The buzzer had just sounded. Wendell Moore had just won the game for Duke off a lob from Tre Jones. That game made me fully realize that Tre Jones is a better NBA Draft prospect than Cole Anthony.
Tre Jones had been the driving force of the Blue Devils victory by scoring 28 points on 44% shooting from the field along with 6 assists and 5 rebounds. Anthony; however, had 24 points on 41% shooting from the field along with 4 assists and 11 rebounds.
You can see that Jones outplayed him thoroughly as Anthony only led in the rebounding department, but 10/11 rebounds were on the defensive end where it’s easier to grab boards.
Now you might be thinking, “That’s only one head-to-head matchup!” Fine, let me give you another example.
On March 7th in their second matchup, Tre Jones absolutely outplayed Cole Anthony. Jones led Duke to an 89-76 victory over the Tar Heels scoring 21 points on a poor 4/13 shooting, but still being more effective by having 11 assists. Anthony had 9 points on 4/14 shooting, and he had only 3 assists to go along with that.
Your response may be, “Well that’s just two games. We need the whole year to go off of!” Fine, I’ll provide those numbers for you as well.
Tre Jones averaged about 16 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds per game on 47.4 eFG%. Cole Anthony averaged about 19 points, 4 assists, and 6 rebounds per game on 45.1 eFG%. Duke was 25-6 and ranked 11th in the nation with Jones as the best player on the team. UNC was 14-19 and was last place in the ACC with Cole Anthony as the best player on the team.
From those numbers we can conclude Tre Jones had the better season and elevated the overall success of his team while having similar statistics to Anthony, but being more efficient, bhis is not the only way we will evaluate who is the better prospect going into the draft.
Cole Anthony was the number 2 prospect coming out of high school in 2019, while Tre Jones was ranked 17th coming out of high school in 2018. That means that Tre Jones was a sophomore this season and Anthony was a freshman. Jones had more time to get accustomed to the college game, while being the lower ranked player coming out of high school, yet Anthony is still on his level.
But Tre Jones was ranked 17th in a much tougher class that featured some of the best players in college basketball history in Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett, who he had to share the floor with in his freshman season and he didn’t get much opportunity to be the main guy, hence why he stayed back for his sophomore season.
Now that we have covered each of their circumstances, let us evaluate each player’s skill set.
Cole Anthony is an offensive minded player. He can do it all on the offensive end in terms of scoring the basketball. He can shoot the three ball, he can get past defenders easily to get buckets in the paint, and his athletic frame along with his great handles allows him to draw contact and finish tough shots or get to the line at a high clip, but he has a lot more weaknesses than he does strengths.
He makes careless decisions with the basketball in terms of reading the defense, creating shots for his teammates, getting tunnel vision, and sometimes his great ability to dribble the ball can sometimes be too much and will cause the rest of the offense to remain stagnant while he is trying to isolate himself.
Now let’s get to his defense. His defense can get very careless at times, as he can often be caught slacking on that end, his ability to read the opponent’s offense doesn’t help him off the ball, and he tends to gamble too much for a steal when he’s guarding on the ball. All of that is not beneficial to a team that drafts him, as his matchup will have an easy time scoring on him with his current defensive tendencies.
Now let’s get to Tre Jones. Tre Jones is a solid offensive player. He doesn’t have the same amount of upside Anthony has on the scoring end. He’s an average shooter and isn’t a great finisher, but he knows how to select his shots better than a lot of players do including Anthony because of his awareness of his surroundings on the court.
His playmaking and decision making with the basketball is superior to Anthony’s. He knows how to find open teammates and create high percentage shots for himself or others. Anthony can make plays as well, but not on the same level Tre Jones has displayed throughout both his freshman and sophomore season at Duke.
Overall in terms of scouting a player, I will give Anthony the narrow victory over Jones on offense (margin is razor thin) due to his upside in terms of being a go-to scorer and what he is able to do with his athleticism.
Now let us get to Tre Jones’s defense. Tre Jones was an ELITE defender at college and will be an ELITE defender when he enters the NBA. He suffocates defenders on the perimeter of the ball, and he is very good at reading offensive schemes off the ball, which allows him to excel at stealing the ball and creating turnovers in the passing lanes.
To me, he is arguably one of if not the best defensive guards in this draft class. I believe that Cole Anthony will be selected ahead of Tre Jones in the 2020 NBA Draft in the first round (potentially lottery) because teams will be more attracted to the upside he brings as a scorer, but any team who lands Tre Jones in the late first or second round is getting a steal because they will have a player who is on the same level as Cole Anthony, won’t have to give up extra draft capital to get a player like Anthony, and will get to pay the player of that same level a much cheaper salary due to him being picked lower in the draft.
All in all, I believe Tre Jones is a better draft prospect than Cole Anthony because of his all around versatility, his ability to elevate teammates, and his superiority on the defensive end of the ball.