Cole Anthony Passing Report: November 2021

It's fair to say that Orlando Magic fans' hopes for Cole Anthony's passing game going into this season weren't high. In his rookie season of 2020-21, he was far too willing to take a low-percentage shot instead of finding a teammate. Anthony didn't even reach .500 true shooting for the year, and yet he felt justified in taking up 24.3% of the team's usage while averaging only 4.1 assists in 27.1 MPG. This unfortunate tendency tracked with his one year of college basketball, in which he averaged almost as many turnovers as assists, and attempted more than 15 shots a game despite shooting only .380 from the field.

After a couple disappointing games to start the year, though, Anthony has been a very pleasant surprise -- not only as a scorer, but in his increased willingness to take on playmaking duties. Through 8 games, Anthony has averaged 60.5 passes per game, good for 9th among all players in the league. He's 28th in APG at 5.6, but 16th in potential APG (12.6) and 24th in points created via assist (15.1.)

Compared to last year, these numbers demonstrate Anthony's increased willingness to pass and his increased role in the offense. In 2020-21, he averaged 1.58 passes per minute -- that number is up to 1.78 this season. Last season, he had a potential assist every 3.23 minutes; this year, he's averaging one every 2.69 minutes. (On a per-36 basis, that's an increase from 11.1 to 13.4.)

This is not to say he's an excellent point guard just yet, of course. The most worrisome stat here is the ratio of potential to actual assists: the Magic are shooting .444 on potential assists from Anthony. This is mitigated to an extent by the fact that a number of those shots are three-pointers. According to, Anthony's 12.6 have yielded 15.1 points. (Not quite sure how they derive this number, but I think it includes free throws on shots that would have been assists? If not, I think it includes secondary/hockey assists.)

In any event, that's 1.20 points per potential assist, and it compares to players such as Malcolm Brogdon (1.23), Ja Morant (1.22), Ricky Rubio (1.17), and Luka Doncic (1.15.) In other words, Anthony is not necessarily doing worse than some established point guards who play for teams with erratic offenses.

Obviously, the biggest advance in Anthony's game this year has been his shooting. His leap from .496 to .596 true shooting may not be sustainable, but it's seeming increasingly likely that he's made some substantial progress since last year. Beneath that, though, his increased involvement in the team's passing game makes it harder to see him as a pure gunner. He's putting up numbers that, at the very least, resemble those of a legitimate point guard.

We'll have to keep an eye on whether this continues, of course. We could very easily look back in a month and see this stretch as an anomaly for Anthony. And a few factors might affect the volume of passes he puts out: Markelle Fultz will return at some point, and as Jalen Suggs grows more acclimated to the NBA game, he may take on more playmaking duties. Still, the first 10% of the season has seen Anthony looking more like the player teams expected out of high school, and less like the frustrating performances of his one year at UNC and his rookie campaign in Orlando. Let's hope that continues.

This FanPost was made by a member of the Orlando Pinstriped Post community, and is to be treated as the opinions and views of its author, not that of the blogger or blog community as a whole.