Following the end of the season and the team’s exit interviews, Brett Brown answered media questions about the make up of the Sixers’ roster moving forward. He first talked about the elements of play that the Sixers covet in their players: defense, pace and space.
“We’re going to guard in the city of Philadelphia, we’re going to run, and we’re going to embrace the three-point line,” Brown said. “And so if that remains to be true -- and it will -- it should lead us in a draft, it should lead us in a free-agent decision, and it certainly leads us with [roster decisions]. “
“You don’t have to tick all three [boxes], you better go two for three or have the ability to move into that area in a very clear way.”
Naturally, the media followed up by asking Brown which players he saw as keepers, given the criteria he had just laid out.
Here are the players Brown acknowledged as the #Sixers' keepers: Simmons, Embiid, TLC, Holmes, Covington, Saric, Stauskas, McConnell.— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) April 14, 2017
Most of these names are expected, self-explanatory. Perhaps more noteworthy than the names mentioned, however, is the conspicuous absence of a few other names: 3rd overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Jahlil Okafor; and not-inconsequential component of the Nerlens Noel trade, Justin Anderson.
The Noel trade was a debacle for multiple reasons. However, Brown’s admission of Anderson’s complete triviality to the organization going forward highlights what a waste of an asset the trade was. In the immediate aftermath, Colangelo and the Sixers’ PR staff trade to sell the trade to fans as having bought the team a first round pick. Even a cursory inspection of the terms of the agreement showed that assertion to be laughable; Dallas had a nearly zero-percent chance of climbing into the playoffs and eclipsing the 18th pick in the draft, and their failure to do so meant Colangelo had merely secured two second round draft picks.
This placed higher relevance on Anderson as a component of the trade. The Sixers had traded Noel, the team’s second best healthy player, for two second round picks and a 3-and-D wing prospect. As a fan, the hope was that Anderson would make the trade a little bit worth it. Brown’s exclusion of Anderson as a relevant piece to the Sixers’ future was a tacit admission that Noel was, in essence, traded for two second round picks.
Moreover, Brown was right to exclude Anderson from his group of “keepers.” Anderson meets exactly one of Brown’s evaluation criteria, and it is probably the least important of the three. He has largely shown himself as a 3-and-D player who can neither shoot 3’s nor play D. While he puts out effort on the defensive end, he is too easily distracted, losing defensive assignments off-ball. And the less we can say about his ugly three-point shot (and percentages), the better.
In fact, the one positive we can take away from Anderson’s time in Philadelphia has been his consistent effort. In the March massacre of the Dallas Mavericks, it was endearing to see Anderson motivated to prove to his old teammates just what they were missing in having shipped him back to the East Coast. Unfortunately, the flip side was true in the final game of the season, in which he appeared to be the only player displaying minimal signs of effort in a must-lose game.
In the end, Anderson is likely to become an irrelevant footnote— an answer to a trivia question about provisions included in trades encompassing the Process-era Sixers. Brown was right not to include him in his group of core players; he simply hasn’t shown enough with Dallas or Philadelphia to justify consideration of him as a core piece moving forward.
While he may remain with the Sixers after training camp concludes next fall, I would bet against his stay in Philadelphia lasting until June of next year. Fare thee well, Simba. May your blonde facial hair live on in perpetuity.
What would you do with Justin Anderson?
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