Spurs Draft: Boom or bust risk aside, Cole Anthony should be a Spur
By Damien Bartonek
North Carolina Tarheels Freshman Point Guard Cole Anthony has loads of potential and draft buzz around him. Should the San Antonio Spurs take him at No. 11 overall?
Even with the rumors of various solutions the NBA is looking at to restart the season, as of this point the San Antonio Spurs are looking at being in the late lottery whenever the NBA Draft takes place. Currently, San Antonio’s most likely outcome in the Draft Lottery is the 11th pick. The holes on this roster are plentiful. Luckily, San Antonio will have a decent enough draft position to address any need they feel is on the forefront.
San Antonio could use a stretch four at number 11. They could also use a true small-forward, one that is a prototypical “3&D” archetype that is sought after in this pace and space era of NBA basketball.
The opportunity and outcomes are endless here. With a plethora of ways to go in this draft, the Spurs must hit big on what will be their first pick inside of the lottery in years. But hitting big doesn’t necessarily mean you get your franchise cornerstone.
Their viewpoint on picking in the late lottery will be a tale in itself. The Spurs front office can either go big or go home, choosing a prospect that has major boom or bust potential, or they can choose to go with the safer, lower ceiling type of prospect.
Either way, you look at it, San Antonio is set up perfectly to jump-start what could be a youth movement that hasn’t been seen in ages in the Alamo City. Or they could opt for a quick retool, selecting a player that will benefit the current roster in the way it’s constructed right now.
Should they go with a player that can jumpstart a youth movement, one player that comes to mind with an ability to become the Alamo City’s cornerstone is North Carolina’s, Cole Anthony.
Next: Who is Cole Anthony
San Antonio Spurs Draft – Who is Cole Anthony?
One of the most talked-about high school ballers of his generation, Cole Anthony sent waves throughout the basketball world well before his collegiate debut.
This young man, born in Portland, Oregon was destined to play basketball from birth. The son of NBA veteran Greg Anthony, Cole’s connection to the game was there instantly. His game continued to blossom under those New York lights, as he was coached by Kemba Walker’s mentor, Steve Harris.
Before committing to UNC back in 2018, Anthony was a high-school legend in both New York and Virginia. In his Senior season for Oak Hill Academy, Anthony averaged 18 points per game, 9.8 rebounds per game, 9.5 assists a game on 47 percent shooting and 86 percent from the free-throw line.
Coming off his impressive high-school run, the commitment to UNC was no shock in the basketball world. The hype, expectations, and much more surrounding the high school phenom coming into his lone collegiate season was through the roof.
He came into Chappel Hill hot, but injuries and shaky play quickly derailed a freshman year that was one of the most anticipated in the country.
Next: Cole Anthony's freshman year
San Antonio Spurs Draft – Cole Anthony’s Freshman Year Woes
It couldn’t have been more of a rocky road for Cole Anthony in his freshman year. His boom or bust potential was on display throughout his lone season at UNC. It had tons of down moments from injuries, shot selection worries, low IQ moments, while Anthony looked a bit overwhelmed at times.
Some of that could be due to the lackluster talent around him, he may have had a constant feel to overcompensate due to the below-average supporting cast. But as much as his freshman year gave you plenty to worry about, there was just as much to look forward to.
Playing in 22 games this past season, Cole showed flashes of how deep is offensive arsenal is, along with untapped defensive potential, while also showing a bit of tunnel vision, inconsistent play on both ends, and motor issues.
Though the biggest concern of all has to be the injury he suffered during his freshman season. After missing 11 games due to a partially torn meniscus, the unforgiving injury bug was the icing on the cake for what was a roller coaster ride of a freshman year.
Injuries worry you a bit with Anthony. For a player of his caliber, he does rely on his athletic gifts a bit too much. He has a physical style of finishing at the rim, one that his 6’3, 184-pound frame won’t withstand for long in the NBA unless he really packs on muscle.
He has other on-court issues as well. His shot selection needs a bit of work. His 4.0-3.5 AST/TO ratio is jaw-droppingly bad. His motor on defense isn’t always active, he has shown a tendency to go through the motions, not always locked in on defense throughout a game.
Anthony’s woes don’t end there. For somebody with a deep offensive arsenal that he displays night in and night out, he has a tendency to do his own James Harden impression. No, not the crazy step-back threes, rather the “dribble the air out of the ball” isolation game that Harden is most known for. Although his teammates at UNC didn’t do him any favors, Cole’s tendency to over dribble at times took his team out of games rather than keeping them in them.
That playstyle comes with big issues because in college Anthony was only a 38 percent field goal shooter. You couple that with a 34.8 percent three-point shot, his inefficient shot-making, and overall inefficient play style that was shown at North Carolina is cause for scare at the next level.
Next: Should the Spurs draft him?
San Antonio Spurs Draft – Should the Spurs draft Cole Anthony?
Even after a partially torn meniscus, issues with being ball-dominant and not fully locked in on defense shot selection concerns and tunnel vision worries later, the Spurs should absolutely still consider drafting Cole Anthony should he be available at number 11.
The boom or bust potential here is obvious. You’ll potentially get a player who could be the poster child for the new generation of NBA Guards. He can be an insanely talented, deeply offensive-skilled player who can score the ball at will, make both highlight and fundamental passes, will look to push the pace of a game at any time, and capitalize with making plays on defense, or he could just be a backup point guard.
Given the boom potential here, the risk is one the Spurs should take regardless of the potential miss factor. Sure, San Antonio can get a safer, less talented, lower ceiling level player who “fits the system” at number 11. But, with the Spurs being in the lottery for the first time in many years, they should look to capitalize on getting one of the most talented players in this draft, one that, if he reaches his full potential, can be among the NBA’s elite young players.
Does he have shot selection issues? Yes. Does he have motor issues, ball-dominant concerns among other things? Yes. These are concerns surely, but ones you see with quite a few high-talent collegiate basketball players.
These issues often are accompanied by youth and inexperience on the hardwood. Cole played in 22 games this season, on a bad UNC team. But, the offensive upside and untapped defensive potential are eye-popping. The Spurs need athleticism, versatility on both ends, playmakers, shot creators. Anthony is a little bit of all that.
His offensive bag is mind-blowing. His ball-handling skills are amongst the best in college basketball if not the best. He has impressive displays of offensive work both on and off the ball.
He can space the floor like nobodies business. An elite shooter off the bounce, one that can also catch fire off the ball, Anthony is also no stranger at getting to the rack and finishing with an abundance of fancy finishes. A scoring machine at all three levels, with the pull-up midrange game also very deadly in his arsenal. His upside offensively is unreal.
As mentioned earlier, at times there’s a bit of ball-stopping play but don’t get it twisted, Anthony can pass the rock too. He is a willing passer, though the split-second decision making needs a bit of work, he’s shown very good stretches of passing upside and ability. Anthony excels in drive and kick/drop off passing scenarios, he has an excellent vision in transition coupled with good pass-ahead ability.
Not only that, defensively when locked in he can put on a show. His on-ball defense is stout at times, he will look to make plays on that end to jumpstart a fast break, he also has a unique ability to play passing lanes beautifully. When locked in on that end, his excellent lateral quickness, fluidity in his lower half gives opposing players issues when trying to turn the corner on him, or simply break him down on defense.
Lastly, the most underrated aspect of Anthony’s game is rebounding. He’s an excellent guard rebounder. He can clean the glass exceptionally well for being 6’3, as he averaged 5.7 rebounds per game in college.
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For the Spurs, a rebound for Cole could similarly work for San Antonio as it did for Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City. Russ’s rebounds would instantly jump the offense into hyperdrive, putting OKC in a good position to get easy transition buckets. Westbrook’s ability to be a force in transition as a scorer or a passer could work similarly to how it could work in San Antonio with Anthony.
As a scorer who can also lock in defensively and play really well for stretches on end, Anthony’s fit in San Antonio could be very smooth. With the future of DeMar DeRozan in question, among other veterans contracts being up after the 2021 season, the Spurs will need a plethora of shot creators and shot makers on this squad.
Besides DeMar DeRozan, there haven’t been many consistent scoring outputs over the past couple of seasons for the Spurs. This team is littered with inconsistent shot makers, players who can get you 17-22 points for a couple of nights, and then disappear for single-digit scoring games the next.
Adding Cole Anthony will give you a consistent scoring threat that works perfectly alongside Dejounte Murray. Anthony is great on and off the ball, Murray’s offensive game is still much of a work in progress, adding Anthony can help open up all three levels of the floor for Dejounte.
The concerns are there, the upside is there, Cole Anthony should be a Spur if he’s there at number 11. After the 2021 season, who knows who will be in San Antonio. With only four players signed to the roster after next season, San Antonio needs shot makers. They’ll need players with big-time upside, big-play ability on both ends. Cole Anthony is the can be that for San Antonio.