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Sports

#nbatwitter Reacts To Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren, and Jabari Smith Jr’s Debuts

It’s not a genuine night of watching the NBA if your timeline isn’t filled with hot takes, predictions, and photoshop. Three weeks after the NBA wrapped up its highly successful 75th season, it returned with its staple of Summer League action. And as expected, all eyes were on this year’s top-three draft picks– Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren, and Jabari Smith Jr– when they made their respective league debuts.

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Whether you watched them play or placed complete (and possibly questionable) trust into what your timeline said, the reactions from #nbatwitter were swift and didn’t lack personality. For many viewers, it was their first time watching Banchero, Holmgren, or Smith Jr play– an everyday reality for those who don’t follow high school or college basketball.

But regardless of how you feel about the trio’s performances, they provided highlights and a closer look at their potential. Banchero (17/4/6) and Holmgren (23/7/6) produced a pair of memorable games, and Smith Jr proved he could be comfortable doing a bit of everything on the floor.

Below are some of the reactions to the NBA debuts of Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren, and Jabari Smith Jr.

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<code><p class = "twitter-tweet">https://twitter.com/KellyIkoNBA/status/1545231372985327618?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw</p></code>

Chet even had KD talking about him!
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<code><p class = "twitter-tweet">https://twitter.com/stevejones20/status/1545240662383230976?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw</p></code>

Categories
Sports Strength

How Cole Anthony’s Gravity Changes Orlando’s Orbit

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.

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Canning shots off the dribble at this rate has forced defenses to continually fight over screens, which, in turn, bends the floor to his gravity and opens up scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates.

Last season, Anthony often played at one speed, attacking the rim with a breakneck pace if a sliver of runway opened. Now, he’s more comfortable easing into drives, mixing in stutter steps and hesitations to complement his swift, explosive strides. 

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The change in pacing has been night and day for him compared to last season. Accordingly, his intermediate scoring has reaped the benefits as he’s scoring on 46% of his looks from 4-14 feet per Cleaning the Glass (78th percentile among point guards) and he’s improved as a finisher,  largely due to better self-created looks. Similarly, he’s adept at lulling a defense to sleep in transition and then hitting the speed boost to catch an unlucky defender if the shell is too slow to form.

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As his scoring has grown in effectiveness and defenses have adapted coverages, more passing reads have opened up for him. 

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While most of these reads are rather rudimentary, they’re effective. Go over on the screen, and get punished by the roll or pop. Or go under the screen and give the lights-out shooter a wide open three. With his downhill gravity, he forces the tagger to rotate low, opening up corner looks. 

No, Cole Anthony isn’t often nailing a crosscourt no-look whip pass, but defenses has to acknowledge his craft regardless of flash. His accuracy on passes is still inconsistent; he can still premeditate reads and force passes that aren’t there. But, the growth has been notable and he’s improved considerably as a playmaker since last season. 

At the moment, he’s a combo guard through and through, but the flashes have been promising and hint at more. His ability to recycle in the offense has been fantastic as well this season—if his drive dies, a read isn’t here, or he misses a passing window, he’s been good at moving the ball to an open man and quickly relocating off the ball. Although he’s not fully bending a defense in these instances, he’s forcing the defense to adjust to his gravity regardless.

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Often this season, he’s had his drive stalled by a good defensive possession, but still forced opposition into an inopportune mismatch on a switch because he attacked so quickly and decisively the action. So even if he’s not getting all the way to the rim or forcing a full rotation, the defense still has to adapt. 

This pays dividends considering Orlando’s roster. Particularly in the starting lineup, the Magic have numerous players who can attack closeouts and make decisions.

Franz Wagner misses the shot here, but the idea remains. Multiple players who can continue drives and work together in synergy to turn small advantages into open shots. 

Lineup data is certainly noisey this early in the season (and in general) but the Magic’s starting five have the sixth highest net rating among five-man units that have played 100 or more possessions per Cleaning the Glass. That group’s calling card has been its defense and its stingy 91.6 defensive rating, but the offense has maintained play above league average, with much credit due to Anthony.

Per Basketball Index, Anthony has produced a box creation score of 7.5; box creation is a metric from Ben Taylor of Thinking Basketball that does an admirable job of ascertaining the impact of a player’s playmaking and scoring gravity. That 7.5 mark puts him in the range of Jrue Holiday (7.6), Malcolm Brogdon (8.1), and Devonte’ Graham (6.8). 

That lends credence to the on-court production. Cole Anthony is not a primary offensive engine, but he’s capable of igniting a fire to mimic similar results for stretches, much like those guards.

Anthony doesn’t solve Orlando’s need for a superstar, but few players would.  He’s putting together the most dynamic offensive stretch an Orlando guard has in years and having a positive impact on those around him. He still has a great deal to iron out and improve upon, but make no mistake, Cole Anthony is taking a leap and his growth and budding scoring gravity are shifting the course of the Orlando Magic.

Categories
Sports Strength

NBA Highlights From November 1st-7th

If there’s any lesson to learn as an NBA fan, the regular season is a marathon, not a sprint! Things can change quickly across this league, so you have to accept that. Who would have thought the Cavaliers found their best answer to life post-LeBron so soon? Why does Luka Doncic have a thing for breaking the Celtics’ hearts? Can the 76ers continue their hot streak despite the outside noise? Down are my four takeaways from the NBA’s latest week in action!

Evan Mobley is the Cavs’ answer to surviving life without LeBron
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Among the many storylines that have lived in the NBA over the past three years, it’s the Cleveland Cavaliers’ struggles without once, long-time superstar LeBron James. Outside of their 11 years together with James, which included multiple Finals appearances and one title, the Cavaliers have not made the playoffs and are also an annual participant in the league’s draft lottery. But things may have changed this season.

Evan Mobley, the team’s third-overall pick from this year’s draft, appears to be the answer the Cavaliers needed to succeed in life without James finally. Besides being a key component in the team’s surprising 7-4 start, Mobley’s versatile skill-set and potential are recognized across the NBA as the traits needed for a prospect who has the keys to the franchise. And only 11 games into his career, the USC product has produced a pair of signature performances, including his career-best 26-points in a 126-109 road win against the NY Knicks on Sunday.

Luka breaking the Celtics’ heart is now common

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Sometimes it doesn’t take much for anything to become a trend, and we’ve reached that point with Luka Doncic and the Boston Celtics. For the second time in two seasons, the Mavericks’ superstar has broken the Celtics’ heart by making another step-back three to win the game, 107-104, last Saturday night.

What makes Doncic’s latest game-winner insane to think about is he not only made it but attempted it from nearly the same spot he made his first game-winner against the Celtics. But the biggest difference? Doncic now made it with three defenders over him, including stellar defense by former teammate Josh Richardson.

The 76ers have quieted the noise so far!
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While Philadelphia’s off-court drama has hogged most of the spotlight, fans and media should pay just as much attention to the Sixers’ on-court dominance. Despite the Simmons drama, the 76ers have locked in and played good basketball to start this season, storming out to the best record in the Eastern Conference at 8-2.

Even though center Joel Embiid hasn’t yet matched his production from last season (his 21.4 points per game are down more than seven points from last year), the East’s No. 1 seed has taken an all-hands-on-deck approach. Seven players are averaging double-digit points per game, and six players are shooting over 50% from the field while also producing player efficiency ratings over 20.

Cole Anthony’s sophomore season is going to be spectacular
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There were a lot of crazy, and at times egregious, events that transpired last NBA season, and one of them involved Cole Anthony. The then-rookie point guard of the Orlando Magic didn’t make either of the league’s All-Rookie teams, despite being more productive than the likes of Issac Okoro and Isaiah Stewart. But Anthony isn’t one to cry over spilled milk.

Fast forward 11 games into his second season in the league and Anthony is proving his doubters wrong. Not only has the UNC product averaged more than 20 points per game (up from 12.9 last year), but he’s built on that same confidence and swagger that he exhibited towards the end of last year. 

On Sunday night, Anthony sparked the Magic’s rallying 24-11 run by scoring 10 of those points en route to a 107-100 comeback victory over the heavy-Western Conference favorite, Utah Jazz.