Everyone knows someone who stands out like a bonfire at midnight. On the court, the same can be said about NBA Draft prospect Justin Anderson, a 21-year-old junior wing from Virginia. Whether he's diving on the floor for loose balls or draining timely shots, Anderson has a knack for the moment. The Boston Celtics brought Anderson in early Monday as part of a six-player pre-draft workout.
Anderson is projected to come off the board in the 20s, though he could see his stock rise into the teens with strong workouts. Anderson is currently 13th on my Celtics-specific big board, making him a value pick if they land him at #16.
"I totally believe I can [exceed my expected draft value], but for me personally I don't think it means anything until I show it," Anderson said at the NBA Combine in March. "You have to show it. Teams are willing to invest in you and you have to be able to back up what you can do."
The organization that does invest in Anderson will receive a team-first player that takes pride in his defense. Celtics director of player personnel Austin Ainge said today's workout was "kind of a blood bath," with such a physical group of players.
Anderson was likely at the forefront of that, due to his aggression. With excellent lateral quickness, size, and strength, Anderson has potential to be a stopper at multiple positions once he improves on his technique.
But it takes a special ingredient to defend at a high level: the will to stop your man.
"Defense is all about wanting to. You have to want to do that," Anderson said. "It's all mental and in your heart."
Anderson plays with that level of intensity on every possession, which bodes well for him at the next level. In the NBA, a league filled with terrific players at shooting guard and small forward, having one or more players that can play lockdown defense at the position is crucially important to the success of a team.
There were always questions about Anderson's ability to score after hitting under 30 percent of his threes as an underclassman. But under the guidance of Virginia coach Tony Bennett, Anderson improved his mechanics, which led to an increased confidence and production. As a junior, he hit 45.2 percent of his threes, showcasing deep range and the ability to hit big shots.
The Celtics could use a 3-and-D player like Justin Anderson and he will almost certainly be available at the 16th pick. Having another player that consistently makes "winning plays" and brings a positive warm attitude to the locker room are two attributes Brad Stevens has spoke highly of in the past, making Anderson a reasonably good fit.
"What stuck out to me most was Stevens' relationship with his guys due to that college environment," Anderson said. "He's a guy that's a player's coach for sure, seeing what he did at Butler, but also the tradition [of the Boston Celtics]. I love tradition. I love coming into a program where they're all about winning and they try to find ways to win every single day, no matter what and I think that young program is on the rise."
For more analysis of Justin Anderson, scroll down and check out my full scouting report of him from my 2015 NBA Draft Guide.
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