Justin Anderson can skip the ‘meet the coach’ session.
The newest Hawks player arrived after a trade with the 76ers, made official earlier this week, with two very familiar faces waiting on the coaching staff. The small forward played for new Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce when he was an assistant with the 76ers. He played for new Hawks lead assistant Melvin Hunt when he was with the Mavericks. Both coaches were in charge of the defenses in their roles.
Anderson admitted to being caught off guard being part of the three-team trade which also included the Thunder and principal players Carmelo Anthony, Dennis Schroder and Mike Muscala. Once it sank in, Anderson said he realized there was an opportunity for him with the Hawks. Call it a seamless transition.
“Both coaches were my defensive coaches and I know what their standard is,” Anderson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Friday. “That is a good thing about that relationship with coach Pierce. He understands me already. He doesn’t have much to figure out. He knows I’m going to work my butt off. He has a standard and I know what that standard is. I won’t be below that. I think it’s a cool opportunity for us to build something here and being able to help will be great.”
After highly-successful careers at Montrose Christian School and the University of Virginia, Anderson was selected by the Mavericks with the 21st pick in the 2015 draft. As a rookie, he averaged 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in 55 games. He was traded to the 76ers in a February deal that involved Nerlens Noel the following season. With the two teams, he averaged 7.1 points and 3.3 rebounds in 75 games.
Anderson suffered through injury last season. He missed time with a right ankle sprain, shin splits in his left leg and finally underwent surgery for tibial stress syndrome in this left leg. He appeared in just 38 games and averaged 6.2 points and 2.4 rebounds.
In his career, he shot 42 percent from the field and 30 percent from 3-point range.
Anderson, 6-foot-6, is the epitome of the long, athletic, defensive-minded wing that is coveted in the NBA and part of a collection being assembled by the Hawks.
“First, energetic passion,” Anderson said when asked to describe his game. “Playing hard. Winning is the ultimate objective. Outside of that, being able to guard the best players night in and night out. No matter how tough the matchup might be, putting everything out there on the line. Being able to apply pressure. On the offensive end, being able to run the floor. Be an athlete. And shooting 3’s. Put myself in a position to space the floor and let young guards like Trae Young, watch him create and put me in position to score.”
Anderson, 24, may suddenly find himself in a leadership role with the Hawks simply for his familiarity with the soon-to-be implemented system of Pierce. About to enter is fourth NBA season, Anderson has learned valuable lessons about the business side of the league. The biggest, control what you can control.
“It was a great call once I realized the situation I was going to and I realized this was a great opportunity for me,” Anderson said.