orlando wants Anthony to lean into his strength as a scorer off the bench. They are crafting an offense that highlights playmaking from other players like Franz Wagner and perhaps Anthony Black. Playing with Joe Ingles too will add another solid passer to the bench lineups. Orlando’s added depth will make Anthony better.
Anthony will be in lineups with more playmakers that should be able to get him more quality shots.
The efficiency that he played with to end last season feels like it can be something more permanent. In any case, Orlando is going to ease off some of Anthony’s overall weaknesses.
The team did a good job getting him to defend at a higher level by having him give token pressure in the backcourt to try to slow opponents down. They paired him with Markelle Fultz (242 minutes), Jalen Suggs (321 minutes, most paired player) and Franz Wagner (311 minutes). And that seems to be something to unlock him.
The Magic can play him more off the ball and put him in shooting and scoring situations that will lean into his efficiency and limit inefficient drives and pull-up. Although that will be there if he needs it.
If Anthony is in a position to bet on himself to try to drive up his market value this season, the Magic are in a position to help him out.
That is the task ahead of Anthony this year. He has the chance to set his own market. And Orlando seems happy to let him do it and see if a deal can be made after a successful season.
This year, Anthony is going to let his game do the talking.