Justin Anderson hasn’t played an NBA game that counts yet, but he’s received plenty of praise and therefore is facing plenty of expectations — not just from his team and fans, but from his peers and those in the media.
Earlier this summer, Anderson finished third in an NBA.com rookie survey asking the 2015 Draft class which rookie they thought was most likely to have the best career. The Virginia alum finished only behind Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns, two of the top three picks in the Draft.
Today, the rookie received even more praise. NBA.com’s Rookie Ladder, which evaluates the performance of the top first-year players around the league throughout the entire season, has Anderson starting the season 10th overall in the Rookie of the Year race to begin the season. Every other player in the top-10 was a lottery selection.
Scott Howard-Cooper writes: “An early sleeper pick. Anderson was the No. 21 selection, but after three seasons at Virginia. He defends, may play shooting guard and small forward, and has range out to the 3-point line. He is a candidate, in other words, to step right in and have an important role in Dallas, especially if Wesley Matthews plays long with a minutes restriction while recovering from a torn Achilles’ tendon.”
While shooting guard Wesley Matthews is slated to start tonight in Phoenix, Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle did hint that he could be playing under a minutes restriction for the time being. That could open the door for Anderson, among other players on the team including John Jenkins and Raymond Felton, to see more playing time at the 2-spot. (Felton is a tentative starter, per Mavs PR’s game notes.)
Anderson was considered by some to have lottery talent, but a couple injuries sidelined the wing during his junior season at Virginia. That, combined with the overall depth of the 2015 Draft class, led to Anderson sliding all the way down to the No. 21 spot, where the Mavericks gleefully selected him.
As Howard-Cooper wrote, the rookie figures to see immediate playing time, which can only aid his growth as an NBA player. Should Anderson perform well and secure a spot in the rotation, he has as good a chance as any rookie to impress as the season progresses. There shouldn’t be a concern regarding the expectations the rookie is facing; he’s got a great head on his shoulders and has years of experience at a big D-I basketball program. I expect our eyes to pop out of our heads after he makes some highlight reel plays this season, but I don’t see the rookie looking wide-eyed at all.