A Deeper Dive Into Cole Anthony’s Game

The Great

Cole “Cool in the Clutch” Anthony? Or maybe Cole “The Closer” Anthony? Those are not official nicknames or anything, but they sure match the 6-foot-3 guard. He has made 13 of his 24 shot attempts (54.2 percent) in the final five minutes of games this season when the Orlando Magic are tied with their opponent, ahead by five points or less, or behind by five points or less. Let’s not forget either that he drilled two last-second game-winning 3-pointers during his rookie campaign.

Staying on that subject, Anthony is averaging 7.0 fourth-quarter points, tied with Kevin Durant for third most in the league. Only DeMar DeRozan and Giannis Antetokounmpo are averaging more fourth-quarter points. Another piece of evidence his confidence does not waver in pressure-packed moments is that he’s shooting 92 percent from the free throw line in the final frame.

The floater has become Anthony’s most reliable shot. Some of his movements to create space for a floater are a little Trae Young-esque, especially when he gets his defender to run up his back. Anthony has made 24 of his 45 floater attempts (53.3 percent). Compared to some of the league’s elite, that’s an extremely good percentage. For instance, Chris Paul is shooting 47.8 percent on floaters, Young 44.4 percent, Stephen Curry 44 percent, and James Harden just 22.9 percent.

For someone his size, Anthony rebounds the ball extraordinarily well. He’s averaging 6.0 rebounds per game, seventh most among starting point guards. In wins, he’s averaging 9.2 boards, which shows that the Magic need him to be aggressive on the glass.

The Good

Earlier in the season, Anthony was scorching on pull-up jumpers. In the seven October games, he buried 48.9 percent of them overall and 52.4 percent from 3-point range. Since then, however, he has cooled off, shooting 39.6 percent overall on pull-ups in November and 33.8 percent in December. Part of the issue is rhythm. He’s been in and out of the lineup because of a sore right ankle.

The University of North Carolina alum is a far better passer than many realize. Although certainly he’s more of a score-first lead guard, Anthony makes nifty passes, especially when he sneaks into the lane out of the pick-and-roll and locates open shooters on the perimeter. On kickouts delivered by Anthony, the Magic are shooting 38.4 percent from beyond the arc, per Second Spectrum tracking data. Many of Mo Bamba and Wendell Carter Jr.’s best 3-point looks have come when Anthony whips a pass out to them in a pick-and-pop.

Anthony has drawn five charges this season, most on the Magic. And remember, he’s missed 10 games so far. A couple times, he’s been called for a blocking foul on a bang-bang play. So, even when he’s whistled for the foul, he’s proving to be unafraid of contact.

Areas to Improve

Turnovers have been a problem for the entire team, which is kind of expected for such a young squad. Anthony is averaging 2.9 of them, which is not horrendous, but his decision-making needs to improve.

Although his 3-point percentage is up from last season, it’s going to be crucial for him to become a more dependable outside shooter. Right now, he’s very erratic. On Orlando’s five-game West Coast trip in early December, he went 3-of-14 from deep in the first two games and then knocked down 15 of his 28 3-point tries in the final three contests.

Nearly 65 percent of Anthony’s made field goals have been unassisted. That’s not surprising for someone who has the ball in his hands so much. It remains to be seen what adjustments he can make when both Markelle Fultz and Jalen Suggs return. Can Anthony become more of an off-ball shooter? He’s not someone who comes off screens nor does he receive many handoffs. Perhaps, though, these are things he can mix in. To become an even better scorer, though, it’s going to be important for him to draw more contact on drives. He’s averaging 4.0 free throw attempts per game, but only 1.6 of them have come on his drives to the basket.

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