Gravity is a remarkable phenomenon—it’s why we’re able to walk down the sidewalk, why the moon doesn’t float off into space, why the gases of the sun hold together. It’s also why Cole Anthony is enjoying a breakout sophomore campaign as the starting lead guard for the Orlando Magic.
Despite a 3-10 record, the Magic have been an incredibly endearing team thus far. Franz Wagner has popped as a rookie, cementing himself with two-way play. Wendell Carter Jr. and Mo Bamba have both taken sizable steps forward as basketball players, and Jalen Suggs is still acclimating to the professional level, but has shown glimpses of his potential.
The Orlando Magic have finished higher than 20th in offensive efficiency once in the nine seasons since the Dwight Howard trade (per Cleaning the Glass). Despite a steady churn of different players and coaches during this period, the Magic haven’t had a player capable of leveraging their skills, their athleticism, and positioning on the court to to consistently tilt a defense. Nikola Vucevic is a tremendous passer, post-hub, shooter, and scorer as a whole, but never had the athletic gifts to engulf space; Victor Oladipo eventually found his stride in Indiana as a pull-up shooter and forceful driver, but that was well after his time with the Magic.
To start the season, Cole Anthony has routinely been the defense-warping presence that the Magic have desperately missed. Anthony’s gravity is sustained first and foremost by his athleticism and ball-handling, essential traits for any sort of guard or wing initiator. However, given his smaller stature, Anthony has natural barriers attacking the rim.
While he has improved his rim efficiency by a solid margin this season (making 58 percent of his layups this year as opposed to 52 percent his rookie season), much of his scoring improvement and gravitational boost has been catalyzed by his prolific and precise pull-up shooting. He’s taken over 50 percent of his shots from beyond the arc and knocked down 38.6 percent of those attempts, dramatically upping his volume and accuracy from last season.
The biggest difference, though, is how he’s generating those shots. Anthony is launching pull-up threes this season, taking 3.2 per game and hitting 40.5%, the sixth highest mark among players shooting two or more pull-up 3s per game, sandwiched between off the dribble savants James Harden and CJ McCollum.