Anthony Black making the most of his time, even with uncertain role with Orlando Magic

Anthony Black has gone through some major ups and downs in his rookie year. Even with his minutes uncertain on a nightly basis with the team getting healthier, Black is proving his worth and making the most of his time on the court.
Atlanta Hawks v Orlando Magic
Atlanta Hawks v Orlando Magic / James Gilbert/GettyImages

With lots of trade talk surrounding the Magic at the trade deadline, it makes me think: Who is stable at the point guard position for them right now?

Although he is nowhere near his peak, Anthony Black is making strides in that direction. Any discussion of the Magic's point guard future should include Black. And even in limited minutes, with the Magic slowly getting healthier, Black is proving he should have a role on this team in its present as much as he should have one in its future.

Although he is not ready to take on significant minutes, Black has steadily progressed. He should be poised to be the team's point guard soon. Perhaps the Magic only need a stopgap to fill the spot until he is ready.

Although Black's progress has been slow, he has shown a pattern of taking shots and scoring in different ways that bode well for his future. He is also a better passer than his numbers might suggest. He does all of this while maintaining the defensive ability we knew about before this past NBA draft.

Before we dive into the specifics of Black's rookie season, it is important to note his minutes within the team's rotation have been skewed since Markelle Fultz's recent return. Black got much of his opportunity early in the season because of Fultz's left knee tendinitis.

Black averaged 21.2 minutes per game while Fultz was out of the lineup. But since then, he has averaged only 15.0 minutes per game.

Regardless of how many minutes Black gets on a night-to-night basis, he is taking full advantage of the time he gets.

Black's overall numbers are still fairly meager -- 5.1 points per game and just 1.7 assists per game. He is shooting 49.1 percent from the floor and 35.1 percent from beyond the arc. But he takes just 3.9 field goal attempts per game and 1.4 3-point attempts per game. His usage rate sits at a lowly 12.1 percent.

Still, Black has made some important gains.

A lot of Black's confidence comes from the 29 starts he made due to the Magic's early-season injuries. This threw Black into the mix early in the season and forced him and the team to adjust.

The rookie stepped up to the plate almost immediately. He got off to a quick shooting start and made 44.3 percent of his shots with a 51.8 percent true shooting percentage in November. He upped that to 56.7 percent shooting and a 65.2 percent true shooting percentage in December.

Even though Black was shooting at low volume, it was still a positive sight. Black could score when the ball swung to him. And he was gaining confidence to be more assertive and more willing to shoot.

This has cooled off since Fultz returned to the rotation. But Black has taken at least five attempts in three of his last four games and scored at least five points in all four. Black played fewer than 20 minutes in three of these four games, showing how much his role has changed. But his aggression does not seem to be wavering.

Black also has adjusted and become more aggressive, getting more attempts at the free throw line in January. He has had at least two attempts in the last five games. This comes after eight straight games without a free throw attempt.

Black's ability to spread the ball to his teammates racking up assists as the season has gone on.

He has an assist-turnover ratio of 1.8/1, providing more productive passing over giving the ball away. His assist numbers started taking off once December hit, as his average per game went up from 1.5 in November to 2.5 in December. He went just three games without recording an assist in December.

In January, Black has had six straight games with an assist. Although his average is down compared to December, he ensures Orlando has chemistry when on the floor.

Black is averaging 3.2 assists per 36 minutes. According to Basketball-Index, Black generates 7.82 assists points per 75 possessions.

Black has a startlingly low 12.1 percent usage rate. But he is showing at least some potential to be a playmaker if the Magic put him on the ball more. The team still seems to be protecting him.

This ball-sharing ability is something any point guard can use in today's NBA with the big and tall scorers on the wing. Black has those kinds of players around him. This could be key in pushing Black in the right direction.

Black's most significant value as a rookie is still undoubtedly his defense. That is why he is playing, and Jett Howard has only been able to get minutes with the Osceola Magic to this point in the season.

Black's defensive reputation preceded him coming to the NBA and he has delivered.

His steal numbers do not necessarily jump off the page, but he accounts for 20 percent of the Magic's total team steals. He averages 1.2 steals per 75 possessions and 2.23 deflections per 75 possessions, a credit to his defensive activity.

For a team that is fourth in the league in steals per game, Black is becoming a factor in having active hands and playing sound defense.

In a rarity for a rookie, Black has a +0.7 D-LEBRON, according to Basketball-Index, placing him in the 79th percentile in the league. He has a 1.3 Defensive Box Plus-Minus, putting him in the 88th percentile.

Rookies do not rate highly in these catch-all defensive stats. Black has at least made his impact on that end.

Anthony Black is not having an electrifying rookie season, as we saw from someone like Paolo Banchero last year. Black may not even make it to the Rising Stars Game at All-Star Weekend (a disappointing result for the sixth overall pick in the Draft). But, his growth has been quiet yet apparent when you dive into him as a player during the 2024 season.

The numbers are small. But again, it is important to note he has been thrown around with different minutes, it seems, every game with guys like Markelle Fultz and Gary Harris among others, being in and out with injuries. So, Black has not hit a good time yet to take a stride when it comes to performing highly consistently.

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It will take time, but Black is on the right path to being a successful guard in the NBA. He may just need a player to learn under whether that be Fultz or a new face from the trade market.