Philadelphia 76ers Player Profile: Who is Justin Anderson?

Nov 19, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Justin Anderson (1) eyes Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) during the second half of an NBA basketball game at Amway Center. The Magic won 95-87. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 19, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Justin Anderson (1) eyes Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) during the second half of an NBA basketball game at Amway Center. The Magic won 95-87. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

The trade deadline has officially passed for the Philadelphia 76ers and the NBA. While he isn’t a superstar, there are plenty of reason to be optimistic about the newest player, Justin Anderson.

Justin Anderson came into the NBA as a 21-year-old junior. A 4 star recruit from Montross Virginia, Anderson decided to remain close to home after high school, and committed to the University of Virginia.

Even in high school, Anderson was viewed as a freakishly athletic wing prospect, averaging 14 points, two blocks, and two steals per game during his senior season. Though he served primarily as a backup for his first 2 seasons as a Cavalier, Anderson burst onto the scene as a junior after winning the ACC Sixth Man of the Year the previous year.

Anderson averaged 12.2 points per game in almost 28 minutes per game in his junior season. He also burst onto the scene as a legitimate scoring threat. Justin was able to increase his 3-point percentage from 29 percent in 2013-14, to a staggering 45 percent on twice as many 3-point shot attempts. Even though he missed a number of games due to a broken finger and emergency appendectomy, Justin’s season was still viewed as a resounding success and was recognized as a Second team All-ACC player, and a Third Team All-American.

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At a crossroads, Anderson chose to forgo his senior season at Virginia in order to ride his wave of hype into the NBA Draft.

While Justice Windslow and Stanley Johnson were considered by many to be the best small forwards in the NBA draft, many viewed Justin Anderson as a potential lottery pick with elite defensive upside. While his lack of consistent offensive dominance in college, as well as his advanced age (21), limited his celling in the eyes of many NBA scouts, there was no doubt that he could contribute day one as a wing defender.

Listed at a solid 6-6 and 230 pounds with a nearly 7-foot wingspan, Anderson was one of the most athletic players in the 2015 NBA draft, posting a 43 inch vertical leap (2nd best in the NBA Combine), and a 2.88 second shuttle run (4th best). After being projected to go anywhere between the 21st and 30th pick in the NBA draft, Anderson was ultimately selected by the Dallas Mavericks with the 21st pick.

After arriving in Dallas, Justin Anderson never truly had a chance to shine. In his rookie season, Justin found himself stuck behind starting shooting guard Wesley Matthews and starting small forward Chandler Parsons, and only averaged 11.8 minutes per game with 9 starts. In his limited minutes Justin Anderson shot an abysmal 26.5 percent from 3-point range on 83 attempts.

In his sophomore campaign, Anderson again was found buried on the Mavericks depth chart, now behind newly signed forward Harrison Barnes. While his minutes have increased overall from 646 in 2015 to 709 so far this season, he still wasn’t being used to his fullest potential, only attempting roughly two 3-point shots per game, making 30 percent. These numbers aren’t ideal for a modern NBA wing, but they shouldn’t immediately disqualify Anderson’s potential as a score.

In Justin Anderson’s third season at Virginia his 3-point percentage increased dramatically as his playing time increased, and the same could very well occur for Anderson in the NBA.

While Justin Anderson’s offense hasn’t smoothly translated to the NBA, his defense has remained a calling card. According to ESPN’s Kevin Pelton, “Noel and Anderson (who just sneaks over the bar) are both among the 21 players in the league who have averaged 2.0 steals per 100 team plays and blocked 2.0 percent of opponent 2-point attempts or better in at least 500 minutes,” as reported by Comcast Sports Net (you can’t view Pelton’s ESPN article without an Insider subscription). These numbers are impressive for a player who plays in less than a quarter of any given game, and should continue to improve with increased playing time.

Justin Anderson still has all of the physical tools to be a quality 3-and-D wing in the NBA for years to come, and now he finally has the opportunity to showcase his skills. It’s no secret that the 76ers have had an unbalanced roster for the majority of the season, and Anderson’s addition takes a positive step towards correcting this issue.

Anderson is athletic, strong, and isn’t lacking in confidence. He has received near-universal acclaim as an athletic wing defender who can play both the shooting guard, and small forward position for the 76ers. This positional flexibility should ultimately pair very well with point guard/power forward Ben Simmons and center Joel Embiid going forward.

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While this trade is probably not going to turn out nearly as well for the 76ers and the Isaiah Thomas trade did for the Celtics, Anderson does come to this team from a similar situation. Now that Anderson should be able to play over 20 minutes per game, he could vey will flourish at both ends of the court. While he is by no means a finished product, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about Justin Anderson’s potential.