The 2023 NBA Draft is less than a week away and with each passing day, we are getting more clarity on the destination of each prospect. The latest reported news is that Ausar Thompson of the Overtime Elite withdrew from his scheduled workouts with the Indiana Pacers, who has the no.7 pick. This increased speculation that a team above the Pacers in the draft order promised Ausar that they will take him. If neither Thompson twin is available, and the Washington Wizards don’t succeed in their attempts to move up in the draft, the most likely pick at no.8 will seemingly be Anthony Black.
The Wizards have been reportedly linked with Black for a while now. And considering the gaping hole at the point guard position, this makes some sense. But how does the Arkansas product actually fit with the Wizards?
The calling card for Anthony Black is his high basketball IQ. His decision-making is very impressive for a 19-year-old prospect. He is a mature playmaking point guard with great court vision and potentially elite passing ability.
Black’s awareness and help instincts make him an intriguing defensive potential
His high basketball intelligence shows up on the defensive end too. He is an effective help defender with good positional awareness, helping him get a lot of steals; he averaged 2.1 steals per game as a freshman last year. He has the tools to be able to guard multiple positions.
The main concern for Black is on the offensive end. It is hard to project him as the leading engine of an offense. He shot 27% on off-the-dribble threes, 41% on off-the-dribble twos, and 70% on free throws; all very bad numbers for a perimeter player. The lack of versatility on his shot is striking as his form makes it difficult for him to take pull-up shots. His shooting form certainly needs some work.
However, Black was a much better shooter on uncontested shots. His slow release and shooting form may make him a more spot-up shooter at the beginning of his career.
Despite having very good athleticism, Black doesn’t have the tightest handles for a point guard, making it hard for him to create enough separation from his defender at times. This also lowers his ceiling as an on-ball player.
Black’s likely role on an NBA team is as a secondary creator
At least for the short term, it’s safe to say that Black projects to be more of an off-ball player.
In this role, he can contribute to the Wizards with his connecting passes. He always keeps the ball moving and doesn’t hold onto the ball unnecessarily. He could run weak side pick & rolls once the advantage has been created. He can certainly be a valuable off-ball player but improvement on his shot is a must.
If Black is not going to be the primary ball-handler offensively, the Wizards will need someone to take on this role. What makes Black an intriguing fit is that he can play next to another point guard thanks to his size and frame, or be the smallest player on the team. He makes roster construction relatively easy because of his potential ability to guard multiple positions.
Whether the Wizards start the season with Bradley Beal, Kyle Kuzma, or even Monte Morris, Black will carve a role for himself.
Black’s playing style is similar to Lonzo Ball’s
In the optimum scenario, Black’s offensive role could be similar to Lonzo Ball’s. They are alike players with their high-level passing, basketball intelligence, and defensive chops, while lacking in scoring ability. He will not be the primary advantage creator, but he will play in the flow of the offense and create scoring opportunities for his teammates.
The swing skill for Black will be outside shooting just like it was with Lonzo Ball. Ball was able to fix his shooting form once he made it to the NBA, and perhaps a similar improvement is necessary for Black to reach his maximum potential.
Elite decision-making from an early age usually bodes well for players. It might be easier for Black to fit into different roles and adapt his game accordingly because he is a natural athlete with high basketball intelligence.
Using the no.8 pick on Black is a bet the Wizards can be happy with, but it’s worth noting it’s not a risk-free bet.