justin anderson

Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Justin Anderson

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Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Justin Anderson

Justin Anderson

Position: Guard/Forward

Status for 2018-19: Club option exercised for $2,516,048

Anderson in 2017-18
Look no further than the old saying about the best ability being availability to describe Anderson’s season. The swingman simply wasn’t in uniform enough to prove his worth.

Anderson missed 23 straight games during a stretch from late November into early January with shin splints. He returned only to later be sidelined for eight more games in mid-February to early March by a sprained right ankle. 

When Anderson was on the court, his production was a mixed bag. He has elite athleticism and continued to play physical defense on the perimeter. However, there was minimal progress in his offensive game. 

Anderson took Brett Brown’s advice on shooting more three-pointers and his percentage jumped from 29.2 to 33.0 in 2017-18. But his points, rebounds, assists and field goal percentage all saw a dip as he played roughly eight fewer minutes a night.

Once Anderson was finally healthy again and ready to contribute, the Sixers had already revamped their bench.

Signature game
Much like Anderson’s season as a whole, it took a while for him to produce a standout game. That came in the regular-season finale when he put up a team-high 25 points on 9-of-17 shooting from the field (5 of 12 from three-point range). He added six boards as the Sixers rolled over the Milwaukee Bucks for their 16th straight win.

Looking ahead to 2018-19
Anderson’s role will remain pretty much the same if his offense doesn’t catch up to the rest of his game. While he did improve his long-range shooting, “Simba” was still below the league average in that department.

The lack of consistency from Anderson on that end is one of the reasons the team went after sharp-shooting Marco Belinelli on the buyout market. Belinelli could return to absorb that role as primary bench scorer or the Sixers might seek another option to fill that job, whether Anderson develops the rest of his offensive game or not.

On Anderson
“Good for him. He's a wonderful teammate, he's good people and he's had sort of an erratic year with injury. I thought tonight he confirmed what we all think in relation to him being able to help us.”

- Brown on Anderson after a March 16 win over the Brooklyn Nets

Sixers have already embraced key aspects of NBA postseason

Sixers have already embraced key aspects of NBA postseason

Perhaps the Sixers have been underestimated a bit.

Outside of Joel Embiid’s health, all of the chatter going into the playoffs was about how the relatively inexperienced roster would handle the big stage. 

Sure, the team has a crop of veterans that have been there and done that. However, young impact players such as Embiid, Ben Simmons and Dario Saric were all getting their first taste of the postseason.

So how are they feeling about it to this point?

“I love it,” Embiid said at Friday’s practice. “I live for these moments. I thrive in this type of atmosphere. I think I was built for this, especially playoff basketball.”

Embiid appears particularly fond of the postseason in environments where the Sixers are short on support.

After missing the first two games of the series in Philadelphia while still recovering from orbital fracture surgery, Embiid stepped back into the starting lineup on the road in Miami.

Was getting barked at by rowdy fans in hostile territory going to be a problem? Not for the villain now known as “The Phantom of the Process.”

“I actually think I play better on the road because I just love the atmosphere,” Embiid said. “I just love looking around the arena, people booing, people going against us. That just takes my game to another level.”

The Sixers’ performance isn’t the only thing that has been taken up a notch. Their intensity level and physicality have jumped in this first-round matchup with the bruising Heat.

“I said it before, I wish it was like this all season,” said Simmons, who is averaging 20.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 9.7 assists per game in the series. “I’m enjoying it. It’s very competitive and that’s the type of basketball I want to play.”

“It’s basketball. It’s fun,” Justin Anderson said. “Playing like that is fun. Every possession matters. You can tell there’s not a lot of empty possessions. Guys are getting shots up on every possession.

“… It’s intensified. It’s just basketball. It’s the best basketball in the world, and we’re putting ourselves in a position to hopefully go and get another one in Game 4.”

Justin Anderson downplays Game 3 scuffle with Dwyane Wade

Justin Anderson downplays Game 3 scuffle with Dwyane Wade

Amir Johnson was getting dressed at the locker next to Justin Anderson when the veteran center looked up with a calm request.

“Tell the truth,” Johnson said with a smile.

That’s because Anderson was attempting to downplay his second-quarter run-in with Heat guard Dwyane Wade during the Sixers’ 128-108 Game 3 win Thursday in Miami (see game recap).

“It’s just a common foul. I’m not tripping about it,” Anderson said.

Anderson may not have wanted to make a big deal over the incident, but the foul was anything but common.

With 10:26 on the clock in the second quarter, Anderson locked up with Wade on the defensive end. Anderson pushed off as he attempted to front Wade in the post when the three-time champion latched onto the Sixers guard’s arm and flung him out of bounds. Anderson fell down into a couple photographers before getting up to confront Wade. Both players were separated and assessed taunting technical fouls for the play.

“I don’t remember,” Anderson said. “It was just a tough play for both of us. Just continue to move on. Next play.”

The skirmish was just one example of the heightened physicality in the series. Game 3 witnessed 56 total personal fouls and six technicals.

Despite playing just two minutes in the series prior to Thursday night, Anderson knew he was walking into a battle.

“They hit us in Game 1. They were physical from the start,” said Anderson, who had six points and four rebounds during nine minutes of action in Game 3. “I try to take every opportunity that I’m given. Watching the game for the first two games from the bench, I kind of recognized that the physicality was real high. I just mentally prepared myself that if I go in I’ve got to hit first or they’re going to hit me.”

So is it safe to say Anderson is the Sixers’ new enforcer?

“Like in hockey? Nah,” he said. “I just play hard. I play hard and make sure I do whatever I can to help our team win. That’s all that really matters.”