In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will be profiled in this space and, in this breakdown, we evaluate North Carolina guard Cole Anthony.
Cole Anthony may be the most famous prospect still on the board after the first ten or so picks on draft night. Once a candidate to be the No. 1 overall pick (many moons ago), Anthony struggled in his lone season at North Carolina. Anthony was a consensus top-five recruit in the 2019 high school class.
While he may no longer be in contention to be a top selection, Anthony is still an intriguing guard prospect with plenty of upside to offer. ESPN currently ranks Anthony as its No. 19 player available, while Sam Vecenie of The Athletic ranks him as the No. 23 overall player.
Anthony entered the college ranks with a ton of hype, as evidenced by his recruiting rankings. However, a combination of factors led to the decline of his draft status. First off, he played on one the worst UNC teams anyone has seen in recent memory, and when he missed time in the middle of the season, it was evident how bad they were without him.
I have included Synergy stats on Anthony, but to be honest, many of them can almost be ignored due to circumstance. His role at UNC is not his ideal role at the next level, and playing in the ACC with the team he had to play with is a lot to ask of a freshman to say the least.
The fact that Anthony still managed to earn an ‘average’ grade on offense despite the spacing issues at UNC is honestly impressive. Profiling to the next level, he would ideally be more of a combo guard than someone who has the ball nearly all of the time. One of his best areas at UNC was spot-up shooting, but due to such a heavy on-ball role he only got to attempt 76 spot-up jumpers on the season, just over three attempts per game.
Shooting may be his best trait when projecting to the next level, as the freshman shot 34.8% from three on 10.4 three-point attempts per 100 possessions. He has the ability to shoot off the catch or to pull up off the dribble, with similar accuracy in either area. He will need to bring the percentages up a little bit to be a good shooter by NBA standards, but the added spacing and more reps should lead to enhancements.
The highest usage area for Anthony was as a pick-and-roll ball handler, and in this area he was much more efficient when pulling up for a jumper than when going all the way to the basket. Going to the basket was especially tough last season for Anthony due to the spacing issues for UNC. Defenses were able to lock in on his drive and really make things tough because of the lack of talent and shooting around Anthony.
Anthony ranked in just the sixth percentile when driving off of a pick, but in the 72nd percentile when pulling up for a jumper. I would bet on him being a better finisher than that, especially in the spacing-happy NBA. He has the strength to absorb contact, and has shown the touch to finish in other areas of his game outside of pick-and-roll.
Isolation was the area where Anthony graded the best, ranking in the 92nd percentile at his position. When he was able to get one-on-one, his ability, touch and feel often left him in prime scoring position. If he’s able to get more space at the next level, which should be a given, his finishing numbers should come up.
Overall offensive overview
- Combo guard, can initiate but better served sharing the load or as a secondary initiator (preferably next to a bigger point like Ben Simmons or Luka Doncic)
- Shooting should be a plus (both off dribble and catch)
- Spacing should lead to improved numbers in the paint
- Average passer, aggressiveness/score first mindset
- Good not great athlete, good strength for a rookie coming in
This is another area where Anthony’s performance grades may not align with his projection. He actually profiles as an adequate POA defender. At only 6’3 with a reported 6’4.5 wingspan, he will likely be a one-position defender but that might be okay if he lands on the right team. A fit next to Doncic or Simmons would be ideal so he can be the only point-guard sized person on the floor and still not have to carry the load at point offensively.
Anthony has a good motor on defense and the speed/strength to compete. He’s a great rebounder at guard, chasing down long bounces and getting the break started. He has a knack to show up wherever the ball is, which can lead to some ball-watching mistakes when he’s off ball. Overall, there shouldn’t be a ton to worry about with Anthony defensively, he should be a neutral or better, as long as you can keep him at the POA or in the right matchups if he is moved to a wing.
Overall defensive overview
- Physical, quick, aware
- Great rebounding guard
- Should be mostly deployed at POA
- Can get caught ball-watching
- Likely one-position defender at his size
Fit With Atlanta Hawks
If the Hawks traded down, Anthony might actually make some sense. To me, it feels people have fell too far on Anthony. He doesn’t have that much worse of an NBA projection (in my opinion) than guys like Tyrese Haliburton, Tyrese Maxey and Devin Vassell, who are all mostly consensus ranked above him. Part of that is the size with Haliburton and Vassell, but nonetheless based on the mainstream big boards, Anthony seems undervalued at this point.
He does feel like the type of player that may be a challenge to deploy alongside Trae Young, but if the Hawks were to land in the back half of the first round via trade, Anthony could still be an intriguing option as another ball handler who can shoot and defend. It’s not impossible that he and Young could share the floor a few minutes a game, with Anthony obviously playing the bulk of the non-Young minutes in a long-term setting where he’s earned the backup point role.
For both logistics and fit reasons, it appears unlikely Anthony winds up a member of the Hawks, but in the event Atlanta possesses a selection in the 14-25 range, don’t cross him off.