Heading into the 2019-20 college basketball season, the hype train in Chapel Hill was firing on all cylinders. One of the top recruits in the nation, North Carolina freshman guard Cole Anthony had the undivided attention of NBA personnel leaguewide. Anthony was considered as a preseason darkhorse to give James Wiseman a run at the number one overall selection for the 2020 NBA Draft. Given Anthony's history before his days in a Tar Heel uniform, it's not surprising to see why there was so much anticipation for the freshman ball handler.
Fast forward to today and you'll find that Cole Anthony has one of the "strangest" draft ranges when it comes to Draft analysts. Anthony experienced a roller coaster of a season in Chapel Hill. The offensive-minded floor general was asked to do a heavy amount of lifting offensively in his first year on campus. At first, that might not seem like a terrible thing for a player of Anthony's makeup. But, with all due respect to last year's Tar Heel team, Anthony simply didn't have enough help on the offensive side of the ball.
It was a nightmare season for Anthony and the Tar Heel faithful. It also raised a lot of questions in the minds of talent evaluators. Most were quick to give Anthony the benefit of the doubt. It's hard to demand so much out of a freshman guard, no matter how talented he might be. Still, Anthony has become one of the most intriguing potential lottery selections in this year's class. He's an offensive microwave on the floor with NBA range and a quick release from deep. This is one of the deepest point guard drafts in recent memory, and Cole Anthony might be one of the best when it comes to offensive firepower.
Anthony does a phenomenal job of creating separation, especially when it comes off of the dribble. His combination of footwork and a quick release makes him a threat at all times on the floor. Notice the recognition here when Anthony sees the switch onto the Florida State big. Once Anthony analyzes that he has an opening, he goes to work. A quick gather dribble and a side step and it's bombs away.
OFF THE BOUNCE
Another good play here that just shows the footwork and quickness that Anthony has to his arsenal. This doesn't look like much of a fancy play here by Cole but there's a couple of quick things that need to be pointed out. Anthony goes to work here against one of the best on-ball defenders in college basketball in Duke's Tre Jones. While Jones does a respectable job here defending Anthony, Cole knows he only needs a small window to get his shot off.
If an NBA organization is going to go all-in on making Cole Anthony their franchise ball handler, it's going to be because of his offensive potential in isolation situations. Anthony ranked in the 92nd percentile (via Synergy) when it came to isolation offense this year for North Carolina. It's his bread and butter. While Anthony might look small on film, he's listed at 6'3" and plays with a boulder on his shoulder. Cole will get downhill and go right at the body of a defender which is something that should please scouts across the league.
Good demonstration here to see the ability that Anthony has in the P&R game. Notice the split here of the screens and the ability for Anthony to finish this tough shot. As stated previously, Anthony might look small on the court but he has sneaky athleticism that pairs well with his 6'3" frame.
You can be sure that teams will be worrisome about Anthony's finishing ability after some of the numbers he posted during his one and only season at North Carolina. Anthony posted a 39.2 FG% when it came to shots around the basket (via synergy). That's an alarming number, but this clip above just shows you the potential Anthony has to improve as a finisher. The NBA game is known for creating an increase of spacing when it comes to the floor, and Anthony didn't have a lot of space to operate at UNC.
It doesn't look like much but take a closer look at the setup job here by Anthony. The Notre Dame initially is in good position defensively but a quick jab step and ball fake do wonders here. By using that simple fake, Anthony is able to create enough of a window for this drive to happen. A good demonstration of the agility and quickness that Anthony has, as well as his touch on floaters.
FEEL FOR THE GAME
When you are trying to find a new floor general, you're going to pay close attention to the little things. I love this clip from the North Carolina freshman because it shows a great awareness by Anthony. Notice how Cole takes this handoff and gets directly shoulder to shoulder with the screener. The Michigan defender initially is right on top of Anthony and once Cole realizes this, he puts his defender in a no-win situation. That shoulder-to-shoulder screen allows for just enough of a window for Anthony to take this pullup jumper with comfort.
CATCH AND SHOOT
Anthony projects as a weapon in catch and shoot opportunities at the NBA level. According to Synergy, the freshman guard ranked in the 86th percentile when it came to catch and shoot offense in the half-court. Anthony's footwork and quick release are both promising developments. A nice simple one-two gather here from Cole while showing good balance.
Anthony will need to pick it up on the defensive side of the ball at the next level, but he plays with passion as a defender. He's a capable defender who could have some untapped potential left for coaches to bring out, especially with his notable basketball IQ. With his lateral quickness and feistiness, there's a good argument at hand that Anthony's best days as a defender are far ahead of him. Great anticipation skills here and Anthony teases us with a demonstration of his underrated explosiveness on the other end of this slam.
PICK & ROLL ASSET
While advanced numbers will tell you that Anthony didn't rank highly when it came to P&R opportunities (around 40th percentile via Synergy) there's a serious belief that he could thrive at the next level with additional spacing. The freshman ball handler shows the ability to slither in and out of screens and he gets downhill in a hurry. Once Anthony has a head of steam, he glides through the lane.
This play just sums up the type of competitor you are going to get when teams look at Cole Anthony as an NBA prospect. Anthony might not look like the biggest player out there, but you wouldn't notice by his desire and competitiveness. Notice the height difference and explosiveness by Anthony to go up and reject this poster by a much bigger defender.
While it was an up-and-down year for freshman guard Cole Anthony, you can be sure that he's going to have plenty of fans in an NBA Front Office. Anthony projects as a floor general who can immediately insert a jolt into a team's offensive firepower. In a draft class filled with point guards who all specialize in their own area, there's an argument that Anthony could be one of the best in terms of scoring and offensive ability. If Anthony can improve his playmaking ability, he could prove to become a steal. His draft range will be one of the more interesting storylines moving forward, but the more tape you watch on Anthony...the more you find yourself enticed with the potential.