Prospect Breakdown: Justin Anderson

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Justin Anderson’s Las Vegas Summer League Stats

Team: Dallas Mavericks

 Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 10.04.10 PM

At the end of my last prospect breakdown for Maurice Ndour, I remarked that, “I like Ndour on the Mavericks as a long term development project. What he brings to Dallas is what their front office has started to recognize as an extremely valuable trait in the modern NBA- versatility.”

Versatility is the key word of the modern NBA. Players that have extraordinary physical tools and can defend multiple positions/score from multiple parts of the floor are so coveted that one of them just won Finals MVP.

Justin Anderson, or Simba, is a high floor prospect who has a prime opportunity to become a solid wing player given the minutes he’ll likely receive near the beginning of the season. He had a standout performance in Summer League and anchored the best defense in the nation at Virginia, and now he’s headed to the Dallas Mavericks as one of the best prospects they’ve drafted in the Cuban era.

So excuse me for my excitement.

Justin Anderson’s Pre-Draft Measurements

Simba's measurements

He’s 21, 6’6″, 231 lbs (5% body fat), has an almost 7 foot wingspan, and can defend anyone from positions 1 through 4 at the NBA level.

Given his height, weight, build, and wingspan I’d dare to compare him to another great defender: reigning Finals MVP Andre Iguodala.

Andre Iguodala’s Pre-Draft Measurements

iggy's measurements

In fact, Anderson weighs more, has a longer wingspan, and can jump higher than Iggy could as a rookie. His skill set is similar, but Anderson is coming into the NBA a year older, a much better shooter, and with significantly less pressure to perform in on day 1.

His skill set is even more versatile than the average NBA 3&D veteran- his athleticism and defensive IQ is very high, and it allows him to run in transition and guard 4 out of 5 positions.

But how good is he really?

Lets jump into Anderson’s bread and butter: man to man defense.

He cuts off the driving lane for Jabari Brown [15] and is able to quickly close space as Brown steps back. This is something Simba’s been good at since he was a freshman- closing in on shooters and forcing mistakes. In this case, Brown has to kick it to Clarkson [6] on the congested side of the arc.

Next, Anderson falls for Brown’s pump fake, but he realizes it before he jumps, so he cleverly repositions himself as to cut off Brown’s shot and flop. This awareness on defense is extraordinarily rare in rookies, and will serve him well- allowing him to make fewer mistakes in Rick Carlisle’s high octane system.

Also, well, just look at this gem.

He isn’t perfect though. in an attempt to cover both sides of a screen, Anderson often hesitates in going over or under it. In this instance, he does so 3 times in a row in one defensive possession.

In most cases though, Anderson is a solid one on one defender. His defensive game is indeed NBA-ready.

Moving on to his outside shooting.

In his sophomore year at UVA, Anderson was a pretty poor shooter- his form was…. erratic. But over the course of the year and going into his junior (and final) year at UVA, he reworked his shot in a major way. For example, in 2013-14 he would jump and land in two different places, which ruined his balance and subsequently his shot, but in 2014-15 he reworked his shot to take off and land in the same place, and his 3P% shot up (29.4 to 45.2).

Video courtesy of Mavs Moneyball

In Las Vegas, he showed that his stroke is NBA-ready by shooting a modest 38.5% from deep. That isn’t anything special, but Summer League stats themselves have no inherent meaning on an NBA level because of the decreased intensity, less meticulous coaching, volume of experimental sets, and because players like Simba have less to prove to teams in order to make it into the regular season with a contract.

However, inside scoring isn’t nearly as strong with the heir to the Pridelands.

Anderson’s ability to create his own shot is hindered by his lack of solid playmaking like other athletic forwards such as Iguodala or Kawhi Leonard (though an unfair comparison). If Justin Anderson is going to fulfill his potential, he’ll have to figure out how to create his own shot on the professional level.

This includes his odd crossover and an improved soft finish, because this low % floater isn’t helping anyone.

That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have any inside game, though, he has great body control for someone with his size and speed. Here’s a contorting tomahawk dunk from the baseline.

And heres some good 2 on 2 transition play from Dwight Powell and Simba.

His inability to iso shouldn’t be a big deal to the Mavericks, because they rarely play iso ball anyways.

So Justin has to develop as a ball handler, but he has great athleticism, body control, and transition play that should impress fans with highlight dunks and go ahead threes.

He also makes some odd shot choices, such as this turnaround fadeaway, which somehow hit the rim.

The odd part of this shot lay more so with the fact that Simba kicks his foot off in an already off balance shot. Another example of this might explain what purpose it serves.

It could be a last ditch attempt to get a shooting foul, but even then, this is the type of decision making that Justin Anderson needs to learn to avoid, and that will only come with experience.

But wait, theres more

Though, he does make a bad mistake in anticipation and not boxing out, letting Russell [1] get a long rebound and bank shot.

Luckily, Anderson’s Defensive IQ is pretty high, and he doesn’t make the same mistake twice.

He glances at Clarkson [6] trying to maneuver a drive into the paint for a cutback, and moves with him to cut off the drive and protect the rebound. This type of awareness is very much like something that a veteran will pick up after years of play, but Simba has it with him now, and he can expand on that, once again, with NBA experience.

So what can Anderson work on?

Creating for himself and others. He has some tools, such as height to see the floor well, but he doesn’t have the court vision to make crazy passes or create lanes, though he can read defensive sets well and pass to the high % shot.

In this case, Anderson makes a stealthy pass, but Kevin Pangos [4] just isn’t quick enough to finish comfortably, nor is he a good finisher. On an NBA stage, that type of inbounds play would be a sure 2 points if they get the switch they want, as they did here.

In this example, he could use a dribble move to free up more space, and dish it to the big man in the paint, or out to and of the Mavericks’ shooters. However, he won’t get defenders sagging off of their man if he is a mediocre inside scorer, and that would help his game tremendously in playmaking.

But in the end, Justin Anderson will impress fans with his understanding of the plays that coach draws up, such as this one to open the Lakers game- executed to perfection.

Justin Anderson brings with him a surprising amount of skill that he can use right away in the NBA and the physical tools of an Andre Iguodala. His NBA range three is reliable, he can use screens to his advantage as a shooter, and he’s a fantastic one on one defender. His sheer athleticism and IQ should serve him well in what is, hopefully (knock on wood), a long NBA career. He will have an unfavorable role if he’s surrounded by shooters, but should be fine in working with an inside presence on offense. Ultimately, if he works on his passing and ball-handling, Simba won’t have to wait long to be king.

Verdict: Justin Anderson isn’t a cub, his size, wingspan, quickness, athleticism, and demeanor should set him apart from other rookies that the Mavs have brought to town. He has a 3 point shot that can be relied on at this level, can defend 4/5 positions, and won’t be called on to lead the offense anytime soon, so he should develop well and become more of a focal point as seasons pass. I can see him as a 6MoTY or a starting 2/3 on a playoff team at the peak of his career.

This piece was originally posted on Mavs Moneyball.

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