Justin Anderson NBA Draft Scouting Report and Video Breakdown

Justin Anderson NBA Draft Scouting Report and Video Breakdown
Apr 29, 2015, 10:31 am
Scouting report by Derek Bodner, video analysis by Mike Schmitz

Over the last two seasons, few teams in the country have been as stout defensively as Tony Bennett's Virginia Cavaliers, finishing 5th in the nation in defensive efficiency in 2013-14 and 1st in the nation this past season.

A big part of that defense has been junior Justin Anderson, a physical specimen capable of guarding multiple positions for the Cavaliers. At 6‘6“, with long arms, good quickness, and a well developed upper body, Anderson has quick enough feet to defend wings on the perimeter and enough brute strength to defend smaller players in the post.

That outstanding physical profile forms the basis of his productivity on the defensive end, and plays a big part in his value as a prospect. He has very quick lateral mobility, and changes direction very well on the defensive side of the ball. He also has a long, 6‘11“ wingspan and great closeout speed, helping him recover to contest shots, both on the perimeter and at the rim, when he does get beat. Anderson's defensive fundamentals are not always perfect, but his outstanding physical tools and high energy level help cancel this out, suggesting Anderson has even more room to grow as a defender than the already plus defender that he currently is.

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Anderson's defensive metrics are relatively pedestrian for a guy of his physical tools, averaging only 1.0 steals and 0.9 blocks per 40 minutes, pace adjusted. Part of this could be the result of head coach Tony Bennett's pack-line defensive philosophy, which places a high emphasis on playing the gaps and denying driving lanes.

Pack-line, which gets its name from an imaginary line a couple of feet inside of the three point line, which is sometimes taped onto the court during practice, dictates that nobody, besides the defender guarding the ball, should extend themselves beyond the line. The philosophy has produced some of the best defensive teams in the country over the last few years, with Virginia's adjusted defensive efficiency ranking in the top-6 in the nation 3 of the last 4 seasons, but it's a philosophy that doesn't tend to produce a lot of steals: Virginia, despite generally being one of the top defensive teams in the country, has ranked within the top 150 in the nation in terms of steal percentage only once since Bennett's arrival in 2009-10, and that was a rather pedestrian 97th in 2011-12.

Anderson's defensive tools have had him on the NBA radar for some time, but it's been his improvement on the offensive end, and specifically in his perimeter shot, that has him in discussions to be a first round pick this June. After shooting only 30.3% and 29.4% in his first two seasons at Virginia, Anderson made 47 of his 104 three point attempts during his junior season, good for an excellent 45.2% from three point range.

According to Synergy Sports Technology, Anderson's overall effectiveness on jump shots increased from 32.1%, good for 0.854 points per possession and a 43rd percentile ranking, to 39.8%, good for 1.146 points per possession and a ranking better than all but 10% of his peers. That included improvement both on jump shots off the dribble (up from 25.8% for 0.548 points per possession to 37% for 0.889) and, especially, from the catch, where he connected on an outstanding 43.7% of his shots, yielding 1.322 points per possession, a number which places him in the top 7%.

Beyond the sheer numbers, the form on Anderson's jump shot has improved dramatically, and was obviously a major point of emphasis for Anderson and the Virginia staff over the offseason. Everything from his footwork, to pre-shot preparation, shortening his motion, a tighter shooting pocket, and a more consistent release point has combined to form a much more consistent, accurate shooter from the perimeter.

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The rest of Anderson's offensive game is relatively pedestrian, with large parts of his offense coming in off the ball, where his quickness and explosiveness, especially when he gets a head of steam, makes him a threat in transition and for lobs at the rim. Anderson doesn't do a whole lot of creating off the dribble, either for himself or for others, as his ball handling is mostly limited to straight line drives without much changing direction, and with an off hand that still needs refinement. He does do a good job of attacking closeouts, using his newfound threat as a shooter to get by his man, and having enough in terms of fakes and jab steps to be tough to defend in this regard.

One area where Anderson has improved has been on his shot selection and decision making, While the form on his jumper, and the confidence he now has in it, are big reasons why Anderson turned from a player with an inefficient 51.6% true shooting percentage to an efficient 61%, Anderson has also been taking better shots, reigning in on his some of the questionable shots and poor decisions that plagued him in previous years, and doing a better job of playing within the flow of the Virginia offense. Anderson's drop in turnovers, from 2.8 per 40 minutes pace adjusted and at a rate of 18.4%, to 1.9 per 40 minutes pace adjusted and at a 13.2% turnover rate, is significant, and important for a player who projects as a role player down the line

While Anderson could certainly stand to improve upon his relatively weak handle, which could open up a more advanced offensive role, and he could also stand to improve upon his recognition and awareness on both sides of the court, the strides Anderson has made over the last 12 months on his jump shot has been a tremendous boon for his draft stock. The improvement makes it relatively easy to see a defined role for Anderson at the next level, as guys with his defensive potential and versatility, who can also consistently hit form the perimeter, are in high demand around the league.

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