When it comes to constructing a roster with young talent in the NBA, there are few teams that have a better roster than the Magic. Sure, being a good team and competing for a playoff spot has been a struggle this season, but with all the meaningless games Orlando has had, some of their young guys have had more opportunities to prove themselves in the rotation. The emergence of Orlando’s former first-round selections of Cole Anthony and Chuma Okeke have seemed to pay off thus far in the season. Let’s not forget about NBL standout R.J. Hampton, who has shown some flashes, including a 16 point and 10 rebound double-double against Detroit. Between the three rookies, none of them emerge as a Rookie of the Year candidate. Fortunately, Anthony, Okeke, and Hampton all have chances to make the prestigious All-Rookie first, second, or third team.
Cole Anthony: Second Team
In such an uncertain season, Anthony has made the most of his playing time this season. Through 39 games, Anthony is averaging 12.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 4.3 APG, while shooting 39.7% from the field and 33.1% from three-point range. Anthony has also been on a tear since returning from his rib injury, notching 10+ points in 12 of his last 13 games. Anthony has remained calm under pressure, too. In addition to notching 26 points, eight rebounds, and six assists on Saturday against Memphis, Anthony drilled a game-winning three to win the game. With that game-winner, Anthony became the only rookie since the 1996-97 season to make a pair of game-winning threes with under a second remaining. Anthony’s first game-winner came against Minnesota. Despite this, Anthony will miss out on the All-Rookie First Team due to the extreme competition, comprised of LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, and Tyrese Haliburton.
Chuma Okeke: Second Team
Like Anthony, Okeke has emerged on a depleted Magic squad. Okeke hasn’t had eye-popping stats this season, with 7.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.2 APG, and 1.1 SPG. In his last 15 games, however, Okeke is averaging career-high numbers across the board, with 11.8 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.9 RPG, and 1.6 SPG. One thing that has remained constant with Okeke throughout the season has been his solid shooting. For the season, Okeke is shooting 41.7% from the field and 34.8% from downtown. In his last 15 games, Okeke’s shooting has remained the same, except for his three-point shooting, going 51.8% from the field and 29.6% from three-point range. It’ll still be an uphill climb for Okeke to reach the first team, though. The frontcourt group isn’t super deep, but Okeke would have to beat out Jae’sean Tate, Saddiq Bey, and Patrick Williams to earn the honor.
Honorable Mention: R.J Hampton
Entering the 2020 NBA Draft, Hampton was one of the highly-targeted overseas players while playing in the National Basketball League (NBL). Orlando’s front office recently said that Hampton was near the top of their Prospect Ranking. Instead, Orlando took Anthony over Hampton in the Draft, leading him to slide to the 24th pick where Milwaukee selected him. Hampton was then dealt to Denver, and now finds himself in Orlando, thanks to the Aaron Gordon trade. Since being traded to the Sunshine State, Hampton has been playing some of the best basketball of his career, averaging 8.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 2.9 APG, all career highs. Alas, Hampton was underutilized in Denver’s deep rotation, causing a massive decline in his overall stats. Overall, Hampton’s averages of 5.8 PPG, 3.0 RPG, and 1.3 APG on the season haven’t helped his chances to make any of the rookie teams.