Plenty of buzz surrounded the three team swap between the Atlanta Hawks, Oklahoma City Thunder and Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday afternoon. Much of the national attention was on the Thunder somehow finding a way to get two young players while also shedding a large portion of their luxury tax bill by getting rid of Carmelo Anthony and the ~$28 million he’s owed this season, while Atlanta was happy to clear the way for Trae Young, picking up a 2022 lottery protected first-round pick in the process of parting ways with disgruntled guard Dennis Schröder and the $46.5 million remaining on his contract. For more on the trade, check out our very own Jeff Siegel’s reaction to the move.
What wasn’t in the headlines is the fact that the Atlanta Hawks also picked up a former first round pick (21st overall, 2015) in wing Justin Anderson. Anderson was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks then sent to the Philadelphia 76ers in the Nerlens Noel trade back in February of 2017.
Anderson starred alongside fellow NBA guard Malcolm Brogdon as a junior at the University of Virginia in the 2014-2015 collegiate season, averaging over 17 points per 40 minutes and shooting 45.2 percent from three-point range across 26 games (22 starts), helping the Cavaliers earn the regular season ACC title. Virginia lost in the round of 32 to a No. 7 seed Michigan State (who would go on to the Final Four and lose to eventual champion Duke) in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. Virginia finished the season ranked sixth in the AP Poll.
Through 168 career NBA games, Anderson averages 14.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.1 steals, and 0.8 blocked shots per 36 minutes, but it must be noted that he has yet to average more than 16.4 minutes per game over his first three seasons in the league. He is known as a strong, athletic wing defender, and his biggest weakness at this stage in his development is his lack of efficiency from behind the arc, as he is just a 30.0 percent shooter from three-point range for his career.
However, as noted above, Anderson shot much better from three-point range in college and there’s certainly potential for him to become more consistent with his jump shot as a pro.
Anderson has displayed his ability to run the floor and chase down would-be baskets:
While not the most consistent shooter so far in the NBA, he does have the ability to knock down an open look:
Anderson has displayed plenty of athleticism thus far, leaving little doubt in his ability to match up physically:
Anderson’s drive game is far from perfect, but he has a knack for putting his head down and finding a way to get the ball in the hole:
While he doesn’t profile as a playmaker, Anderson plays with his head up and has the ability to find the open man:
There’s a reason Anderson went in the first-round back in the 2015 NBA Draft, and when you put on the film, you see it. He’s a physical, athletic specimen who simply needs to become more consistent from three-point range to carve out a role for himself in the NBA. He honestly reminds me of a smaller, slightly less explosive Miles Bridges, just in the way he gets his points, and considering he was a throw in to make salaries match, the Hawks certainly could have done worse.
To be perfectly clear, I do not see him as a Bridges-level talent, but the way the young lefty uses his bulky frame to bully his way to the rim simply reminds me of how Bridges generated some of his offense at Michigan State and in the NBA Summer League.
Anderson spent the last season and then some with the Philadelphia 76ers and current Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce, who was a defensive assistant on Brett Brown’s staff, so Anderson should be familiar with what Pierce is trying to do on defense this season at the very least. Expect the fourth-year wing to play reserve minutes at both wings positions this season for Atlanta, backing up Kent Bazemore and Taurean Prince in stretches. Stay tuned over the next few weeks as the rest of the roster molds into shape heading into training camp.
All contract info compiled from earlybirdrights.com.