A trend for the Orlando Magic over the last decade or so has been being a pick or two away from getting the player they truly need in the NBA Draft.
This year, things have worked out pretty well. The Magic got a much-needed scorer with the 15th pick in Cole Anthony, whose average of 11.0 points per game is currently fifth best among rookies. That includes a career-high 21 points in a win over the Hornets on Monday, as Anthony went 4-for-5 from three, increasing his efficiency from deep over his last six games to 60.9% on 3.8 attempts per.
Anthony is being asked to do more than any rookie this season while taking over the starting role for the injured Markelle Fultz, and a quarter of the way into the season has already shown tremendous growth in key areas.
One of the few rookies outscoring him this season is Tyrese Haliburton, who the Kings drafted with the 12th pick, three spots ahead of the Magic. Happy as Magic fans should be with Anthony, it’s understandable if they envision what the shooting-starved Magic would have looked like with Haliburton playing alongside a healthy Fultz. Haliburton, in comparison to Anthony in the early-going this season, has excelled in two key areas: shooting and playmaking.
Haliburton, who comes off the bench for the Kings, is averaging 11.4 points per game with shooting splits of 50.4/47.0/81.8, while also adding 4.9 assists per game. With 55% of his field goal attempts coming from three, Haliburton has posted a true shooting percentage of 64.6%, compared to Anthony’s 46.7%.
Again, Anthony’s percentage has been on the rise, and the Magic made the right pick of the players who were available to them, so to even think in hypotheticals as I’m doing now is a silly exercise. But the Magic will get their first look at the rookie on Wednesday when the Kings come to Orlando.
And the Magic’s shooting woes over the last few games have been solved!
In their win over the Hornets, the Magic hit a season-high 19 threes, increasing their three-point percentage over their last three games to 47.3%....
vs. Pacers, 17-for-37, 45.9%
vs. Hornets, 17-for-38, 44.7%
vs. Hornets, 19-for-37, 51.4%
Those numbers have been boosted by Nikola Vucevic continuing his torrid pace from three (43.5% on 6.4 attempts per) and the return of Evan Fournier, who in the last three games has connected on 50 percent of his attempts from deep (12-for-24). The Magic starters in their win over the Hornets combined to go 15-for-25 from deep (60%).
They’ll now face a Kings defense that has been historically bad, allowing opponents to hit a league-worst 39.9% from three while posting a league-worst defensive rating (by a wide margin) of 118.7 points per 100 possessions.
The Kings, who have allowed over 120 points in 10 games this season (including a recent stretch of eight straight), did have their best defensive performance of the season in a win over the Knicks on Friday, allowing a season-low 94 points, their first time holding an opponent under 100 this season.
The Kings, with the 13-best offensive rating at 110.2 per and the 10th highest pace at 101.4 possessions per, do have the ability to score in bunches behind De’Aaron Fox (20.9 points, 5.9 assists per), Harrison Barnes (15.9 points per, but struggled over his last few games before bouncing back against the Knicks with 21 points), Buddy Hield (14.9 points), and Haliburton.
The Kings will also be well rested, with their back-to-back against the Grizzlies that was scheduled for Sunday and Monday having been postponed. The Kings have had four full days off, while the Magic, who have dropped 8 of their last 10 games, will be playing their third game in four nights.
That won’t matter much if the Magic keep hitting shots, Anthony keeps connecting from deep, Aaron Gordon keeps thriving as point forward, Nikola Vucevic keeps doing what Nikola Vucevic does, and the Kings defense keeps doing what the Kings defense usually does.
Who: Orlando Magic (8-10) vs. Sacramento Kings (6-10)
When: Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Where: Amway Center - Orlando, Florida
TV: Fox Sports Florida