Few Virginia basketball players have engendered as much affection from Wahoo fans as Justin Anderson from 2012-2015. The swingman from Montrose, Virginia delighted JPJ crowds for three years with his passion, athleticism, and flair for the big play. Virginia has had better players, to be sure. But I don't know if UVA has had a player who was more loved.
Anderson is currently in the middle of his rookie season with the Dallas Mavericks, who picked him 21st in the 2015 NBA Draft. He started the season playing sparingly and bouncing back and forth between the Mavs and their D-league affiliate. But Anderson has seen an uptick in playing time over the last two weeks, and he's handled it well. He's averaging 6.5 PPG and 15.3 MPG in the month of February.
I reached out to Tim Cato, the editor of Mavs Moneyball, for his thoughts on Anderson so far. He was kind enough to provide the thoughtful answers below.
STL: What’s the overall feeling on Anderson so far within the Mavs community – fans, reporters, team, front office?
Tim: "Everyone in Dallas, just about, is a fan of Anderson. The Mavericks have really struggled to select players and build their team through drafting, and Anderson feels like a departure from that. He doesn't have super high upside and certainly won't ever be a superstar, but he appears to be a quality two-way player that is a building block to the modern NBA structure that stresses versatility and spacing. Not everyone will agree Anderson was the player they should have picked given who was still on the board, but as a player here and now, we're all excited about what he can become."
STL: Anderson has seen an increase in minutes lately. Was there a specific reason for the increased PT? How’s he been handling the opportunity?
Tim: "The Mavericks' backup two-guard Devin Harris has been injured and the team has suffered from a general malaise. With the minutes available and Anderson consistently playing hard, Carlisle has dropped him into the rotation the past few games, even sticking with him at times despite shots not falling."
STL: Coach Carlisle recently praised Anderson after his outing against the Grizzlies. He specifically mentioned that Justin "understands what his job is on the team and how to really funnel his energies." For those who don’t follow the Mavs that closely, how would you describe Anderson’s role?
Tim: "The Mavericks are a slow team and they're not terribly physical. Anderson's young legs and big frame provides that, and as often is the case, that energy can spread to his teammates when he's on the floor, too."
STL: What’s your outlook for Anderson for the rest of the season and going into next year? Do you see him as a piece the Mavs will continue to develop? Do you see him as an eventual rotation player?
Tim: "I'm fortunate enough to cover nearly every home game with a credential and by far the coolest thing I've seen this season out of any Maverick is Anderson being determined to learn from Dirk Nowitzki, who is, of course, one of the very best to ever play the game. With Dirk's shot doctor Holger being in town recently, I was within earshot after a game when Anderson was insisting that Dirk let him know when those two were working out the following day, just so he could watch them. That's exactly the attitude a young rook like him should have.
Rookie Justin Anderson watches and learns as Dirk Nowitzki works with his longtime shot doctor Holger Geschwindner. pic.twitter.com/6tRDgOIDhB— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) February 4, 2016
"The plan in Dallas is for Anderson to be a rotation player not just in the future, but next year. Like I mentioned above, guys who play defense and hit 3-pointers are basically the currency of the NBA these days, and Anderson really should fit beautifully behind or sometimes next to Wesley Matthews, a guy who also does those two things. I expect Anderson to fall back out of the rotation after the All-Star break, but that's OK. These minutes are crucial to his development and from everything I've seen from the kid, I sure think he'll be ready to be a big part of the Mavericks next season."
From the perspective of Wahoo fans, it's great to hear that Anderson is starting to shine. To follow along with the rest of Justin's season, check out Mavs Moneyball here and give Tim a follow on Twitter.