Jumbo playmakers have been making their way into the top 10 of drafts more and more lately, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see Anthony Black do the same in this year’s draft. The Arkansas freshman was a walking paint touch on a team that had spacing issues for the large majority of their season in the absence of Nick Smith Jr. and Trevon Brazile. While he only averaged 12.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game this season, in NBA spacing where he’ll have more room to weave through defenses, his production could skyrocket at the next level.
But what separates Black from another jumbo creator like Josh Giddey, for example, is his defense. This is what has stood out about Black dating back to his time playing with USA Basketball, what continued to shine with Arkansas, and what I think will earn him plenty of playing time in the NBA even if his scoring has some catching up to do.
Black averaged over 2 steals per game in his freshman campaign, and his ability to grab so many steals comes down to his elite anticipation—often looking like he is perfectly mirroring the ball-handler’s movements—along with his quick hands. Given his positional size in combination with this skill package, it’s easy to envision a team rolling the dice on him purely for that defense while being confident that Black’s feel for the game will aid his offensive development over time.