Justin Anderson is ready to evolve as Sixers do the same

NBA: FEB 10 Clippers at 76ers
PHILADELPHIA, PA – FEBRUARY 10: Philadelphia 76ers Forward Justin Anderson (1) puts up a layup in the first half during the game between the Los Angeles Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers on February 10, 2018 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

A familiar face for Sixers faithful, Justin Anderson has returned to the team on a partially guaranteed contract for the upcoming season. While he still must secure his spot in training camp, it is likely “Simba” will lock down the 15th and final roster spot. He took to the media to talk about his expectations for the upcoming season and his excitement to be back in a Sixers uniform.

Anderson first came to the Sixers in the trade that sent Nerlens Noel to the Mavericks in the 2016-17 season. In the 62 games he spent in a Sixers uniform, the 6’6 wing averaged 7.1 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 assist in 16.7 minutes per game. He was known for his tenacious defense and this is an area he talked about improving even further since his time away from the Sixers. In the press conference, Anderson said his “length, strength, and versatility” allows him to guard position 1-4 and even pointed out that he spent time guarding centers in the G-league.

This stint in the G-league also gave hope for improved outside shooting for Anderson. In the 31 games Simba spent with the Raptors 905, he shot 35.3% from downtown on 7.7 attempts per game. This is a significant uptick from the 29.6% he has averaged throughout his NBA career. Anderson talked about putting an emphasis on getting catch-and-shoot repetitions up as it is clear he understands this is a part of his game that needs work.

The feel-good storyline of Anderson coming back to the team also revolves around the relationship between him and Joel Embiid. Anderson spoke about this in the press conference talking about how he had known Joel since before the two were in the NBA. It is clear the pair have remained close and he referred to Embiid as a “really close brother.” While this will not change anything on the court for Anderson, it is cool to see Joel reunited with one of his good friends, and keeping the big-man happy should always be looked at as a positive.

Despite saying that the “energy remained the same,” in the organization, Anderson talked about how the team is in a much different place than when he was in Philly last time. As Simba put it, he “expect(s) it to be quite different. We have a better Ben, a better Jo,” and “This is a team that is really close.” Anderson has a good head on his shoulders and appeared to have a much more mature mindset than his first stint with the team.

The days of showcasing high-potential guys in the hopes of flipping them for a draft pick are over and Anderson proved to be well aware of this. Simba bet on himself and is not taking this chance at the NBA lightly but says he feels as if he belongs. Given that the team is narrowed in on win-now mode, there likely will not be many available minutes but Anderson claims he will be ready for any opportunity he gets. The biggest takeaway from the interview was when he said, “I know who I am. I know what I stand for and I want to win.” This is a great mindset to have for a guy on the end of the bench and with the toughness and mindset that he has proven to have, Anderson is on track to make an impact beyond what the stats show this year.

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire