Cole Anthony, Point Guard, North Carolina
Age: 20.5 (5/15/2000)
Scoring. Like his father, Greg, Cole is a player that is able to put points on the board. He’s worked hard to develop a smooth jumpshot, both on and off the dribble. He can navigate through the defense with a deep bag of moves, elevate at the rim, and score at all three levels. He has the physical tools to get to the free throw line at a solid rate, where he shoots a good percentage. Is just as comfortable flipping up a floater off the dribble as he is casually crossing over his defender and pulling up from midrange on a fadeaway. He’s got a nice New York guard style of play to his game.
Athleticism. I’ve seen some pushback on Anthony, and that he doesn’t have the size to play against other guards in the league. Maybe these people only watched him play after he came back from a knee injury while at North Carolina? I reject that notion, this is a kid with a 40” vertical jump who has been dunking since the eighth grade. You just have to watch him block Shakur Juiston against Oregon to realize how much of an athlete this guy is.
Competitiveness. This is a big city kid who does not like to lose. He’s going to constantly bring that fire and drive to win games on the court every single night. He’s going to be really unhappy if the team is losing, and as the point guard, has the ability to really help provide the fire his teammates may need to keep battling. The Nuggets have a lot of quiet resolve guys, but they could use a guy or two that are going to yell and shout and get hyped after a big play. I can see that competitiveness helping fuel improvements in his game, helping him become a better playmaker and a better defender. He’s got the pedigree and has responded well to good coaching, so I think he’s got a lot he’s going to be able to accomplish on the court.
Playmaking. Part of this stems from the roster that he played with at UNC, but a 3.9:3.5 AST:TO ratio isn’t exactly what the Nuggets have targeted for backup point guards in the recent past. Whether he’s trying to force a pass that just isn’t there, or not taking the simple pass seriously enough, there are moments where he can struggle to set up his teammates. I watched him in the Nike Hoop Summit Game, and I didn’t see a guy that wasn’t looking to share the ball. Perhaps on a roster with more scorers, more experienced bigs, and another couple players that can distribute the ball, he’ll have more passing lanes open up for him and he’ll improve in this area.
Size. While he’s not a small point guard, he’s not exactly a big point guard. While Murray has always had a good strong core, Anthony isn’t quite as stout. That leaves him vulnerable to switches in the pick and roll, where his combination of size and weight put him at a disadvantage. He’s too small to play shooting guard as a starter, and may always struggle to contest shots, even when he’s playing good defense. He does show good effort at times on defense, and is a willing rebounder (5.7 per game), but you can’t teach tall, and he’s not in that camp. Being big doesn’t always guarantee success though, as Nuggets fans can attest to with the point guard they selected the year before Jamal Murray.
Projected Draft Range: Mid-first to early 20’s
Denver Stiffs Big Board: 11
NBA Comparison: Kemba Walker, Patty Mills, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf
Fit With the Nuggets
Why Anthony makes sense for Denver
We already know that the name “Anthony” looks good on the back of a Nuggets jersey!
I’ve had a different player on the top of my board for the Nuggets for a long time, but I have Anthony second. I see a need for the Nuggets to add more scoring to their team, and finding another guard who can stretch the floor while also handle playmaking would be huge for the Nuggets. It’s going to be hard to keep Monte Morris around for much longer, and Anthony can even play alongside him this year. The Nuggets can use someone to not just lead the second unit, but help relieve the primary ballhandler responsibility for Jamal Murray. If Anthony hits, having an offense with him, Murray, and MPJ scoring off of Jokic passes would be among the most thrilling offenses in the league.
Why Anthony doesn’t make sense for Denver
The Nuggets have Monte Morris and PJ Dozier, and are happy with them as their backup point guards next season. No one can be the caretaker of an offense like Morris, who is a historically elite player in regards to his assist to turnover ratio. But replacing Morris with a point guard like Anthony would be a real shock to the system and to the coaching staff, which collectively doesn’t have a lot of hair to pull after turnovers. He’s not a 3&D guard, and needs the ball. Taking the ball out of the hands of MPJ, Jokic, and Murray is just missed buckets.
I think Anthony is one of the best players in the draft. Forget positional need, if he’s still there at 22, you take him and make things work. The Nuggets may not prioritize another scoring point guard like I have been, and I would be really surprised if he was Denver’s pick Wednesday night. But I think he could really make an impact, and help give Denver enough offensive firepower off the bench to eventually be a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, if not a starter in a smaller backcourt alongside Jamal Murray.