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Cleveland Cavaliers Prospect of the Week: Justin Anderson

This week, Prospect of the Week considers the potential fit of Virginia wing Justin Anderson.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The draft lottery was last night, and the Cleveland Cavaliers shockingly did not win. However, options for the Cavs to target are becoming more and more set in stone. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who we profiled last week, was slotted to the Cavs in ESPN's latest mock draft, which is comforting as it shows that I'm not totally off-base with who I think the Cavs will go for, and hints that wing is indeed an option the Cavs are looking at. Therefore, let's hit another wing that the Cavs could consider: Joe Harris's former teammate, Justin Anderson.

Who is Justin Anderson?

Anderson was the best all-around player for the non-NBA Cavaliers this year, and he has potential to be a three-and-D type at the next level. Anderson's always been a good athlete, but his shooting, prior to this season, was a huge question. However, last summer he worked on his shooting, and hit 45.2 percent of his threes as a junior. Anderson's final month of 2015 was marred by injury, first with a fracture in his left pinkie and then needing his appendix removed. He has fully recovered from both, and should be a late-first round pick in this year's draft. Draft Express ranks him 27th, CBS Sports has him 24th, and Tankathon ranks him 26th.

Physical Tools

On paper, Anderson is an NBA player. He has the physical tools to be able to play the wing well, measuring 6'6" with shoes with a 6'11" wingspan and weighing 230 lbs. Going along with his impressive wingspan, he finished with the fourth-best shuttle run time and a decent lane agility time (11.1 seconds) at the NBA Draft Combine, so he's quick and long enough to support the idea that he's a very good defensive prospect. Anderson uses that quickness to defend well on the ball and score well off cuts, and it helps him cover up some technical deficiencies that he has on the defensive end. Anderson's also a good leaper, with a 43-inch vertical, and he's an impressive dunker. The one area where Anderson could stand to improve is probably strength, as he's a bit wiry in his frame, and he could stand to add some bulk to his upper body in order to become a better finisher inside. Overall though, he's a pretty solid athletic prospect.


Anderson's a bit of a raw product offensively, but the development he's shown throughout his collegiate career may show promise for the future. Anderson was a horrific three-point shooter his freshman and sophomore years, but his release is much better this year, and helped with his production, as he shot 45.2 percent from three in 2014-2015. Anderson's new-look release is much more balanced and consistent, and with time, he should be able to develop into a good spot-up shooter at the next level. His next step is going to be making sure he doesn't cock the ball back before he releases, a big problem for him in 13-14, and getting his feet set, which he isn't consistent with right now. He hit 3-5 shots from the NBA 3-point line from the left wing and left corner at the combine, which helps his case. Anderson's also really adept when he gets to attack closeouts and defensive breakdowns, As he's got the speed to get around a defender who's off-balance, and has some nice head and ball-fake moves off the dribble, similar to how Iman Shumpert attacks the basket in these spots.

On the ball, Anderson's a mixed bag. He's an average passer, who sees the floor well but doesn't have great touch if he needs to dump the ball in traffic or swing the ball across court. He's not great at driving into the lane unless he has a clear advantage on his defender (Like off a spot-up chance), and he doesn't finish well through contact, as he shot 51 percent at the rim last year. He doesn't get to the line consistently either, and while his overall turnover numbers were good last year, he can get a little wild on the offensive end at times. However, in the NBA, it's not like he's going to be asked to create much. He'll likely be a bit player as a spot-up shooter and slasher, and if his jumper remains consistent, he shouldn't have much trouble doing that.


There are two lines of thought when it comes to Anderson's defensive potential. Line one believes that Anderson's physical profile will be enough for him to make due in the NBA while he learns NBA defense concepts and improves his technique. Line two thinks that, while he has the profile to be a plus defender, his bad habits are going to severely limit his potential on that end. I tend to lean into that latter camp.

The raw talent is definitely there. As mentioned earlier, Anderson has the size to defend twos, threes, and potentially stretch fours, and his quickness is helps him stay in front of most perimeter players when he's on the ball. Anderson Anderson's length and athleticism also help him to contest shots while he recovers and rotates, which is a useful trait to have when he gets beat. For those reasons, Anderson should be a passable isolation defender.

The bad habits, though, are numerous. For example, Anderson's defensive stance isn't what I'd call ideal, as he slouches forward too much and doesn't have a ton of bend in his legs. This isn't exactly perfect 30 feet from the basket:

Anderson also ball-watches more than Dion Waiters did, which is saying something, and this allows him to get exposed easily. Watching film of Anderson, you can catch plenty of moments where Anderson gets locked onto the ball, and either loses his man or runs directly into an off-ball screen because he wasn't paying attention. Here's an example of the former against North Carolina. Joel James gets a post-entry pass, and Virginia sends the double. Anderson's eyes are already on the action.

James turns to face up the double team, which has left Brice Johnson wide open. Anderson should realize this, as the double had to have come from somewhere, right? Nope. As soon as James has the ball, Anderson starts tracking towards the guy who is already double-teamed.

Anderson recovers to Johnson, but it's too late; Anderson's not in position to contest the shot as Johnson gets an easy two.

This stuff happened regularly with Anderson. Even when his guy wasn't involved in the play, there were plenty of instances when Anderson would just turn around and watch what happened behind him. In college, that ended up being okay. When he's tasked to guard elite shooters like Courtney Lee and Kyle Korver at the next level, he's going to give up a ton of open corner threes as guys slide over without him watching unless he improves.

Anderson's also erratic on this end at times. He can get moved out of position by strong dribble moves, and doesn't have the focus to be able to consistently defend craftier guards. He's quick enough to recover a lot of the time, but a lot of the time little stuff gets him completely out of position to do anything. Watch how a simple crossover sends Anderson flying off balance against Miami (1:02 mark)

Anderson could become a good defender at the next level. The tools are there. But it's going to take a lot of teaching and a lot of correction in technique for that to happen.


Anderson needs a lot of development, and it's questionable whether he's going to ever develop fully into the 3-and-D stud he could be. Anderson is 21 years old, and that could limit his potential upside. It also remains to be seen whether Virginia's pack-line defense helped or hurt Anderson's potential; after all, Anderson rarely had to defend outside of 20 feet from the basket, and nearly always had help over top, and might struggle without the luxury of those principles in the NBA. Anderson is a hard worker, and the work that went into fixing his shot can't be understated; however, there's a reason he was barely a top-50 rated prospect heading into the year, and he likely will still need a lot of work, and potentially a lot of time in the D-League, to be able to get to the point where he's playable in the NBA.

Player Comparison

Bruce Bowen gets thrown around a lot for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, but he's a much more apt comparison for Anderson. Everyone remembers Bowen as the skilled defender and three-point ace he was in San Antonio, but few remember where that came from. Bowen was a terrible three-point shooter in his first few years in the league, and it took almost five years with the Celtics and Heat to turn Bowen into a consistent three-point threat. Ditto for his defense, as Bowen was a very inconsistent defender in his first couple seasons, even though he had the physical makeup to be great. If everything goes well for Anderson, I'd expect a similar career arc to that of Bowen, Danny Green, or even Alonzo Gee: Float around in the D-League and relative obscurity for a few seasons, get a consistent NBA three-pointer, shed bad habits, and break through as a strong 3-and-D player.

How Would he Fit on the Cavaliers?

The Cavs likely won't want to spend too much time developing the young talent they take with the 24th pick. They may look at a guy who would spend significant time with the Canton Charge, but given the turnover that might take place at the end of the bench this summerm as Shumpert, Mike Miller, James Jones, Shawn Marion and Matthew Dellavedova might all have to be replaced his summer. I can't see the Cavs taking a developmental guy like Anderson when guys who could make immediate impact - such as Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Robert Upshaw or Delon Wright - could be available. And even if they did go that route, Anderson doesn't seem worth it to me as a guy whose logistical development I question on this team. While Anderson could have value down the road as a potential 3-and-D wing off the bench, I don't see that happening for at least two seasons, and that doesn't seem like good value for this Cavs team.