Jazz

Should the Jazz Select Anthony Black?

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The Utah Jazz are about to make their highest draft pick since Dante Exum in 2014. As Jazz fans anxiously wait to hear the name of the next cornerstone of this rebuild, one name that could be called on draft night is Anthony Black.

Black is a 6’6 point guard out of Arkansas. He posted a 39-inch max vertical leap and a 32-inch standing vertical leap, which ranked sixth and 13th, respectively, out of all participants at the NBA combine. His athleticism and size are vital attributes that could make him successful at the next level. However, they don’t separate him from the rest of his draft class.

The 19-year-old’s high basketball IQ and feel for the game are the main attributes that, more so than his leaps, elevate him from the competition.

Anthony Black’s Strengths

To the casual viewer, it may be difficult to see why Black is a projected top-10 pick. He’s not a good shooter and doesn’t have highlight reels full of dunks on opposing players. What makes Black a talented prospect is his understanding of the game which shows itself on both ends of the court.

Off-ball Defense

Black’s ability to read opposing defenses may be his best attribute at this stage of his development. He has uncanny instincts and a strong understanding of the game that make him a defensive menace.

In the clip below, Black showcases his smarts and high basketball IQ. The action starts, and Black finds himself under the basket with his head towards his man, not the ball. As the Texas A&M player cuts to the corner, A&M sets two screens trying to generate an open look and get Black off the ball. Black fights through the screens and cuts off the offense’s attack.

Plays like this demonstrate Black’s elite ability to understand opposing offenses. He will create problems for guards like Devin Booker who don’t always play with the ball in their hands, but get some of their best looks through off-ball actions.

Anthony Black’s Ability to Force Turnovers

Black demonstrates his defensive prowess through his ability to force turnovers. Black had the third-most steals in the SEC and the 15th-most thefts in college basketball. His length and size, combined with his excellent timing, allowed him to be one of the best disruptors in the game.

Black projects to be a capable defender at the next level. Utah will value his defensive presence on a team that was at the bottom of the league in steals. The Jazz will value Black’s defensive playmaking and will feel confident about their defense with him on the perimeter and Walker Kessler as their anchor.

Passing

After the Jazz traded Mike Conley, a passing void remained. Talen Horton-Tucker, Kris Dunn and Collin Sexton all had moments where they ran the offense, but Utah will likely seek a more permanent decision-maker this offseason. Black may be the best option at this range in the draft.

One play that stood out was during the Maui Invitational against Louisville. Black starts the action at the top of the key and recognizes that the defense is double-teaming him. He knows that one of his teammates on the weak side is wide open, and Black finds him in the corner for an easy look.

Quick decision-making, good instincts and twitchy reactions allow Black to be one of the best passers in this draft. His passing and ball handling will be valuable for a Utah team that lacks a true playmaker.

Anthony Black’s Weaknesses

Shooting

Black is a capable defender and playmaker, but there are concerns about his three-point shooting. He shot a grotesque 30% from 3 in college on 2.6 attempts per game. His free-throw shooting was questionable as well. He shot 70.5% from the charity stripe, an indication that he may struggle to score at the next level.

Perhaps he can turn his shooting weakness into a strength, such as hot stretches within games. In late January, Black shot 3/5 from downtown in a 20-point win over LSU. As he develops a rhythm within games, he can become a shooter that punishes defenses.

Does Black fit with the Jazz?

If the Jazz draft Black with the ninth pick, he could be walking into a starting position on day one.

Utah’s current group of guards in Horton-Tucker, Sexton and Dunn lacks a playmaker. As Utah seeks to maximize All-Star Lauri Markkanen‘s potential, a pass-first guard that can create open looks may be the first step.

Black’s positional size would allow one of the other guards to start with him. If potential free agent Jordan Clarkson opts out of his contract, Sexton would become the logical shooting guard. Sexton showed that he can succeed without the ball as he played with Conley and Horton-Tucker this year.

A starting backcourt of Sexton and Black is intriguing. Sexton, who shot a blistering 39% from 3 this year, would provide Black proper spacing, allowing Black to create in the pick and roll. Black can create for Sexton as well, getting him the ball in the right places and using him as a cutter.

Verdict: A Favorable Consideration

Concerns exist about Black and his shooting, but those thoughts could be resolved as he enters the right situation. If Black is available at the No. 9 spot, the Utah Jazz should take a long look at him and examine his potential fit as a franchise point guard.

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About Richie Ostler

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