Let me get this right out of the gate: I am a full blown Anton Watson enthusiast.
That doesn’t mean that I haven’t been frustrated by his inconsistent play before, but that is also where the enthusiasm comes from as well. The Spokane native has shown stretches of play that firmly would put him on a NBA squad, and that is promptly followed up by periods of time where it is hard to even tell if he is on the court.
So what do we get out of Watson in his junior year? Is it more of the former and less of the latter, or the other way around? The key is how the coaching staff, and Watson himself, can tap into the aggressiveness he showcases in bursts and translate that to the entire game.
Considering that his fellow frontcourt buddies are a couple of players named Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren, when Watson is on the court, he will not be the first look down low. It is up to him, therefore, to create those points—gain proper positioning, and go to work. Watson has the skills and the touch. Despite everyone’s grumbles about his play last season, he shot 71.1 percent from two-point, a higher mark than Timme, and one of the higher marks in all of college.
Of course, he only attempted 4.4 field goals per game. However, even if Watson isn’t able to put it together completely on the offense end, he will still see plenty of time on the court solely for his defensive presence. That is his true strength. He has the size and the quick hands to cause utter terror. He can defend in the post and out on the wings. Last season, he had the second-highest steal percentage on the team, just a shade below Jalen Suggs.
Watson will most likely start the season on the bench behind Timme and Holmgren. He will probably also most likely be the first player off the bench, much like last season. With that, he should average anywhere from 20-27 minutes. The real key to the growth will be putting it together on the offensive end every game and playing with the fire we all know is inside him.
It is also important to remember that last season was Watson’s first college go-round fully healthy. If he makes the leap that many Gonzaga players make from their freshman to sophomore years, or sophomore to junior, he very well could be the X-Factor on a team that is looking at a Final Four and nothing less.