How good will Cole Anthony be in the NBA?

TALLAHASSEE, FL – FEBRUARY 03: Cole Anthony (2) finds a lane to the basket past MJ Walker (23). (Photo by David Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

By: Kels Dayton

He looks like J. Cole, plays like Lou Will, and is the son of former UNLV Runnin’ Rebel star and NBA guard Greg Anthony.

But just how good will Cole Anthony be in the NBA?

The 6-2 freshman from New York was one of the top recruits in the country when he arrived at North Carolina for his one-and-done season in college ball, and despite showing flashes of brilliance, will leave with a lot of question marks and even more Ls.

Anthony averaged 18.2 points, 4 assists and 5.7 rebounds for the Tar Heels, but he guided the team to just 10 wins in 22 games and will exit Chapel Hill after one of the worst seasons in school history — which ended even before the coronavirus pandemic cancelled the rest of the ACC tournament.

The 19-year-old underwent surgery for a partially torn meniscus in his right knee back in December, which he suffered as the 7-2 ‘Heels were shut down by Virginia. He scored 26 points in his return (a one-point loss against BC), but didn’t quite look himself as UNC dropped its next six games.

Carolina (14-19, 6-14) finished at the bottom of the ACC standings for the first time since the 50’s, and were pummeled by Syracuse, 81-53, in the second round of the conference tournament, to end their abysmal season even earlier than everyone else’s.

Now, not all of that is Anthony’s fault — Roy Williams famously said North Carolina “should probably fire” him after an historic loss to Clemson in January. He also called his squad the “least gifted team” he’d ever coached, which is also quite a shocking bit of honesty.

Still, Anthony came to Chapel Hill with a sound-tunnel of hype, and it ended in the kind of spectacular failure only Matt Doherty can really understand at UNC.

He showed plenty of upside, like when he went for 34 and 11 boards in the season opener against Notre Dame, and when he drained seven threes in a 92-79 evisceration of Syracuse in February.

For the season though, Anthony shot just 38 percent from the field and 34 percent from three. He had some clunkers– like a 5-for-19 performance against Wake, and 4-for-14 and just nine points against Duke.

He’s only 19, and he battled through an injury-plagued season with a less-than-stellar surrounding cast and the weight of high expectation on his shoulders, so maybe Cole shouldn’t be judged too harshly on his disappointing season at Carolina.

Anthony still has excellent athleticism, NBA-ready skill, and an ability to shoot the lights out when he gets hot (thus the Lou Will comparison). He’s got a tremendous work ethic, a tremendous pedigree, and requisite size to make it in the league. He’s going to get more consistent from 3, and will develop a better feel for the game in time.

Some have compared him to Austin Rivers, but that’s probably not fair. This kid has the tools to become a better player in the NBA, and despite the injuries and inconsistency, he’ll still be a top-10 pick in the draft. Where he goes from there is up to him.

Also see:

2020 NBA Draft Profile: Obi Toppin

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