Justin Anderson has yet to find a permanent home in the NBA, but could he finally latch on with Brooklyn Nets?
I‘ll openly admit it: Yeah, I have a soft spot for feel-good tales in the NBA. Players that have faced their fair share of turmoil but have never quit in the face of adversity, I root for them. It’s why David Nwaba became an instant favorite of mine, and it’s why Joe Harris is my favorite player in the league. Individuals that didn’t necessarily have conventional paths to the NBA, but scratched and crawled their way into rotations and playing time.
Which brings us to the Brooklyn Nets‘ recent signing—Justin Anderson.
The former first-round draft pick (which admittedly, pretty conventional) in 2015 is currently on a 10-day contract with the Nets, after the announcement of David Nwaba’s waiving. Nothing is guaranteed for the 26-year-old journeyman, but it also means he could have a legitimate opportunity. If he makes the most of his time in Brooklyn, this doesn’t have to be a brief detour.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 3, 2020
Anderson’s G-League dominance
Here’s something that no one reading needs a reminder of—but I’m still going to take the time of day to type it up and force you to read it regardless—the Nets are in desperate need of reinforcements. They’re due to get Caris LeVert back in the lineup for Saturday’s contest against the Raptors. Which, by all means, is fantastic news, but the bottom half of the depth chart could use some beefing up.
Maybe it’s that soft spot I have for the NBA’s iteration of misfit toys, but Anderson’s skill set as a smart, athletic wing could pay dividends for Brooklyn.
Anderson’s impressive play for the Toronto Raptors’ G-League affiliate, Raptors 905, got him this opportunity. In 13 games, he’s averaging 21.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists on 48.4% shooting, including 34.6% from distance on 8.2 attempts per game.
As far as his NBA experience, he’s officially played regular-season games for three teams in four years (with a brief pit stop in Washington for some preseason action, and a Marcus Morris encounter, before being waived). Which, sure, not great, but would this not be a classic Sean Marks diamond in the rough?
Marcus Morris got ejected after hitting Justin Anderson in the face with the ball.
After the game, he said the Knicks are “not taking no s—.” pic.twitter.com/ebtYpZyyX8
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 8, 2019
Gauging Anderson’s fit
This season has seen a bit of everything—and everyone—for the Nets. Atkinson and the coaching staff have been forced to alter the rotation an ungodly amount of times to compensate for injuries, and lack of talent (subtlety!). Possessing a plug-and-play three-and-D wing with strength, size, and athleticism would be a luxury for this roster.
He may only be shooting 34.6% from distance this year in the G League, but his drastic increase in attempts from the perimeter is noteworthy. In his NBA career, Anderson is only attempting 2.1 three-point field goals per contest—shooting a sub-par 30.2%. That number has jumped up to 8.2 attempts this season for the 905, with an increase–be it slight—in efficiency.
The Nets shoot the three-ball like it’s going out of style. Never have they slipped lower than fifth in the league in attempts during Atkinson’s tenure. If Anderson can maintain efficiency combined with volume in catch-and-shoot opportunities while playing hardnosed defense on the other end, he’ll likely end up in Atkinson’s good graces. But that isn’t his only avenue of offense.
Now, I want to be clear, I’m not stating that Anderson is incredibly versatile in his offensive approach. He isn’t. However, the man’s physical attributes make him a force out in transition. The Nets are currently 14th in the NBA in transition points per game (18.3). Not bad, but also not a staggering statistic. We saw Nwaba’s upside as a beast out in transition. He got to the hoop with familiarity, remember how much fun that was? Anderson might not have an impact synonymous with Nwaba’s, but his defense can initiate breaks in transition, which is where he really shines.
Can’t you already envision Theo Pinson going into a trance on the bench after witnessing a two-hand dunk of such ferocity? I doubt Kevin Durant gives this a thumbs down (sorry, Garrett Temple, we love you).
— Raptors 905 (@Raptors905) December 28, 2019
Limit expectations, but also be excited
Overall, don’t expect the world from Anderson, but the gamble is well worth the reward in terms of this signing. Marks has made his bones as a GM by finding homes for misfit toys. After all, he came from San Antonio. It’s yet to be proven if Justin Anderson is next up on that list, but he has the upside to surprise a lot of people in the next 10 days.