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Know the Prospect: Cole Anthony

Will Anthony be a better pro than college player?

North Carolina v Notre Dame Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The following article is from new contributor @blames_dolan.

Before this season, the majority of Knicks fans would have been very satisfied to hear that they realistically will have a chance of drafting Cole Anthony in the 2021 NBA Draft (besides the few who expected to make the playoffs). Ten months later however, there is a strong divide among the fan base on whether or not Anthony can solve the franchise’s decades-long struggle to solidify the point guard position.

The New York native and son of former Knicks point guard Greg Anthony, Anthony was ESPN’s second highest-ranked player in the class of 2019 and went third overall in their first mock draft back in June. Nine months and 22 college games later, he dropped to 13 th overall, and the reason for Anthony’s slide is obvious if you have been paying attention.

Anthony’s lone college season was pretty much a disaster, averaging 18.5 PPG but on just 38.0 % shooting, including 34.8% from three. To put his inefficiency in perspective for a top prospect at his position, here’s how Anthony compares to the freshman seasons of recent point guards drafted in the lottery (note: Darius Garland was omitted for only playing five games).

One common denominator with Anthony supporters however is they point to his very underwhelming supporting cast at North Carolina, who finished second-to-last in the ACC and had their first losing season in 18 years. Scoring point guards like Anthony are at their best when they’re surrounded with shooters who can space the floor and open up driving lanes. North Carolina last season however, shot 30.4% from three and only 29% of their field goal attempts came from behind the arc, ranking in the bottom-20 in Division-I basketball.

When watching tape of Anthony, you notice he possesses much of the same positive traits of the modern-day scoring point guards. He is a multi-dimensional scorer with a knack for creating his own shot off the dribble as a crafty ball handler. He has a quick first-step driving to the basket and can finish with either hand. One area Anthony isn’t lacking in is confidence, and that’s always on full display when he has the ball in his hands.

Anthony has always had a score-first mentality, and although that’s much less of a concern in 2020 than 2000, he needs to become a more willing and effective playmaker. His shot selection was one of his most glaring weaknesses at UNC, frequently settling for difficult jumpers early in the shot clock. Sometimes an unwilling passer, Anthony hasn’t displayed effective playmaking ability when he’s looking to get his teammates involved. He lacks elite court awareness and struggles to successfully set up his teammates as he often forces the ball or finds an open man too late. This shows up in the box score with Anthony recording just 4.0 assists-per-game and averaging just 0.5 less turnovers last season. Here’s how his playmaking ability compares to the freshman seasons of the same crop of point guards from earlier.

Although Anthony has glaring weaknesses as a playmaker, there’s optimism that he can make significant strides with the right coaching and surrounding personnel. If he can improve as a passer and prove that his inaccurate shooting was a product of poor spacing, Anthony’s game will translate very well to the NBA. A scoring guard with uncoachable traits and supreme confidence, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor’s player comparisons were spot on, as he has the upside of Kemba Walker and the floor of Patty Mills.

In a draft with so many questions marks, I wouldn’t completely dismiss the notion of drafting Cole Anthony because of his poor freshman season. Context is key when looking at his statistics, and he certainly has a ton of skill worth gambling on late in the lottery. It’s just a matter of him maintaining enough efficiency as a scorer to make up for his other defiencies.