Justin Anderson plans to enter the NBA Draft, ending his time with the Virginia basketball program, according to multiple reports. The decision was first reported by Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski, and it's been corroborated by sources including ESPN and the Daily Progress's Whitey Reid. Anderson informed teammates and coaches Monday afternoon.
[Update (6 PM): It's official - here's the University's and Anderson's statements.]
Anderson is coming off a banner season during which he shot 45% on three-pointers, a drastic improvement from his 29% rate a year prior. Before this year, Anderson had well-developed physical skills, with freakish athleticism, speed, and strength to compete at the next level; his quick-developing shot is what made him truly NBA-ready, and drove his stock to the point where declaring for the draft made sense.
Anderson has until April 26th to fill out the paperwork to officially declare for the draft, and doing so after the 14th makes him ineligible to return to UVA. Yahoo noted that Anderson is meeting with agents in Virginia this week; signing with one would also make Anderson ineligible to return.
Generally, Anderson is thought of as a late first-round, or possibly early second-round, pick. CBS Sports projects Anderson going between #24 and #29, though Draft Express has him going early in the second round at #32. ESPN noted that "several NBA executives" claim he's a likely first-round pick. The difference between the two rounds is significant, as first rounders get guaranteed NBA contracts. (Though the second round route has worked out fine for players like Mike Scott and Joe Harris, who both have earned their way to guaranteed money anyways). Anderson's pre-draft workouts will be especially important, as he seeks to erase any lingering doubts left by his mid-season injury.
This is obviously tough news for the Virginia Cavaliers, who have been showing up first or second in a few "way-too-early" rankings for 2015-2016. Without Anderson, the Hoos lose a big piece of their offense, as we learned this season when Anderson's injury coincided with the team's drop from #5 in KenPom's offensive efficiency rankings to 24th. Similarly, an Anderson-less UVA team next season is no longer a preseason title favorite. But the roster is still ready-built to compete for another ACC title and will be in the mix next March anyways.
For Wahoo fans, this one hurts - we never got to watch a full season with who was a Wooden Player of the Year candidate before his injury. But Anderson has been quiet on the issue since after the season's end, which presumably means he's received a lot of advice and sought a lot of counsel on whether this is the right decision for him. Ultimately, the benefits of staying at Virginia (fun, possible accolades and title, college degree) don't come close to the very tangible risks (drop-off in performance, injury, etc.) that could cost him millions.
Justin Anderson is about to fulfill a lifelong dream and get paid very well for it. He was and will surely continue to be an outstanding representative of the University. From us at Streaking the Lawn: Thank you, Justin, for all your hard work and for three awesome years at UVA. We wish him all the best going forward, and can't wait to follow and cheer him on at the next level.