Anthony Black will provide stability for Orlando Magic's playoff push

Without a consistent spot in the Orlando Magic's rotation, Anthony Black continues to take advantage of his limited opportunities during his rookie season. Should he get more minutes for the playoff race?
New York Knicks v Orlando Magic
New York Knicks v Orlando Magic / Rich Storry/GettyImages

Anthony Black has a long way to go during this rookie year. Despite going in and out of the rotation, he has shown serious flashes of potential since being selected with the sixth overall pick in last year's draft.

He fits the player profile the Orlando Magic's front office loves exactly. And he has rewarded that faith in many ways.

Black is a long, 6-foot-7 guard with extreme versatility, especially on defense. He has taken advantage of every opportunity presented so far this season and has shown a knack for knocking down the corner three.

The Magic turned to him to start early in the season after Markelle Fultz went down with left knee tendinitis. He played well, proving to be a serviceable offensive player and a great defender, especially as a rookie.

Black has fallen out of the rotation when Fultz returned. But every time the Magic have called on him, he has stepped up.

That includes his nine points, three rebounds and two assists Black had in nearly 24 minutes in Thursday's 116-109 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Black has been more aggressive and confident with his developing jump shot. He is someone the Magic should trust to deliver.

The Magic should give Black should the opportunity to provide the stability in the starting point guard position that the the team desperately needs.

Black is averaging only 4.9 points per game, but he is shooting a surprising 48.4 percent from the floor and 37.3 percent from three. He has started in 30 games this season. In those starts, Black is averaging 5.1 points per game.

But Black's impact is not about his scoring. He impacts the game in some very clear ways and would provide an immediate lift for the Magic's playoff hunt.

First, similar to Fultz, Black is a versatile defender who can guard multiple positions. The Magic have deployed his versatility in numerous ways.

Orlando has a 109.3 defensive rating with Black on the floor, better than even their top defensive average for the season. Opponents shoot 47.0 percent when Black is the closest defender, 0.2 percentage points better than expected.

Black makes a clear positive defensive impact despite being a rookie.

Second and, perhaps more importantly for a team built like this Orlando team, he is a respectable enough option on the offensive end. Teams cannot flat-out ignore him. Those who do have had to pay for it with his improved shooting.

He is certainly a bigger threat than Fultz, who has taken only seven total 3-pointers this season and often gets ignored completely offensively.

Black is not a volume shooter by any stretch. He has a very limited offensive role that is only slowly expanding to include some simple pull-ups. But he is confident and knocked down shots from the three-point line when defenders ignore him.

He shot only 30.1 percent at Arkansas last year. His shooting percentages are already a major step forward as they are now.

As Orlando gets closer to the playoffs, and hopefully finds themselves in a playoff series, that glaring shooting weakness will be a tough hurdle to overcome.

Black is someone the Magic should trust more to help fill minutes and provide even a small offensive boost. He certainly holds his own on that end to make his defense feel impactful.

Black has not gotten consistent minutes as the team has gotten healthier. Still, he has been ready for every opportunity when his name has been called. This is a testament to him for staying ready, a skill that oftentimes only veterans in the NBA possess.

Orlando is 8-3 when Black plays at least 25 minutes. They are six games over .500 on the season. Those eight wins include games against the Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks.

He is comfortable with the starting group too. The starting lineup with Black in for Fultz has a net rating of +1.5 points per 100 possessions in 63 games with a stellar 103.7 defensive rating. It may not be enough to change the starting lineup officially. But Black has certainly pushed for more playing time.

As the Magic start to turn a corner and gear up to push for the playoffs, they are no longer in a position to invest heavily in bunches of players who are not able to consistently be available or are essentially guaranteed to sit the second night of back-to-backs. They need to play their best players and lineups.

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Black should be among those players. It is too hard to keep him off the floor.