I’m a UNC fan so I’ve seen quite of bit of Cole Anthony. I’ll try to take out as much of my bias as possible. Being that the Hornets are tumbling down the standings (currently the 7th worst record in the league), it’s time to start to look forward at who we want to add to our core. Cole Anthony is one of those guys near the top of the board and I’m actually very intrigued by him and wouldn’t mind seeing him in a Hornets uniform. Let’s dive into why.
Cole Anthony, G, 6’3, 190, UNC
Cole’s role in the NBA will definitely be as a primary initiator. He can improve in the ball-handling department but he has a good, tight handle and a lot of moves in his bag. He doesn’t have the most explosive first step but he has a solid one and that mixed with his ball-handling ability allows him to get to the basket. Cole’s most important skill is his shooting though. Ironically enough, it hasn’t been pretty. Currently, he’s shooting 35.4% from the field, 31.6% from the 3 (7 attempts a game), and 73.7% from the line. The numbers are bad but there is a lot of context for this.
Cole’s situation at UNC isn’t the most optimal environment. First, Roy Williams, UNC’s coach, has long always played two bigs in the lineup. Cole often shares the court with UNC’s best bigs, Armando Bacot and Garrison Brooks, and neither are shooting threats. In addition to that, the other players that Cole shares the court with aren’t shooters as well. Only one other player other than Cole, Brandon Robinson, is a shooting threat, and he’s currently out due to injury. So, Cole at this point in time shares the floor with four other guys that can’t shoot.
Those numbers from three are just horrible. Cole constantly faces looks like this:
This is an extremely bad environment to be in and would hurt even the best scorer’s percentages. Cole isn’t as bad of a shooter as the numbers suggest. The numbers aren’t all on the environment though. Cole does have a problem with shot selection. He takes a lot of contested pull-ups and drives into multiple defenders. His situation is poor but there are lot of shots that he just shouldn’t take. Cole is a pretty special shooter though when his decision-making is good:
Cole has beyond NBA range and has the step-back in his bag. His shot-making is what makes him intriguing. He’s in the Damian Lillard mold in that his shooting gravity should be able to open easier lanes for teammates. His shooting opens up a lot for his own passing as he’s not an elite one a la Trae Young or Luka Doncic. He is a solid passer though and if he can shoot with volume and efficiency, his lack of elite passing won’t hold him back:
These are some really good reads from Cole. My favorite is the last one and is the type of flash play that you hope becomes more routine for him. He clearly is a smart player and good passer.
Even still, Cole’s decision-making has been pretty rough as whole this year. As stated earlier, he takes a lot of contested jumpers when he should probably make the extra pass. In addition, he does a lot of dribbling too much. With UNC having no other real creator, he gets doubled a lot and pressured and he tries to dribble through it all:
Cole has a tendency to dribble way too much. Some of it could stem from that he realizes he is the only creator on the team but either way, he just has to be better in those situations. In the last clip, UNC is up by 9 with a little less than two minutes left to go. The smart move would be to dribble it out and let that clock go down. However, Cole goes way too quickly and misses the shot.
The good thing is that there has been growth in his decision-making. His game against Duke was probably one of his best of the year. He made the correct reads majority of the time and took good shots. He also knew when to take over. He didn’t play a perfect game by any means but his growth from the beginning of the season is good to see and bodes well for his future in the NBA. However, he followed that up with 5-19 shooting and seven turnover game against Wake Forest. He’s obviously not there yet in terms of decision-making and it’s the big swing skill for him. If he can become a solid decision-maker, he has all-star upside. If he can’t, he won’t be much more than an average starter. It’s something to monitor.
Ultimately, Cole profiles on offense as a scoring PG. He has flashed the ability to score at all three levels and does a really good job of getting to the line (around seven attempts a game). With good decison-making, he can be a legit engine of a good offense.
Cole shines as a team defender which makes me a lot more optimistic of him as a decision-maker. He does make mistakes occasionally:
But overall, he’s been a damn good team defender:
Cole has shown the ability to be in the right place at the right time and collect charges. In the last clip, you can see what Cole Anthony could look like on defense when he’s locked in. He gets around the screen and stays in front of his man. Then, he helps down to cover the pass which forces the offensive player to throw an errant pass and turn it over. This is the type of high IQ play that has me excited about his potential on the defensive end.
He’s been up and down with his on-ball defense though which has been concerning:
It seems to be that his footwork is just bad so there might be room to grow but I don’t think he’ll ever be a legit deterrent on-ball on defense. However, his team defense could actually shine in the NBA. He also has shown some shades of rim protection:
Like, what PG is doing that? That play is incredible.
With what I’ve seen on tape, I optimistic that he can be a positive defender in the NBA. He’s only a one position defender but his defensive IQ should help him to disrupt offenses and make an impact.
So why are we looking for a guard if we have Devonte’ Graham & Terry Rozier? Well, I don’t see either having the potential of being an all-star level initiator. Rozier leaves a lot to be desired as a play-maker and pull-up shooter which limits his primary guard value. Devonte’ Graham is great as a pull-up guy and play-maker but can’t really score anywhere else on the floor. Therefore, the Hornets are still in need of a guy to lead the offense.
I really think Cole could be that guy. He’s a better play-maker than Rozier and has a more versatile scoring package than Graham (and Rozier really). The Hornets are missing a guy that can really put pressure on the rim and get good looks and shots at the line. Cole could potentially be that guy. With his good team defense and ability to shoot in off-ball scenarios, he could also be able to be on the court for stretches with Rozier or Graham.
At his best, Cole could be a Lillard type of player on offense (he probably won’t be THAT good offensively). He’ll be a solid passer on the offensive end with great shooting gravity and the ability to put pressure on the rim. On defense, he actually could be a positive (which is a rarity among PGs and is valuable) with his team defense and improved point-of-attack defense. If he doesn’t hit right, he’ll still be a stellar shooter I feel like and still add the team defense. However, his decision-making could hold him back and he could be a liability when defending other guards.
I’m optimistic that Cole will land closer to that optimal outcome. He’s such a smart defender that I believe that that should translate to the offensive end and he’s shown a lot of growth as a decision-maker this year. With his defense, he’s shown flashes of actually being good on-ball and if he can clean up his footwork, he could legitimately be good on that end. The Hornets currently have the seventh worst record in the league and I think they’ll pick around that 4-7 range. Cole Anthony would be a great pick in that range and would help us to potentially get the star that Charlotte needs.