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2023 NBA Draft: Arkansas guard Anthony Black’s vision and playmaking ability rises on big boards

Diving into one of the NBA Draft’s best guard prospects, Arkansas freshman Anthony Black, who has elite floor vision that often allows him to make the right basketball play to eventually impact an NBA roster.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament West Regional-Arkansas vs UCONN
Arkansas guard Anthony Black reacts after a call.
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

As we close the books on another season for the Detroit Pistons, all eyes are ahead, looking toward the unknown of what this summer’s offseason will bring for the franchise. Detroit finished with the league’s worst record, and that means they have the best odds of remaining in the lottery-selected top four picks as well as winning the draft lottery. But, the Pistons will still have an all too real possibility of falling outside of the top four. It boils down to a 52.1% chance of picking in the top four or 47.9% of picking No. 5 — basically a coin toss.

If lady luck isn’t on Detroit’s side come lottery night, one prospect who may climb big boards leading up to the draft is Arkansas’ freshman guard Anthony Black.

Black is a big guard who thrives as a playmaker but doesn’t need to dominate the ball to connect an offense.

As a freshman with the Hogs, he averaged 12.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists in a heavy role, starting all 36 and averaging 34.8 minutes in his collegiate games. Black is a solid defender both on and off the ball, grabbing 2.1 steals per game at Arkansas.

Turning Defense into Offense

Where I’m intrigued most is his floor vision, feel for the game and ability to create instant offense. As a 6-foot-7 guard, he was able to contribute on the glass at a high level for his position. Once he corrals the ball, opportunities on the other end of the floor come in an instant thanks to his awareness and vision. Having the ball in his hands in transition will be a welcome sight for any team he lands with in the NBA, knowing that he will have the confidence to make a sound decision and the right basketball play.

Off the ball, he is still able to make an impact within an NBA offense. Black has the ability to make quick movements toward the rim, causing confusion for the defense once he has the ball in his hands. Combined with his awareness, this will allow for him to provide a valuable offensive component without the need to be a ball dominant guard.

He has a great ability to get to the line, averaging 5.3 free throw attempts per game during his freshman season with the Razorbacks. Black’s 3-point shooting is currently a question mark, shooting just over 30% on 2.6 attempts per game in college. I don’t expect for him to be a good long-range shooter immediately in the league, this is something that he will need to work on and hopefully improve over time. While his shot evolves, the ability to finish inside the arc and at the rim while consistently drawing fouls will help him find his role as a rookie.

I’m sure that the whistle won’t be as kind to Black as a young player in the NBA as it was as a standout at Arkansas, but his ability to draw and finish through contact will be undeniable at any level.

A Multi-Position Defender

As a defender, his size at the guard position will allow him to switch and guard multiple positions on the floor. He’s quick enough to guard flashy point guards and big enough to defend the wing position. The peskiness that he has shown at Arkansas will allow for Black to force turnovers at the next level, and create instant transition offense and points for his team.

Coming into the NBA, the biggest unknown and negative mark surrounding Black is his shooting ability. Again, I expect for his shot to be the freshman guard’s main focal point throughout pre-draft training and early years in the league. Along with his 30% 3-point mark, Black shot 45.3% from the field during his season at Arkansas. At the line, he converted on 70.5% of free-throw attempts, causing concern that his efficiency at the charity stripe will need to improve as a professional as well. As a senior in high school, he shot 62% from the line on over five attempts per game, showing some improvement at the collegiate level.

Does Anthony Black fit with the Detroit Pistons?

Of course, the hope for Detroit is that they are selecting high enough in the upcoming draft where Black won’t be a true consideration for their top selection.

However, if they fall back in the lottery, he can be an intriguing prospect. The lowest that the Pistons can pick is fifth overall. Realistically, I think that Black will be selected somewhere in the middle of the lottery. If his pre-draft process goes well, he can potentially sneak into the top five should a team like his fit.

For the Pistons, Black isn’t a clear fit due to already rostering two premier young guards in Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey. However, I think that Black would be an interesting piece for the young roster due to his facilitation and defensive ability.

If he lands in Detroit, Black would almost certainly come off of the bench and learn to adjust to the professional game behind Cunningham and Ivey. He could be an intriguing long-term sixth man or backup guard, if the organization likes him as someone with more current upside compared to a Killian Hayes.

Black seems like he can be a riser amongst many organization’s big boards leading up to the draft. His vision and basketball IQ is sound enough to fit on any NBA roster. If he can improve his shot and self creation, the team that calls his name on draft night could have a long-term floor general and top-tier defensive guard on their hands.

For more on Black, check out the preseason film breakdown from Bryce Simon of Motor City Hoops, as well as Bryce’s prospect breakdown for Sports Illustrated’s Draft Digest.