San Antonio Spurs' James Anderson is a player who has a lot to gain or lose over this off-season. He has the pressure of competing for major minutes with DeSean Butler returning to full health, and the opportunity to gain valuable playing time if he can solidify himself as a reliable back up to Richard Jefferson or even challenge Jefferson for the starting small forward position.
Back in February, I wrote a piece on all three of the San Antonio Spurs’ rookies (Tiago Splitter, Anderson and Gary Neal.) Here is an excerpt on how Anderson was playing before he was injured, six games into the season.
Even more impressive, is looking at his six games in detail. The least he scored was 5pts and he was starting to show defensive skills early.
Vs. Indiana: 10 pts, 1 stl.
Vs. New Orleans: 5 pts, 1 blk.
Vs. Los Angeles Clippers: 8 pts, 1 blk.
Vs. Phoenix: 6 pts, 1 stl, 1 blk.
Vs. Charlotte: 6 pts.
Vs. Los Angeles Clippers: 7 pts.
In the month of November, his stat line looked very productive:
November: 4 GP, 17mpg, 6.8ppg, 43% FG, 54% 3PT.
After rehabbing and spending some time with the Austin Toros during the month of January, Anderson returned to the team in February and posted this stat line:
February: 5 GP, 8.4mpg, 2.2pg, 36% FG, 33% 3PT.
The most points he scored in February would be six against the New Jersey Nets on February 25th. Keep in mind that the team was playing exceptionally well in February, so the rotation was already being formulated. Any minutes Anderson received were usually at the end of blowouts.
Anderson would play in more games during the month of March, but he rarely received meaningful minutes. He scored seven points against the Memphis Grizzlies on March 1, but the result of that game was a Grizzlies win (the Spurs were blown out by 16 points.) His statistical line from March improved a small bit as he received a few more minutes of playing time.
March: 11 GP, 8.5mpg, 2.6ppg, 43% FG, 46% 3PT.
Anderson would go on to score five points in three of his last four games of the season. After completing 26 games in his rookie season, Anderson’s overall stat line looked like this:
10-11’ Season Statistics: 26 Games Played, 11mpg, 3.6ppg, 38% FG, 39% 3PT, 78% FT.
Since I called Anderson, “Mr. Anderson” from ‘the Matrix’ once in a column, I’m going to stick with the Matrix theme. Let’s assume the blue pill is the chance for Anderson to make an impact next season and the red pill is the chance that Anderson could see his opportunity slip away.
Blue Pill: Anderson has the physical skill set to make a leap in the NBA. Earlier this week, I hosted a Mega Spurscast with three of our (Project Spurs) writers. One of our writers, Jason Rogers, commented on Anderson; Rogers said Anderson has the skill set to be a scorer in the NBA. Yet, he feels Anderson’s biggest question mark is his defense. Rogers said the reason Anderson is a question mark on defense is because the college game’s defense is predicated on the zone, whereas the NBA is mainly man-to-man. Rogers is a Texas fan, but he watched Anderson play for four years at Oklahoma State. When I was in Austin covering the Toros, several Toros players told me Anderson brought another level of scoring to their team in the few games that he played with them.
The other reason Anderson has the opportunity to make a giant leap is because of the shaky play of Richard Jefferson. Coach Popovich benched Jefferson in the second half of the final game of the playoffs. Jefferson began the season well, but eventually became a non-factor when it mattered most. (Read Trevor Zickgraf’s article on why he feels Jefferson digressed so much.) If Jefferson continues to falter next season and Anderson plays well, Anderson has the opportunity to log more minutes as Jefferson’s backup or even challenge Jefferson for the starting job at the small forward position.
From what I observed in Anderson’s 26 games on offense, he has the ability to knock down the three point shot, create his own jumper with the right-to-left crossover shake and even finish on the fast break (if the Spurs continue the run-and-offense.)
Defensively, Anderson has lengthy arms that can help him in defending passing lanes and blocking shots. As we saw in the first six games of the season, he was making defensive plays with the limited minutes that he was getting. His lateral quickness does seem to be something that he can improve on. If he can find a way to become a defensive stopper, then he and George Hill on the perimeter could become a dangerous defensive duo.
Red Pill: As much as Anderson has to gain next season, there is still a chance he could lose a lot. With DeSean Butler getting ready to compete for some minutes on the wing, Anderson will need to do his best to impress the coaches and his teammates that he deserves a quality spot in the rotation. The Spurs are also looking at several small forwards in the NBA draft; should they draft a small forward and bring him in to challenge Anderson’s spot, then Anderson will have another challenge to try to overcome in making the active squad.
Anderson must do what he can to become a reliable perimeter defender and consistent scorer. Mr. Anderson must decide to take the blue pill or the red pill.
(Photos: Mysa.com, Daylife.com)
@Tyrone Jenkins makes good points. I also think that Mr Anderson is more a SG than a SF nevertheless if you see videos of his play in college you'll find that he's got the instinct for getting into the lane picking up and ones and getting fancy finishes. I really think he was a steal in last years draft, as it was written here he showed promise on defense and we already knew he had skills in the other side of the court. He can create his own shot and has long range, his got the size for the SG and if he develops he'll be like a Joe Jhonson but a little smaller. The need for and SF is imperative and I think that only in the draft or in a free agency steal we would be able to fill that void. Another challenge for RC.
@SmallF21 @Tyrone Jenkins JA is a SG, that's for sure, that's his natural position. When we play half-court game he can be like Ray Allen type shooter, running and using picks for jump shots or cutting to the lane. Though in small-line up he can be a Andre Iguodala type guy. He has that physical tool/gift, and is a better shooter than Iggy.
I don't like the use of Anderson as small forward. His game is definitely that of a SF as he's a much better spot up shooter after running around multiple picks. He can drive/penetrate, but that doesn't relly seem to be his 1st instinct like other SFs. Also, he doesn't possess the size/length of a typical SF, is physically overmatch against' good SFs like Ariza, Wilson Chandler and Loul Deng and will never be able to astutely guard elite SFs like Melo, Lebron and Durant. De'Sean Butler's game is that of a SG as well; he's 1" taller and a better option defensively at SF but still has the same concerns.
Essentially, the Spurs are STACKED at SG w/ Manu, Mr Anderson, Butler and Neal (and to some degree Hill). Whenever the Spurs realize Manu's replacement, they should ship one or two of the others away for other needs. IMO, keep Hill as he can play the PG or SG positions.
The Spurs have been trying to "stretch" undersized players too long (DeJuan Blair included). Plain and simple, one of their 2 biggest needs is a defensive minded SF w/ length enough to defend the PF position when Pop goes small, who is quick enough to guard Kobe, can get out and fill the lane on a fast break and finish above the rim and can knock down open 3s at about the 38% rate. Bruce Bowen did that at about 1/2 the salary of RJ.
Potentials include Tayshaun Prince (expensive), Wilson Chanler (who's due about $3 million as an RFA), Paul George (due $2.4 million), Dahntay Jones (who's a little older but is also cheap) or address the position via the draft - Singleton, Saunders, Wright or Anthony Jones. The Spurs may need to trade up to get someone but at least they have plenty of SGs and RJ to work with.
i have ties to OSU, so i know a bit about JA. i can tell you, besides being the Big 12 POY, he's an outstanding young man that comes from a coaching tree started by the legendary Mr. Henry Iba.
@coachb In your opinion, what's his celling on the defensive end? Can he play at a Bruce Bowen-Shane Battier level?
@24writer if you know about Mr. Iba's legacy of defense instilled in people like Don Haskins and then in players like Nevil "The Shadow" Shed, you'd know about OSU's long standing coimmittment to defense. JA was and isoutstanding in all areas of the game, routinely guarding the Big 12's best. BB was one of the best on the ball defenders i've seen JA has that same work ethic. it will take work and experience, but he's definately capable.
From what i remember of his playing, he was pretty good, too damn bad he got injured. Really looking forward to seeing everyone healthy next season. Go Spurs Go!!!!
@DavidWood indeed. hopefully a good summer of training and JA will be back. Who knows, he might get some of RJ's minutes.