Born in the Northern Neck of Virginia and going to local high schools Courtland High School in Spotsylvania County, Virginia and Montrose Christian School in Rockville, Maryland, Justin Anderson has a golden opportunity to play an important role for his hometown NBA team.
The 6’6” Virginian swingman may be the case of being at the right place at the right time. With both CJ Miles and Troy Brown Jr. on the shelf, Anderson may not only have a chance to crack this roster, but he also may be able to carve himself a significant role this season.
Justin Anderson is going into his 5th year in the NBA after being a 1st round pick in the 2015 NBA Draft by the Dallas Mavericks. Unfortunately he just never lived up to his draft position and fell out of favor quickly in Dallas, ultimately being traded to Philadelphia as a part of a trade for the Mavericks to get Nerlens Noel. He ended up being traded again in the off-season in 2018 to the Atlanta Hawks.
Anderson’s 2018-19 Season
Justin Anderson did not see the court a lot in Atlanta. He only played in 48 games last season, missing the first 16 games with a tibial stress syndrome. Later on in the season he found more of a role with the team, averaging 22 minutes per game during the last 7 games, averaging 9.6 points per game on 43 percent shooting while 48 percent from 3. This is of course is a small sample size so it’s hard to draw much of a conclusion about his play.
Prior to this 7 game stretch he never cracked more than 20 minutes in any game the whole season, so it’s also possible that he simply needed more regular time to contribute. Anderson flashed his amazing athleticism and defense during the time he did play in Atlanta but because the Hawks were rebuilding and he was on the last year of his rookie deal, the team simply was not invested in giving him significant minutes over their young rotational players.
And because of his draft position Anderson had a hefty $3.6 million qualifying offer on the table with a $7.5 million cap hold for Atlanta. Both figures made little sense for a player that is a fringe rotational players, so the Hawks did not offer him a qualifying offer, making him a unrestricted free agent, where he, of course, ended up signing with the Wizards.
What His 2019-20 Season Could Look Like
Coming out of the University of Virginia, Anderson was perhaps one of the most notable players in Tony Bennett’s tenure in Charlottesville due to Anderson’s ability to play tough physical defense, which is a hallmark of the Cavaliers under Bennett. Physically Justin Anderson is strong with a 6’11” wingspan and freakish athleticism. All things that fit the profile of an elite defensive NBA wing defender, but despite those physical gifts, Anderson still struggles on offense, only being a career 30 percent 3-point shooter who lacks the ability to create his own shot on offense.
If Justin Anderson can become a consistent outside shooter, he can become a prototypical 3 and D wing player, which is something that the Wizards have struggled to find over the years since Trevor Ariza’s initial departure from DC. With the Wizards lack of elite defenders, the role that Anderson can carve on this team is very clear, but his ability to get consistent playing time will largely depend on if he can avoid being a liability on the offensive end.
In addition to his play on the court, despite only being 25 years old, Justin brings a lot of experience. As a rookie he started in 5 playoff games with the Dallas Mavericks playing 19 minutes a game for an injury depleted team, who went against a Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook led Oklahoma City Thunder team. He also played 7 more playoff games as a Sixer but played a much smaller role.
Despite his lack of playing time, his teammates have raved about his hard work, his tenacity and his leadership, all things that the Wizards would need with such a young roster this season. Can Justin Anderson be a Wizard this season? And if so, can he be a key piece moving forward? These are questions we will see play out in the coming weeks as the season approaches.