This afternoon news broke that the NBA Draft lottery will take place August 25th, and the NBA Draft will be held on October 15th. This means that we will finally find out which team will decide to draft UNC point guard Cole Anthony. It feels like it’s been an eternity since we’ve seen or heard from Anthony, and it’s been just as long since we’ve seen any basketball period. This draft will be a strange one, as the combine is likely taking place later this summer, but the show must go on.
Just as we did last year for the handful of UNC players that entered the draft, we wanted to take a look at where the mock draft boards have Cole Anthony, and discuss teams that would make for an interesting new home for him. Let’s dive right into where a few draft boards having him landing:
The Athletic: 8th pick to the New York Knicks (requires subscription)
The first thing that stands out about these mock draft picks is that Anthony’s draft stock took quite a beating following the Tar Heels’ unfortunate 2019-20 campaign. Anthony himself had a solid season, but things ultimately could’ve went a lot better for him. A significant amount of that has to do with the fact that he had to miss a good amount of games with a torn meniscus, and when he finally returned things just weren’t clicking on all cylinders for him. He finished the season averaging 18.5 points and 5.7 assists per game, but did so only shooting 38% from the field.
Despite Anthony’s struggles, the mock drafts have him in position to remain a lottery pick. Perhaps the most intriguing landing sport for him on this list would be to the New Orleans Pelicans, a team that has been going through a massive rebuild focused around last year’s pick, Zion Williamson. To me this rebuild is likely to be boom or bust for the Pelicans, and the addition of Anthony won’t change that situation. Both he and Williamson dealt with significant injuries during college, and Williamson actually missed quite a bit of his rookie season as well. If their rebuild doesn’t work, it’ll be because Williamson, and maybe even Anthony, wouldn’t be able to stay healthy. However, if things are a success, I can foresee Cole Anthony playing a non-insignificant role in getting them into the playoff picture in a couple of years.
Another team that intrigues me as a landing spot for Cole Anthony is the Phoenix Suns. The Suns shocked everyone (yes, Coby White included) when they drafted Cam Johnson as a lottery pick. Excitement of a UNC duo on an NBA team aside, the Suns would be another decent fit for Anthony as another team that is still in the middle of a rebuild. Playing alongside Devin Booker in the backcourt would be a good experience for Anthony, and it also would create a situation where the Suns may just be one strong veteran piece away from being a team that could develop into a playoff contender. If they decide to do the “We’ll just rely on our young core” move that some teams do, however, things could remain in lottery pick limbo despite the addition of Anthony.
Finally, the third most intriguing landing spot for Anthony from this list is the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs struggled during the 2019-20 season and walked away from the court with a 27-36 record. However, they’re one of those teams that can’t be counted out on a year-to-year basis as long as head coach Gregg Popovich is leading the charge. I think that Cole Anthony could thrive under a coach like Popovich, as he is known as a man that can get the most out of his players. The Spurs also already have a respectable duo of Demar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, so it would be another team where Anthony doesn’t have to be “the man” and can just focus on developing his NBA game and helping in any way that he can. While I saved this team for last, I think this might be my favorite landing spot for Anthony on this list.
While things could’ve went better while he was in Chapel Hill, Cole Anthony is going to make for a good to really good NBA player. His health is going to be key in making that happen, and if he can indeed stay healthy I think he will be a name that we will bring up quite a bit when discussing Tar Heel NBA success. We’ll likely see more mock drafts in the coming months, so check in with us for more updates and analysis.