Arguing over who should win Rookie of the Month you say, really? Well if you’re the Orlando Magic, it has certainly been the kind of year where seeing one of their young players pick up the award would be a nice touch to a season that is coming to an end earlier than fans would have hoped.
Make no mistake either, point guard Cole Anthony deserved the award as well. Since returning from a cracked rib that had knocked him out of action for a confusing amount of time, Anthony has taken on a bigger role within the organization. That much is clear already. He is playing the best basketball of his career, and he’s looked good doing it in recent games too.
Again, this is an award that will be old news before it ever even had the chance to be news. But there are actually a number of very valid reasons why Anthony deserved the nod over Malachi Flynn, and we will get into them now.
Cole Anthony had the best month of his young career for the Orlando Magic, but it wasn’t enough to close out the season with a personal award he deserved.
Let’s start with the numbers. For the month of April, Anthony led all rookies in scoring (14.1 points per game), second in assists (5.3) and fourth in rebounds (4.8). On their own, that is as good a reason as any to give him the award, regardless of what anybody else did. It gets a little harder when you consider the Magic have been trying to tank in order to get a better draft pick.
Not that Anthony or backcourt buddy R.J. Hampton are having any of that nonsense though. They want to win, and despite what it might mean for the Magic’s draft odds, you have to love that kind of attitude. It is that exact chip on the shoulder kind of thinking that the Magic have sorely lacked in recent years, and which Anthony invaluable to what is being developed here.
Besides, it is not in Anthony or Hampton’s best interests to look bad and lose loads of games either. The Magic could draft another guard, plus Markelle Fultz will be back from injury next year, so better to make it harder on the front office to relegate Anthony to the bench. At this moment in time, it is hard to see that being the case, even when Fultz is healthy again.
That’s the main reason Anthony should have won the award. Very quickly he has established himself as the guy on a roster that may be decimated by injuries, but which still needs somebody to fill in this role. It is something Aaron Gordon could never do in seven years with the team for example, and not everybody is built for it.
Anthony on the other hand is clearly loving being the center of attention at the moment. His post-game interviews after hitting game-winners, of which there have been a couple, have been brilliant to watch. Equally so is how he has reacted around teammates like Hampton when they have also gone off.
Anthony doesn’t have the same kind of game as Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers. But where there are some similarities in how both want the ball late in the shot clock or in a close game, and how good things tend to happen when this is the case. Lillard has a much more impressive resume, but for Anthony to even have this in common the All-Star is amazing.
Not to knock Flynn either, but the Toronto Raptors have only won six more games all season than the Magic, and are 6-4 in their last 10. His numbers for the whole season have been pretty pedestrian too, and while this is obviously a monthly award, Anthony has shown real growth since returning to the court.
He has taken on a bigger responsibility but has backed it up with better output as well. Even if you try to make the case that Flynn hasn’t been given the same opportunities as Anthony with the Raptors, and he hasn’t, like any award in the league part of the reasoning comes down to the situation too.
If you were to put money on who you think will be an important part of their respective team in the next couple of years, which player would you take? Flynn certainly brings some positives to the Raptors, but at this moment in time, Anthony looks like he could be a key player for an up-and-coming young core in Orlando.
So despite having better numbers over the course of the month of April, assumed a much larger role on his team, hitting some literal game-winners (even if the Magic don’t want to win) and at this point having more upside, Cole Anthony was overlooked for the Rookie of the Month award. Just another example of players being overlooked on the Magic, and more fuel to add to the fire that so clearly burns within Anthony already.