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Summer League Review: Anthony Tarke still the Pistons’ biggest mystery among UDFAs

Tarke was a do-it-all player at Coppin State, but in the NBA he’ll need to carve out a more defined role

NBA: Summer League-Orlando Magic at Detroit Pistons Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Tarke was this year’s mystery man on the Detroit Pistons Summer League roster. Even now, after the team has played all its games, I imagine many are wondering what exactly Tarke brings to the table and why the Pistons felt the need to sweep him up as an undrafted free agent. It’s also worth considering whether Tarke deserves a spot on the training camp roster and perhaps a pathway to the Motor City Cruise.

Tarke is a fifth-year senior who started his career at the New Jersey Institute of Technology before transferring to the University of Texas-El Paso and then playing his final season at Coppin State. He is listed at 6-foot-6 and weighs in at 220 pounds. He posted the following per game stats this past season:

  • 16.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists 2.6 steals, 1.9 blocks
  • 53.9% from two-point range, 32.1% from three-point distance, 56.1% from the free throw line
  • 53.7% True Shooting percentage, 23.3% Assist Percentage, 17.7% Turnover Rate, 24.2% Usage

What He Projects to Do Well

In the film I watched on Tarke, the thing that stood out most to me is his passing ability, which creates easy looks for his teammates. He was in a unique role at Coppin State where he was the primary scorer and secondary playmaker on offense, but a rim protector and last line of defense rotator on defense. When it came to his playmaking, however, he did a lot of driving from left or right of the top of the three-point arc to seem like he was going to turn and go baseline. Instead, though, he used this as a drive and kick opportunity to suck in defenders and hit his teammates for open corner threes.

Per, Tarke shot 62.6% on shots at the rim so he was a good finisher—especially when you see this team only had ONE three-point shooter in Kyle Cardaci. Six guys on this team took 57 or more 3-point attempts, only two took 100 or more, and of those six guys only Cardaci shot above 33.3% from three. Tarke had limited space to operate but still hit shots at the rim at an above-average rate as well as utilized that to dish out 79 assists (good for second-best on the team and only three behind Dejuan Clayton’s team-high 82).

I think Tarke is also an exceptional defender. First off, he was really good at getting steals—and he was not just chasing them and leaving the rest of his teammates high and dry when he jumped passing lanes. He used his long arms to extend into the lane and kept his body connected to his man in an almost like box out technique so they could not get to the ball. This is perfect technique as it makes the offensive player have to take a longer path around Tarke, allowing Tarke to stay connected to his man even if he doesn’t get the steal.

He is also a good shot blocker. Really good at understanding rotations and covering for teammates blown coverage. Pull up any film from this past season and you will see Tarke operating in a center-like role patrolling the paint and doing a very good job every single time. Whether he was jumping the passing lanes as mentioned, or tagging bigger guys, or staying back and handling the switch on to smaller guards, there were few games where the matchup was too much for Tarke. I don’t think he will ever get this exact type of role in the NBA, but it at least shows the versatility as a defender Tarke brings to the table as he is both strong enough to check bigs and had the lateral mobility to switch on to guards.

Aspects of His Game That Need Work

Shooting. Hitting 32.1% from three is obviously not good, but more concerning is his low free-throw percentage. His career-high was 64.1% his sophomore year at NJIT and the other three years of his playing career he NEVER shot above 59% from the charity stripe. This should be priority No. 1 as his offense right now is predicated on driving to the hoop and if he cannot be at least a 70% free throw shooter he will not be able to be counted on as a positive contributor to a rotation.

His advanced stats also show an incredibly inefficient player. His career-high true shooting percentage of 58.5% came as a freshman at NJIT in only 687 minutes. His final three seasons, however, he posted a true shooting under 54%. While you will see him run in transition and convert steals into easy dunks, Tarke struggles finishing in the halfcourt. The best way I can describe it is that he can play with heavy feet. What do I mean by this? Well, take a look at one of his best games this past season against Duke.

You might be asking, if this is one of Tarke’s best games then why are you posting the video under what he needs to work on? Well, for one, Tarke is really a project who flashes a lot and does not have a clear role the way Spencer Littleson, John Petty Jr. or Chris Smith clearly do based on more specialized skills and physical measurements. For another, this video shows when matched up against NBA caliber guys like Jalen Johnson and Matthew Hurt, Tarke struggles, but he is not outmatched.

While Tarke looks as built as Johnson and more jacked than Hurt, Tarke does not play to his size. You will see Tarke get stifled by Johnson in particular. But Tarke also has a tough time adjusting to the physicality of Hurt and even Wendell Moore. BUT, he still is able to flash all the things I listed in what he projects to do well and even hit some more jumpshots in the process. His final statline for the game was 22 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 steals, and 2 blocks.

NBA Comp and Chances of Making It Onto A Roster

Being a bigger player who can pass like a point guard yet move and defend like a big man, I see a lot of current Memphis Grizzlies forward Kyle Anderson when I watch Anthony Tarke. Anderson was a clearly defined playmaking point guard who had to adjust to the speed of the NBA game while changing positions to better fit his physical limitations. Tarke, on the other hand, is a ball of clay who did whatever his team needed him to do at Coppin State so his role is really unclear and will take much time in the G-League to define.

Still, what does flash on film is incredibly similar to Slow-Mo, and if he was able to carve out an NBA career, I imagine it is as this plus-sized playmaker who can play the 4 primarily and the 3 in some spots. I don’t know if Tarke can ever become a passable three-point shooter like Anderson, but he definitely can turn into a versatile defender.

Of the undrafted free agents the Pistons scooped up, Tarke is the longest of longshots due to his unclear role and lack of a jumpshot. With the team extending an exhibit 10 deal to Jamorko Pickett, a good three-point shooter with size, it is uncertain how Tarke could factor into any kind of development track as the team begins crafting players to complement Cade.

Let us know what you think in the comments and if there was anything else you noticed from Anthony Tarke during Summer League.