6'6", 231 lbs, 21 years old
2014/2015 stats: 12.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.7 APG, 46.6 FG%, 45.2 3P%, 78 FT%
Mock Draft Position: DraftExpress- 25, ESPN- 25, CBS Sports- 24, SBNation- 16
There's a good chance you didn't watch much Virginia basketball this season. The scorching hot takes of college basketball being "boring" were led by the Cavaliers, who played slow and preached ball movement and team defense. Despite some besmirching the style, Virginia went a combined 60-11 in the last two seasons.
Virginia didn't run a style around one player, but if it they had to it probably would have been Justin Anderson. Anderson stepped up in his junior season after Joe Harris went to the draft and his athletic two-way play is the kind of staple Virginia needed for its system.
Anderson has the potential to be a very good NBA role player with his defense, shooting, and athleticism on par with what we are starting to see become the trend. Guys like Danny Green and Courtney Lee are the type of players Anderson could find himself becoming.
The first check mark for Anderson is that he's a great athlete. He explodes on both ends when he accelerates and it translates to transition play, lateral quickness, rebounding and shot blocking. This is important for any draft prospect because of the drastic rise in athleticism they will see at the next level. Anderson will be able to fill up box scores in the NBA because of his athleticism.
Like Green and Lee still do in the NBA, Anderson struggles as a penetrator with the ball, but still puts his athleticism to solid use in those other categories.
The biggest x-factor for Anderson's draft stock is going to be how he is shooting the ball in workouts. Anderson saw a meteoric rise in his 3P% going from 29% in his sophomore season to 45% in his junior season. DraftExpress does an excellent job of visualizing the changes in his shooting form, but also air the concerns that he can be streaky. I don't think Anderson will be a lights out shooter in the NBA, but I think he can still put up a number that is above league average.
This is the most "toolsy" part of Anderson's evaluation and where things get a little spotty. The athleticism and lateral quickness is there for Anderson to be a lockdown defender and we've seen him play that way at Virginia. His 6'11" wingspan is enough to give him something extra when it comes to shot contesting and rebounding. However, watching Anderson you get more of a Markieff Morris vibe in that he's a great on-ball defender, but can find himself lost in other areas.
When you watched Virginia play this year you saw a lot of Anderson losing focus every now and then. Virginia's style should have seen Anderson grow out of it, but you consistently saw this. "Feel for the game" under the DraftExpress weaknesses video is where you can see examples. They make a great point on how this will translate when he isn't playing the Virginia style and isn't a focal point for the team. Anderson's disparity is not as severe as Morris' is, but there's certainly something there. That brings us to the main concern on Anderson.
Adjustment to the NBA
As DraftExpress also goes over in the Weaknesses video, the hesitation on Anderson comes with how much of his DTA skills came with the system on Virginia where he was given a very tight designation of what to do on the floor. As I said under his defense, every now and then you will see Anderson come off the rails when it comes to mental mistakes and scouts are wondering if that will become more of a trend in the pros. Will extra responsibility and an increase in pace mean more mistakes? That's where teams will really be betting on Anderson if they take him in the first round.
We can't go all the way through an evaluation of a player like Anderson without mentioning the lack of a ceiling. Anderson is not very good off the dribble and doesn't profile as a good passer in that regard either. Anderson will do well in transition, but other forms of accelerated pace and chaos should not favor him. He's not going to be able to create his own shot consistently and we need to once again mention the growth required on defense in order to get somewhere around an elite level.
Anderson profiles as a great DTA - defense, threes, athleticism - player in the NBA, but he might not be as ready as you'd assume and his growth will be a major factor in how much success he has in the NBA. The plus/minus relationship with his shooting and defense will determine that. If his shot isn't falling, is he valuable enough on defense to stay on the court? If he struggles on defense, is he a consistent enough shooter to stay on the court? If both come together he will be a worthy late first-round selection.
Fit for the Phoenix Suns
The Suns have a logjam at the small forward position and even with a trade they wouldn't necessarily need Anderson. If they somehow do need a small forward and find themselves picking in the late first round Anderson might not be as good of a fit as you'd think. The Suns do need defense, shooting, and rebounding, but the issues that Anderson needs to clean up from a basketball IQ perspective would be a disaster in Phoenix in my opinion.