Is Justin Anderson a keeper? Brett Brown letting him shoot enough to find out

Is Justin Anderson a keeper? Brett Brown letting him shoot enough to find out

Brett Brown has had Justin Anderson for all of six games, so he's not yet rushing to judgment about whether or not the 23-year-old swingman is a keeper.

But he's liked what he's seen so far.

"The more time that we spend with him, I'll be a better judge of how quickly he picks things up, a better judge of what you think peoples' ceilings might be," Brown said after Anderson's 19-point game against the Bucks Monday.

"It's been such a quick snapshot that it's unfair really to project out. I think that, from my gut feel, when you talk with him and ask him different questions, there's a good vibe that comes out of that conversation and you feel like there possibly is a keeper because he ticks so many skill packages."

Anderson has had 19 points in two of his last three games, shooting 8 for 12 against the Knicks and 9 for 16 against the Bucks. In the Milwaukee game, he went 0 for 6 from three and 9 for 10 from two, also contributing six rebounds and three assists.

Anderson, acquired on trade deadline day from the Mavericks for Nerlens Noel, has also brought the Sixers a sorely needed infusion of energy during this down period. He's already proven to be the best dunker on the team and the second-most active defender to Robert Covington.

As with most swingmen, Anderson's ceiling will be determined by how well he shoots from long range. In 112 NBA games, he's taken 224 threes and made just 28.1 percent of them, an ugly figure.

If the Sixers can ever get Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons on the court at the same time, they're going to need to surround them with 3-and-D players like Covington. If Anderson can become another complementary piece, he could have a role on their second unit.

"Does he fit how we want to play? Can he play fast? Can he make a shot? Does he have a toughness?" Brown asked rhetorically. "Defense, pace and space. From time to time he shows, yes he can, in all three of those categories.

"When you look at his age, his body and physical gifts, I get excited to coach him."

If it was 1985, you could look at a player like Anderson and say, "Drive to the basket, finish in traffic, play some D and you'll have done your job." But in today's NBA, if you're a 2 or a 3 and you can't shoot from distance, you're just not that valuable.

With much more opportunity for playing time as a Sixer, Anderson will have the chance to keep shooting threes in game situations. You can take as many wide-open treys as you want in practice, but those are no match for live game reps.

"Luckily, I now have a coach who's super cool, who comes down to the end of the bench and he says, 'Because this team is so long, space out even further. Shoot with confidence, be cocky with your shot,'" Anderson said, referring to the Bucks' length. 

"As a player, when you hear that, it just gives you that thing in your mind that you let all doubt go, it doesn't matter what you're shooting, you take the best three available.

"One of the first things that [Brown] told me when I got traded is that he thinks that I can improve my three-point shooting. He likes the way I shoot the ball, thinks I have a nice stroke. He said I'm gonna take a lot of threes and there may be a lot of misses, but we're going to keep taking them.

"For him to tell not just me that but the whole team, it shows his trust in our ability to shoot the basketball and we've just got to keep letting it go."

The Sixers lack a go-to scorer and rely on constant ball movement, so Anderson will have many more opportunities to let 'em go this season.

How much progress he's able to make in that department will determine whether he becomes a valuable piece in the Covington mold or just another player who came through town during the process.

NBA Notes: Bulls' Mirotic suffers broken bones in fight with teammate Portis

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NBA Notes: Bulls' Mirotic suffers broken bones in fight with teammate Portis

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls say forward Nikola Mirotic suffered multiple broken bones in his face as well as a concussion in a fight with teammate Bobby Portis during practice.

The team says Mirotic will likely need surgery and is out indefinitely. They say they are "evaluating disciplinary action" after Tuesday's incident.

Mirotic averaged 10.8 points over his first three seasons with Chicago. A restricted free agent, he signed a two-year contract that could pay as much as $27 million in September. The club holds an option on the second season.

A 2015 first-round pick, Portis has averaged 6.9 points and 5 rebounds.

The Bulls open at Toronto on Thursday. Chicago is rebuilding after trading Jimmy Butler and parting with Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo (see full story).

Nuggets: Jefferson reportedly agrees to deal
DENVER -- Michael Malone knows all about Richard Jefferson. Just not Tuesday, with the deal for the veteran forward still waiting on official word.

"Who's Jefferson?" the Denver Nuggets coach coyly said after practice.

Jefferson will join the Nuggets on a one-year deal, a person with knowledge of the negotiations confirmed to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the agreement hasn't been disclosed by the team. ESPN first reported the deal, which it said is worth $2.3 million.

After weeks of fine-tuning his roster through training camp and the preseason, Malone suddenly has to juggle things around. Not that he minds carving out minutes for a player he can't even name just yet. Jefferson adds another leadership presence to a young, playoff-hopeful roster (see full story).

Jazz: Timeline unknown for injured Exum
SALT LAKE CITY -- Dante Exum knew he had a significant injury the moment he awkwardly hit the floor during a preseason game against the Suns on Oct. 6. The diagnosis was a separated shoulder, and the Jazz guard and the team took the next 10 days to decide what to do.

Exum saw three doctors and spoke to several more before deciding to have a surgery on Oct. 24 that will keep him out for an unknown amount of time.

"Even just walking back (to the locker room), obviously I was frustrated," Exum said. "Everything was going through my head. I remember just looking up at everybody and they were just speechless. Didn't know what to say. A lot of people within the Jazz organization know how hard I've worked to get to the point I was. To get an injury like that and the way it took place just sucked."

There were non-surgical options for Exum, but the decision was made in his long-term interest after talking to family, his agent and the organization. That, however, complicates things in the short term financially. The 2014 No. 5 overall pick was hoping to have a breakout year as a restricted free agent.

Exploring the Sixers' 3 options to back up Joel Embiid

Exploring the Sixers' 3 options to back up Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid will be restricted to less than 20 minutes per game early in the season, that much is known (see story). How Brett Brown fills the remainder of the minutes at the center position remains to be seen.

Brown has three healthy big men he can play behind Embiid: Amir Johnson, Jahlil Okafor and Dario Saric. Richaun Holmes, an early candidate for backup minutes, is sidelined by a fractured wrist.

“Even without Richaun, you like the depth and versatility, the variety that is available to me at the five,” Brown said Tuesday. 

Each player is unique in their skill sets and experience levels. There’s the proven veteran in Johnson, the undersized center in Saric, and the sometime-starter-sometime-reserve-sometime-DNP in Okafor. 

Let’s take a look at Brown’s options and why he may lean toward one player over another. 

Okafor finds himself in another season of uncertainty. The third-year Sixer still doesn’t have a consistent role in the rotation. In the past, his biggest opportunity for minutes has come when Embiid is out for the entire game. Could the slimmed-down Okafor return to the starting lineup when Embiid doesn’t play? The Sixers face their first set of consecutive games of the season on Saturday. 

Brown on Okafor 
“[His role is] evolving … it’s always fluid. There are times we’ll assess Joel, say, in a back-to-back situation that might free something up. We have one in Toronto coming up. … We all respect his attitude and we respect his body. I think he’s had a good preseason.”

The 30-year-old Johnson gives the Sixers a veteran presence and assuring presence on the court. He started in 77 of his 80 games for the Celtics last season and will be an in-game leader for younger players like Markelle Fultz in the second unit. 

Brown on Johnson
“He started for a really good team last year. He’s been in the league for a while. He’s a great pickup. Bryan (Colangelo) did a really great job of signing him. He’s good people.” 

At 6-foot-10, 223 pounds, Saric is the most unlikely candidate of the three backups. Brown has seen enough from Saric in the NBA and internationally, though, to feel confident in shifting him from the four to the five. Saric showed he can hold his own against traditional bigs when he shot 5 for 8 against the Nets in the preseason. 

Brown on Saric
“He’s stronger than you think. He’s been used to guarding behind people over in Europe on switch outs with four-five pick-and-rolls. … He gives up some weight, he gives up some height. But the trade-off might be he pulls them out and makes threes like he did against (Timofey) Mozgov. You weigh it all up. It’s a little bit unconventional but it is there in our arsenal if we choose to go there.”