28 different players took the court for the Orlando Magic last season. But, there are two names, in particular, that stand out. And a third name that they picked up in last month’s NBA Draft. The thing is, this young team is going to do big things very soon. The same can be said about the Detroit Pistons and the Cleveland Cavaliers. But the Magic will be very entertaining.
The two names from above, if you haven’t yet figured it out, are the backcourt duo of Cole Anthony and R.J. Hampton. Anthony is the son of longtime NBA guard Greg Anthony and had some terrific moments. He scored 37 points in the season finale and hit a number of clutch shots over the course of the final weeks.
Hampton got big minutes from the first day he arrived. He was sent over as part of the Aaron Gordon trade, and the young man did not disappoint. He never topped the 20-point plateau, but he had three double-doubles, showed an affinity for rebounding, and gave it 110% every single time he touched the floor.
They also drafted Jalen Suggs, who projects to have a huge role from day one. It’s time to break it down.
The Point Guard Spot
Markelle Fultz will return at some point next season. But when he does, it may very well be as a backup because Cole Anthony was a beast while starting for him. He averaged 13-5-4 on the season and proved that he could be the closer the team needs. Greatness is in his genes, as his dad was a standout guard all over the association.
Anthony will be competing as well with Hampton, who doubles as a shooting guard. Still just 20 years of age, he skipped college and the G-League and opted to compete in the NBL against LaMelo Ball and other talented pros. He was a member of the New Zealand Breakers before then being selected #24 by Denver.
Both Anthony and Hampton bring a lot to the table. For Anthony, it’s the ability to score and find his teammates R.J. Hampton just has a knack for making things happen. He put up 5+ assists in each of the final three games, including nine in his final appearance.
To open the year, Anthony should get the nod, but both of these guys are electric. And extremely young.
Jalen Suggs Will Ball Out
During his one season at Gonzaga, Jalen Suggs proved himself. He averaged 14-5-4 and two steals per game. He only shot 10 times on average but put up splits of .503/.337.754. Not too shabby. During March Madness, he was absolutely sensational. He opened it up by shooting 6-6 from distance against St. Mary’s.
All in all, Suggs was 33-57 from downtown during the seven games of the tournament. There was nobody better at hitting the long ball. And he hit a clutch three to help the team reach the championship, that nobody will soon forget. The best part is, he won’t turn 21 until next June. He’s another young stud that they found.
Toronto was expected to draft him but opted to take the tall and talented Scottie Barnes instead. And when that happened, it became clear who Orlando would wind up selecting. There’s a great chance that Suggs opens the year as a starter. And in the off-chance he doesn’t, Gary Harris will have a hard time fending him off.
Projecting the Guard Rotation
1) Point Guard
The starting PG for the Magic on opening night will likely be Cole Anthony. He was tremendous to close out last season, and he deserves first crack. R.J. Hampton figures to be the backup. And when Markelle Fultz returns, he’ll likely begin as the #2, pushing Hampton into more of an SG role with some possible SF minutes.
2) Shooting Guard
On opening night, Gary Harris will probably be the starting SG. But, as soon as he exits the game for the first time, his job will be up for grabs. For reference, Collin Sexton came off the bench for the first 10 games of his career. The number could be even lower for Jalen Suggs, who will be the sixth man for the first game.
Suggs and Hampton are both interchangeable at either guard spot. The versatile lineups the team will be able to pull off will be fun to watch and track.