Philadelphia 76ers: Do not ignore Justin Anderson

Justin Anderson | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
Justin Anderson | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia 76ers could make use of Justin Anderson’s skill set.

The Philadelphia 76ers have 14 guaranteed contracts and a pair of two-way contracts, which leaves on open spot for training camp competition. Justin Anderson, who signed a partially guaranteed veteran minimum deal with a non-guaranteed second year, is the house favorite to get it.

While Anderson has competition — Ryan Broekhoff, Derrick Walton Jr., and Lamine Diane — none received a deal structured like Anderson’s deal. Walton and Diane signed Exhibit 10 contracts, which incentivize a move to Philadelphia’s G-League team, while Broekhoff doesn’t have the non-guaranteed second year. On top of that, Anderson has more history and chemistry with this roster than all of them.

Anderson spent time with the Sixers in 2017 and 2018. He was there when the first fruits of ‘The Process’ blossomed, and he became good friends with Joel Embiid. That friendship alone could make him useful, and recent stretches of productivity in the G-League suggest he can still contribute in some way.

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Of course, Anderson will not enter the season as part of Doc Rivers’ rotation. He’s the projected 15th man on the roster, and his offensive limitations make him more of a “break in case of emergency” player than a nightly contributor.

That said, the Sixers shouldn’t ignore Anderson, as he does fill a unique niche on the roster. Anderson is a big, physical wing at 6-foot-6. He brings strength and a competitive fire that no perimeter defender short of Ben Simmons can replicate. It’s Anderson’s physicality — on top of his potential as an Embiid whisperer of sorts — that makes him a wise investment with the 15th roster spot.

The Sixers were desperately short on competitive fire last season. Anderson, if nothing else, plays the game hard. He gets after it on defense, and he can bother even the best NBA wings. He may not stop them every possession, but he can get in their grill, force the occasional turnover, and make them get in their own head. That’s the kind of presence Philadelphia needs more of, even if only in short bursts.

Right now, Philadelphia’s wing rotation isn’t particularly deep. When you move past the starting five, it’s Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz and Terrance Ferguson competing for minutes. Isaiah Joe is a fun wildcard, but it’s unlikely for a second-round pick to get playing time under the circumstances. None of those names are in Anderson’s stratosphere when it comes to physicality.

Thybulle could get there in due time — he has broad shoulders and a competitive disposition — but Korkmaz and Ferguson are gangly, string-bean athletes who have little hope of combatting the NBA’s more powerful athletes. Anderson as a sporadic plug-in who can bring energy and forcefulness to the rotation is a solid use of resources.

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Anderson is not a great player, but he’s a great competitor. Sometimes that’s enough. He’s liable to get cut anytime between tomorrow and the buyout deadline, but assuming Anderson sticks around, he certainly has a path toward valuable contributions.