The Trail Blazers’ 2019-20 season is firmly in the rearview mirror and 2020 NBA Draft is now on the horizon. As of now, the draft is scheduled for November 18. Unlike last year, the Blazers enter the process with two picks at their disposal. Portland currently owns the No. 16 pick in the first round and the No. 46 pick in the second round.
Today’s profile looks at point guard Cole Anthony, a player with ties to the Trail Blazers and the city of Portland. According to current projections, the score-first guard from North Carolina is projected to land somewhere in the mid-to-late first round.
- Height: 6’3”
- Weight: 190
- Wingspan: 6’4.5”
- Shoots: Right
- Position: PG
- Age: 20
- Projected draft range: 9-22
- PTS: 18.5 | Per 40: 21.2
- AST: 4.0 | Per 40: 4.6
- STL: 1.3 | Per 40: 1.5
- FG%: 38.0
- 3P%: 34.8
- FT%: 75.0
Modern NBA point guards are tasked with facilitation and scoring duties. Anthony, who was the No. 1 option on offense for the Tar Heels as a freshman, has a clear avenue to thrive in one of those two arenas. Armed with quick and crisp moves on the perimeter, Anthony possesses the step-back shooting ability that talent evaluators covet. When a screen is available, he quickly exploits it for a clean look. In isolation, Anthony utilizes his footwork and core flexibility to get into his shots with ease. Inside the arc, the Portland-born guard can finish with both hands and has a soft touch. The latter trait indicates potential for a functional floater at the next level.
Outside of scoring, Anthony has a wide-range of dribble moves and has shown that he can maintain control of the ball in traffic. Regardless of North Carolina’s often-clunky offense, Anthony showed flashes of his playmaking potential inside pick-and-roll sets. Defensively, Anthony is a tireless defender that is vocal on and off the ball. Once he adjusts to the speed of the NBA game, he could blossom into a pesky ball hawk. Along with generating turnovers, he is a dependable rebounder from the guard spot.
Despite his full arsenal of offensive moves, Anthony’s numbers are subpar due to his suspect shot selection. He too often settles for contested shots at all three levels, a trend that moved his field goal percentage below 40 percent last season. Scoring struggles aside, Anthony is not a natural fit inside the classic floor general archetype. He often looks to pass as a release from his own thwarted dribble-based attacks and rarely puts his teammates in position to score by reading the defense.
Anthony’s size is serviceable when facing other point guards, but his modest height and wingspan could present problems when he is forced into switches. It is also worth noting that Anthony missed time last season after he had surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus in his right knee.
Starting with a 34-point outing against Notre Dame to start the year, everything looked to be on track for North Carolina and Anthony. That quickly changed once the Tar Heels entered a tougher portion of their schedule. North Carolina dropped their first two games of December to ranked opponents and Anthony exited the action for nearly two months after he suffered a knee injury following a loss to Virginia on December 8.
Anthony returned to the floor in February and posted double-digits in all but two outings for the remainder of the season. Despite his return, the Tar Heels were unable to avoid a disappointing season. North Carolina finished in the basement of the ACC with a 14-19 overall record.
Individually, Anthony earned Third Team All-ACC honors and a place on the ACC All-Freshman team.
I can understand both the praise and criticism that Anthony receives. On one hand, his scoring and instincts fit the exact mold of a modern point guard. If he is dialed in, his output can carry an entire offense. Defensively, he has the motor and leadership qualities that teams crave.
His weaknesses are just as noticeable as his upside, though. At the next level, he must do a better job of shying away from pressure and taking what the defense gives him.
It is also important to look at Anthony’s single season at North Carolina through the correct lens. The Tar Heels’ lack of outside shooting limited the space available to Anthony in half-court sets. If he lands inside the right system, with the right coach, Anthony has the potential to rise to the top of this draft class.
Anthony’s potential future with the Blazers is dependent on where he falls on Neil Olshey’s draft board. If he is tabbed as the best player available when Portland is on the clock, his upside as a future trade asset or long-term replacement option is enticing. The presence of Anfernee Simons on the roster does complicate things. Without a direct G League affiliate, there is no guarantee that either guard would receive the necessary playing time for their development.
There is a steep learning curve for point guards in the NBA—especially score-first operators. With Lillard firmly in his prime, time might not be on the Blazers’ side.
Have a draft-related question? Send your draft mailbag questions to Steve Dewald at BEdgeSteve@gmail dot com.