Virginia’s Justin Anderson plans to declare for the NBA Draft, according to a report from Yahoo Sports.
Anderson is a 6-foot-6 wing that was arguably Virginia’s best player for much of the season. He averaged 12.2 points and shot 45.2 percent from three, which is up significantly from the roughly 30 percent that he shot from beyond the arc during his first two seasons in Charlottesville.
Anderson’s season would have been all the more impressive if he hadn’t suffered two injuries in February. First, it was a fractured pinky that kept him out of the lineup for over a month, and the week he was set to return from that injury, Anderson needed an appendectomy.
Prior to getting hurt, Anderson was averaging 13.9 points and shooting 48.5 percent from three while populating most All-American lists. His injury was the biggest reason Virginia went from a team with national title aspirations to one that couldn’t get out of the first weekend of the tournament.
He’s projected as an early first round pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, according to Draft Express, but Anderson has a real shot of sneaking into the back end of the first round. If he can prove that he jump shot wasn’t wrecked by the pinky injury, his ability to defend will make him a prototypical three-and-D role player in the NBA for years.
This decision will be a blow for Virginia, who clearly missed Anderson late in the season. Not only was he their best three point shooter and one of their most dangerous scorers, but he’s an elite defensive player. If he had returned for the 2015-16 season, Virginia might have been the preseason No. 1 team in the country. As it stands, they will likely end up somewhere in the top five.
UPDATED: It doesn’t mean the report is wrong, but here is Justin Anderson’s response:
What? Where are you people getting this stuff? Geez! I just woke up!
Kaminsky has greatly outperformed expectations he had entering the season, even though he was a preseason all-american pick. He’s been sensational, leading the Badgers in scoring, rebounding, assists, blocks and steals. Not bad for a guy that averaged 10 minutes as a sophomore.
Jahlil Okafor, Duke (17.6 ppg, 9.2 rpg)
Okafor is an easy pick as well, as he was the most dominating offensive force in the country this season. To get an idea of just how good he can be, think about this: He’s not just a poor defender, he can be downright awful at times, and yet he’s going to finish the season as a consensus first team all-american and the runner-up to Kaminsky in the Player of the Year voting. Not bad.
D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State (19.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 5.2 apg)
If Kaminsky has been the nation’s best player and Okafor has been the most dominating offensive force, than Russell has to be the nation’s most entertaining player. He can take over a game with his ability to score, and he throws some absurd passes in transition. Can he be this year’s Shabazz Napier in the NCAA tournament?
Jerian Grant, Notre Dame (16.8 ppg, 6.7 apg)
The Irish have no business being a top ten team this season, but they are because Grant has been incredible. Notre Dame has one of the most potent offensive attacks in the country, and it all centers around Grant’s ability to make plays off the dribble and in ball-screen actions. He’s better than anyone else in the country at making his teammate’s better.
Cauley-Stein’s numbers don’t measure up to anyone else on the first team, but what he does best doesn’t necessarily show up in the scorebook. The Wildcats are downright dominant on the defensive end of the floor, and Cauley-Stein is the engine that drives them. He’s the best perimeter and the best interior defender in the country all at the same time.
NBCSPORTS.COM’S SECOND TEAM ALL-AMERICANS
Delon Wright, Utah (14.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 5.3 apg, 2.1 spg): Wright did so much for Utah this season, and while his numbers were impressive, it was his defense and ability to understand his strengths offensively that were most important to the Utes.
Kris Dunn, Providence (15.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 7.4 apg): The only reason Dunn isn’t in the conversation for National Player of the Year is that he turns the ball over too much. He was completely dominant at times this season.
Buddy Hield, Oklahoma (17.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg): Hield has a rep for being one of the nation’s best defenders, dating back to his freshman season. Now he’s also one of the best wing scorers.
Rico Gathers, Baylor (11.6 ppg, 11.7 rpg): Gathers is the nation’s best rebounder, an improving scorer on the block and a critical component for arguably the nation’s most surprising team.
Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse (17.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2.5 bpg): He won’t get to showcase his ability this March, but there was not a more improved player in the country than Christmas this season.
NBCSPORTS.COM’S THIRD TEAM ALL-AMERICANS
T.J. McConnell, Arizona (9.6 ppg, 6.3 apg, 2.1 spg): McConnell’s numbers are nowhere near as impressive as the other lead guards here, but if you watched Arizona play over the last two months, you understand just how important he was to that team’s success.
Melo Trimble, Maryland (16.1 ppg, 3.1 apg): Maryland is ranked 31st in KenPom. Yet, they’re a top ten team that’s going to be a top four seed because they’re 11-0 in games decided by six points or less. Trimble is their ‘closer’. He earned this spot.
Justin Anderson, Virginia (13.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 48.5% 3PT): Anderson was in the mix for first team all-american when he broke his finger. He deserves recognition despite missing time.
Bobby Portis, Arkansas (17.8 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.5 bpg): I was called out by an Arkansas assistant coach for having Bobby Portis ranked 62nd in our top 100 players list in the preseason. That coach was right.
Seth Tuttle, Northern Iowa (15.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 3.3 apg): I’m fully on the Tuttle bandwagon. He’s a low-post scorer with three point range, the ability to put the ball on the floor and terrific vision. He’s Frank Kaminsky 2.0.
Justin Anderson out this weekend after undergoing appendectomy
Yesterday, the big news coming out of Charlottesville was that Virginia’s all-american guard Justin Anderson could end up returning to the lineup this weekend. He had been out for nearly four weeks after undergoing surgery on a fractured finger.
Today, not so much.
Virginia announced on Thursday that Anderson will be out of the lineup on Saturday after undergoing an appendectomy. His status for the ACC tournament has yet to be determined.
Good thing I wrote a Film Session today about how Virginia is the most likely team to beat Kentucky as long as Anderson is healthy.
Justin Anderson spent the season’s first three months playing at an all-american level as the best shooter, the best defender and the all-around toughest dude on a Virginia team that is as tough as anyone in the country.
He was one of the biggest reasons that the Cavaliers had just one loss entering February, but he fractured a finger on his shooting hand in a win over Louisville, an injury that required surgery. Anderson was expected to be out for 4-6 weeks, but on Tuesday night, the program got some good news: there’s a chance that Anderson could be back in the lineup for their regular season finale against, of all teams, Louisville.
Anderson has been cleared to return to practice and participate in “game-related activities”, according to the Daily Progress, which could get him back into the lineup on Saturday. That would be exactly four weeks to the day after suffering the injury.
“My hope is we can get him back safely, sooner rather than later,” Bennett said on his radio show on Tuesday night. “If it goes well, maybe he’ll have a chance to play Saturday. Who knows? But it looks like he’s getting close– and that’s a good thing.”
Anderson’s return would be massive for the Cavs, and getting him back with a week and a half to spare before the NCAA tournament would be important as well. Anderson was shooting 48.4 percent from three before injury, but he’s a career 30.0 percent shooter. He’s going to need time to work through the rust that comes with having a splint on a finger on your shooting hand for three and a half weeks.
Film Session: Breaking down what Virginia is missing without Justin Anderson
Virginia has played three games — and a half against Louisville — since Justin Anderson went down with a broken bone on his left hand, and if anything has become clear over the course of those 140 minutes, it’s that the Cavaliers are not the same team without their All-American.
The biggest impact comes on the offensive end of the floor, where Anderson’s absence is truly felt.
In wins over N.C. State, Wake Forest and Pitt — none of whom rank higher than 110th in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom — Virginia has scored 173 points in 174 possessions, a far cry from the offense that had spent the majority of the season ranked in the top ten in offensive efficiency.
The change isn’t simply a result of Anderson’s 48.4 percent three-point shooting — by far the best on Virginia’s roster — not being on the floor, although that plays a major role. Defenses had to be aware of where Anderson was on the offensive end of the floor at all times. Anderson’s presence kept teams honest when Virginia threw the ball into the post and helped them create space for drivers and cutters.
The guy that has taken over Anderson’s minutes has been junior wing Evan Nolte. In the last four games, Nolte has averaged 26.5 minutes. In the four games prior to Anderson’s injury, Nolte played a total of 16 minutes. He’s shooting 22.9 percent from three on the season, and while he’s 4-for-13 from three since Anderson went down, those 13 threes were all really good looks:
As you can see, Virginia’s opponents were not exactly scared of leaving Nolte all alone on the perimeter. That’s a problem, because offensively, Nolte isn’t much more than a spot-up shooter. In 2015, Nolte has taken all of three shots from inside the arc and gotten to the line just twice, missing both. Anderson did much of his damage as a spot-up shooter, but he’s more well-rounded. He could come off of a screen and hit a jumper or curl to the rim. He could beat a close-out with a pump-fake and a straight-line drive. He could finish above the rim in transition or in traffic in half court sets. Virginia generally drops their three perimeter players back to prevent against fast breaks, but Anderson was still able to pick up some second chance points from time to time.
Anderson was an ideal fit in the role that Tony Bennett needed him to play, and Nolte is just not ready to fill that void.
But offense is not the only area where Virginia took a hit with Anderson out.
Nolte is nowhere near the defender that Anderson is either. The good news for Virginia is that the Pack-Line defense they play is designed to over-help on the defensive end, covering up some of Nolte’s defensive issues. But that doesn’t change the fact that Virginia’s best perimeter defender is no longer in the lineup, and that chink in the armor is a weak spot opponents can attack.
For example, Nolte not only gets beaten on a cut to the middle of the lane by Sheldon Jeter here, Jeter is able to elevate over him in the paint:
But here’s the most important part of this: none of it actually matters, as long as Anderson is healthy and back in the lineup come NCAA tournament time.
Virginia has done enough this season that they should be able to survive two more losses, whether they come during the regular season or in the ACC tournament, and still wind up with a No. 1 seed. Even if they lose more than two games — say, at Syracuse, at Louisville and in the ACC semifinals — they’re still looking at a situation where they are, at worst, ACC regular season co-champions with road wins at VCU, Maryland, Notre Dame and North Carolina.
And if it’s clear that Anderson is coming back, the selection committee will have to keep in mind that the Cavs were without their best player during the worst stretch of their season.
Virginia doesn’t need Justin Anderson to win the ACC or to get a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
But they are not the same team without him, and if the Cavs are going to make a run in March, they need him healthy by the time the NCAA tournament starts.
Player of the Year Power Rankings: Kaminsky’s postgame, Okafor’s ‘regression’
1. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin: Dan Dakich, polarizing as he is, is one of the best color commentators currently working in college hoops, and he had an interesting statement early on in Wisconsin’s win over Nebraska last week. “I don’t think you should double Kaminsky,” Dakich. “The weakness of Kaminsky’s game is going to score on the block, and when you double Kaminsky you leave others open.”
It was an interesting comment, because Kaminsky is quite proficient at scoring on the block. According to Synergy’s logs, 25.5 percent of the possessions Kaminsky uses are post-ups, and he’s scoring 1.011 points-per-possession (PPP) on those post touches. But it’s also where Kaminsky is actually the least-efficient, at least according to the logs on Synergy, which goes to show you just how good of a player Kaminsky actually is.
But that’s neither here nor there, and while I can show you any number of the beautiful post moves that Kaminsky had against Illinois on Sunday, that goes against the point that Dakich is trying to make. Wisconsin has too many capable passers on their roster, too many guys that are smart, and willing, enough to make a pass when a teammate comes open, and the result of doubling Kaminsky in the post is likely going to end up being an open jumper or a Wisconsin player attacking a close out.
In other words, Dakich you’re better off taking your chances 1-on-1 against Kaminsky on the block than letting the Badgers move the ball and move your defense. But frankly, neither option is ideal, because … well, because of this:
There’s a reason Wisconsin is on pace to be the most efficient offense in KenPom’s database.
2. Jahlil Okafor, Duke: Okafor responded to getting bumped out of the top spot in these rankings by going for 23 points and 13 boards on 10-for-15 shooting while holding Syracuse’s all-american center Rakeem Christmas to 11 points on 5-for-17 shooting, easily his worst game of the season.
Okafor’s season has been a fascinating one to track. He’s exceeded the hype that he had coming out of high school. He’s averaging 18.2 points and 9.3 boards on a top five team. He’s the centerpiece of the nation’s second-most efficient offense. He’s a throw-back big man, a low-post player with the kind of quick feet, soft touch and back-to-the-basket arsenal that has evoked comparisons to the likes of Tim Duncan and Kevin McHale.
We haven’t seen a player with his skill set in a long, long time, but the discussion seems to always be leaning towards who is catching up to Okafor, not how good he has been and continues to be. The same way that Kaminsky has surpassed him atop Player of the Year rankings, there is talk that Karl Towns — and, potentially, D’Angelo Russell — could end up getting picked No. 1 this June. While that’s not exactly unexpected, I hope everyone can appreciate what they’re watching with Okafor. It will be a long time before we someone that can do what he does again.
3. D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State: The last month of Russell’s collegiate career will be interesting to watch. After a stretch where he completely dominated the sport for a solid three-week stretch, Russell has struggled in three of his last four games. Ignoring the triple-double against Rutgers — that’s a lot to ignore, I know — Russell is shooting 34.1 percent from the floor and 5-for-19 from three against Purdue, Penn State and Michigan State. The Buckeyes lost to both the Boilermakers and the Spartans on the road.
Not that he wasn’t before, but Russell is going to be the focal point of everywhere defensive scheme the rest of the season. It’s a point of pride now; no one wants to be caught playing lazy defensively on the next vine of an absurd Russell bounce-pass that gets a million loops. How will he respond to really, truly being guarded?
4. Jerian Grant, Notre Dame: I still don’t think Grant is getting the credit that he deserves for just how good he has been this season, and the sad thing is that he may never get it. More than any other team in the country — save, maybe, Indiana — the Irish are completely buoyed by their elite offensive attack, and Grant is the centerpiece of that offense. When he gets taken away — as Quinn Cook did in the second meeting with Duke, a 90-60 blowout loss — the Irish look lost. But if this group ends up getting bounced early in the NCAA tournament again, he’ll end up getting written off as just another overhyped star on an overrated Notre Dame team. I hope that doesn’t happen.
5. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky: Cauley-Stein has been paying attention to his detractors, it seems. “I feel the whole criticism is I’m soft. Or something like that,” he told reporters after Kentucky’s win over South Carolina on Saturday. “I’m just going to dunk over people. I don’t see how you can start calling me soft if I’m dunking on people. That’s my whole mentality going into games now.” That’s scary, because that quote came a week after he did this to Florida’s Devin Robinson and five days after dunking on LSU’s Jordan Mickey four times in one game. Whatever Cauley-Stein has planned next, let’s just hope he will continue to wear hats like this:
6. Delon Wright, Utah: At this point, Wright is probably somewhat underrated from a national perspective. He’s the point man for a Utah defense that is No. 7 nationally, according to KenPom, and he also happens to be one of the most efficient offense players in the country despite the fact that he doesn’t shoot a ton of threes, a difficult task for a point guard. How? He rarely makes the wrong play. He’s sports one of the nation’s best assist rates as well as one of the highest assist-to-turnover ratios. He rarely settles for jumpers, instead attacking the paint where he’s a 58.1 percent shooter from inside the arc. He finishes around the rim, he draws fouls and he makes his free throws.
In short, Wright understands what his strengths and weaknesses are as a player, and he plays to them. That’s an incredibly valuable skill for a star with a notable weakness (three-point range) to have.
7. Kris Dunn, Providence: Dunn has put up some incredible numbers this season — 15.4 points, 5.8 boards, 7.6 assists — but he’s simply been a turnover machine at times. He’s averaging 4.2 giveaways on the season, and he’s committed less than three turnovers in just six of the 26 games the Friars have played. Those turnovers are the reason he rarely shows up on Player of the Year lists.
8. T.J. McConnell, Arizona: Stanley Johnson might end up being the popular pick for the All-American on this year’s Arizona roster, but I think McConnell is having a more valuable, if not better season. He’s embraced his role as point guard when Arizona is playing well, but he’s also taken over games in which the Wildcats have struggled.
9. Seth Tuttle, Northern Iowa: Only two players in the country — BYU’s Tyler Haws and UC-Davis’ Corey Hawkins — have a higher offensive rating than Tuttle while using at least 28.0 percent of their team’s offensive possessions than Tuttle. He’s an unbelievable shooter — 48.6 percent from three and 65.5 percent from two — that anchors Northern Iowa’s offense. He’s can also do things like this:
Tuttle deserves to be in this conversation.
10. Justin Anderson, Virginia: We’ll get into this a little more later this afternoon, but if Virginia’s struggles over the course of the last three games have proven anything, it’s that Justin Anderson truly deserved his spot on this list. He’s Virginia’s best shooter, best perimeter defender, toughest player and leader. Replacing that was not as easy as some of us (ahem, me) originally thought.
OTHERS THAT WERE CONSIDERED: Ron Baker (Wichita State), Ryan Boatright (UConn), Kyle Collinsworth (BYU), Rakeem Christmas (Syracuse), Tyler Haws (BYU), Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), Stanley Johnson (Arizona), Jarell Martin (LSU), Jordan Mickey (LSU), Larry Nance Jr. (Wyoming), Georges Niang (Iowa State), Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga), Bobby Portis (Arkansas), Juwan Staten (West Virginia), Melo Trimble (Maryland), Seth Tuttle (Northern Iowa), Brad Waldow (St. Mary’s), Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga), Joseph Young (Oregon)