Justin Anderson comes into his rookie season with a number of questions swirling around him and the Dallas Mavericks. Injuries abound and Rick Carlisle isn't known for his patience with rookies. In fact, young players only occasionally crack his rotation. It's an auspicious way to begin a professional basketball career, but he could prove valuable to the team. A team rapt with injuries could be exactly what Anderson needs to get an opportunity.
What is expected from Anderson this season?
Mavericks first round picks don't usually translate into any tangible expectations. Anderson, though, may be the first one since Josh Howard that legitimately deserves some attention. He played well in Summer League. Better than well, actually. He was arguably the best player on the roster averaging 17.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.2 steals. Only Dwight Powell averaged more points. Of course, a strong Summer League performance means little once the regular season begins.
Beyond the box score, Anderson displayed good acumen on both sides of the floor. He was especially impressive on the offensive end. Coming into the NBA, Anderson was known more for his defense. However, in Summer League he was assertive with the ball, creating off the dribble and getting to the rim. He also shot the three-ball with confidence, connecting on 38.5 percent of his shots from downtown.
If anything, expectations are relatively muted for Anderson. He'll be expected to improve on his strong showing in Las Vegas but he can really only do so if he gets playing time.
What is the best case scenario for Anderson?
For Anderson, the best thing that can happen for him, if not necessarily for the team, is for the Mavericks to start the season with either Wesley Matthews or Chandler Parsons still riding the bench. Heck, both of them could conceivably still be recovering from their injuries come October 28. With the team down one or more wings, Anderson is the best option to step into a major role in the rotation. This would allow him to gain the experience he needs to be a contributor (or trade chip because LOL Mavs) and perhaps a permanent rotation player.
Ideally, Anderson should hope to see the kind of minutes that Jae Crowder saw his rookie season in 2012-13. Crowder appeared in 78 games and totaled over 1,300 minutes. If Anderson can replicate some, or all, of what he displayed in Vegas, these should be easily attainable benchmarks.
What is the worst case scenario for Anderson?
If both Matthews and Parsons miraculously start the regular season, which is seeming less likely these days, Anderson will have an extremely diminished role. He'll be buried on the bench behind the likes of Devin Harris and J.J. Barea. Despite being the only real backup wing, Carlisle could rely on a healthy mix of two-guard lineups alternating Matthews and Parsons at the 3 leaving Anderson out of the rotation.
The only worse scenario is one that has played out before: Anderson spends the season at the end of the bench, alternating time with the Mavericks and Texas Legends a la Ricky Ledo. To be fair, though, Anderson already looks far superior to whatever the team saw in Ledo. Even with wing depth being virtually nonexistent, Carlisle is quick with his crook when it comes to rookies. If he sees too many mistakes, Anderson could be a nonfactor.
Can Anderson develop into the best scoring option off the bench?
Of course, Anderson's role on the team is wholly contingent on the team's heath and the whims of Carlisle. That said, it's entirely feasible that he provides an offensive boost with the second unit. As mentioned above, Anderson has the prowess to score in various ways. Those skills should come in handy with Harris and Barea projected to be the only reliable scorers off the bench. Last season they averaged 8.8 and 7.5 points per game respectively. Given the chance, it's completely conceivable that Anderson can average more. Frankly, the team will need him to score if they have any interest in being competitive.
Does Anderson own a cat?
Recently, Anderson took to Reddit for an AMA. Out of the many questions asked, it didn't appear that anyone asked him if he owned a cat. In today's NBA culture, cat ownership has become something of a hot-button issue thanks to the emergence of NBA Catwatch. To date, NBA Catwatch has chronicled 11 confirmed cat owners in the NBA and its efforts have been aided by the likes of NBA TV's Kristen Ledlow. With about 400 players in the NBA, there's a lot of work to be done chronicling all the cat owners in the league. I thought that I would lend a helping hand so I reached out to Anderson on Twitter.
@JusAnderson1 Do you own a cat?— The Kobe Beef (@TheKobeBeef) September 25, 2015
At the time of this posting, Anderson has yet to respond. However, I will not rest until I find out if he has a cat even if it means getting a searing side-eye from Sarah Melton, the Mavericks' Director of Basketball Communications.
But maybe you can ask him yourself. He seems to be a fan of EatZi's in Dallas. Maybe you'll run into him there. If you do, be sure to ask him about cats. Do it for the betterment of humanity.
UPDATE: We now know, thanks to the beauty of social media, that Anderson DOES have a cat. The world just become a better place.