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NBA Draft Prospect Review: Anthony Black

Ryan Hinske

Credit: Gunnar Rathbun, Arkansas Athletics

In any other year, Arkansas basketball would’ve found themselves at a crossroads

after the onslaught of Nick Smith Jr. injuries. This was a player that was projected in the top five

of this summer’s draft. Looking at their place in the SEC standings - 10th, behind non-

tournament teams such as Vanderbilt, Florida, and Mississippi State - it would be fair to assume

that they didn’t get much help. Fast forward to today, and the Razorbacks have accomplished

what few eight-seeds accomplish: beating a number one seed and defending champion in the

second round. The face of this success is not Smith. It is Anthony Black.

Standing at 6’7, 198 lbs, the freshman guard from Texas led Arkansas in assists and

steals per game, and was second in points per game. Surprisingly, Black has shown that he can

run the show without Smith in the picture, directing the offense with great passing vision and

ball-handling during Smith’s absences. This surprises many because Anthony’s mixtapes from

high school would suggest that he would be a 3-point specialist and explosive dunker in college

and beyond, showcasing his silky-smooth jumper and ferocious slams in compilations and


Black may have the ideal NBA frame for the future; he’s agile for a tall guard, using skill

and shooting rather than downhill speed and athleticism. Just look around the NBA and you’ll

see young comparisons: Giddey, Cunningham, LaMelo, Luka.

Offensively, the first thing you’ll notice about Black is his explosiveness, especially

moving downhill. Sometimes, he is so explosive that he looks out of control, but when a 6'7" player is moving at those speeds, it is not surprising to see them snowball into a flailing,

uncontrollable concentration of mass. NBA trainers will be able to fine-tune this.

In the paint, Black’s gather is strong, allowing him more opportunities for elite verticality

and foul-drawing. It is apparent that he could be a very dangerous post guard. Bigger NBA

guards who can pass are starting to post up more and operate from the block (i.e. Luka). This

opens up the top of the key area as well as the paint itself, and I can see an NBA team running

plays for Black in which he starts on the block with his back turned to the basket. He can outsize

other guards, out jump other guards, be simply too strong for other guards, or just use his great

vision to create looks for his teammates. Additionally, he has a very deceiving pump fake in his


Black doesn’t move constantly off-ball, but he does cut at the right time. He also sets a

nice amount of screens, which is a very good sign for a big guard. It does seem, however, that

he sometimes gets lost in the flow of the offense, unsure of where to go and what to do. A good

reason for this is his teammates at Arkansas; it’s hard to balance a three-headed scoring

dragon of Black, Nick Smith Jr. and Ricky Council IV.

His jumper is consistent, but not particularly ideal. He squats down slightly before

releasing, using his lower body as power, which is a good thing. However, he releases very

early, with a very low release point. This jump-shot is not ideal for contested threes, but if he

can create space for jumpers, it won’t matter very much (he has showcased some side-step and

step-back three pointers this season, just not at a high efficiency).

Black’s passing is what is making NBA scouts so excited. He has great playmaking

ability in the half court as well as the full court. He doesn’t make spectacular passes, but he

does make the right pass. He can skip it to the corner in pick-and-rolls, he can throw lobs, and

he can find the man in the dunker’s spot with a nice high pass. He has a beautiful lob pass that

is disguised as a floater, which has become essential for NBA Point Guards at this point, so it is

good to see this skill already in his bag.

Defensively, Black does not keep up with driving ball handlers very well. Sometimes it

only takes one move for a driver to get past him, and he doesn’t recover very well once he’s lost

that step. He falls asleep in transition on occasion, allowing break-starting outlet passes without

getting back quickly enough. He plays almost no help defense at this point, and struggles to get

around screens, so he can be a liability at times against two-man action.

If there’s one thing young players should emulate from Black’s defense, it should be his

active feet. He is literally always on his toes, never still or flat-footed for a second. If his

conditioning stays great, he should be able to do this for thirty minutes a night. He also has

fantastic leaping ability and vision on defense, deflecting passes and challenging opponents by

getting his hand on the ball by any means necessary. This mutually adds to his rebound proficiency.

Overall, Anthony Black is a high-level offensive threat with a sturdy defensive frame and

great leaping ability. I believe his floor to be Cade Cunningham’s rookie season. I say this

because there may be an adjustment period (that Cunningham experienced) necessary for

Black to reach his potential. You may not see the production of Cade Cunningham in Black’s

rookie season, likely because he will be drafted to a better team that asks less of him than the

Pistons asked of Cunningham last season. I think Black will show surprising playmaking ability

for his team (Cunningham averaged six assists per 36 minutes) as well as shooting decently

from behind the line (Cunningham was an underwhelming 31 percent from deep). Overall, I

think Black will have an all-around solid rookie season and go up from there barring any injury

concerns in the future.

Black’s ceiling is Penny Hardaway. The multiple-time all-star was also 6’7, but could

create with his athleticism at all three levels. He was a good rebounder for a guard (4.9

rebounds per game before the age of 30) and although he wasn’t known for his perimeter

offense, he did shoot 31% on an uncharacteristically high (for that era) 4.5 attempts from deep

in the 1996-97 season. With that reliance on athleticism came injury risk, which plagued

Hardaway’s career and ended up cutting short his prime. Hopefully, this doesn’t happen to

Black, but there is always such risk for a player of his archetype. However, Black’s ceiling is

clearly extremely high along with his positionless guard counterparts who will soon rule the

league. Anthony Black should be chosen between picks

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