COMMENTARY | The Philadelphia 76ers' front office seems to be looking toward the future with its team.
This offseason, the team got a new general manager, coach and point guard. Looking at the roster, the makeup of the team doesn't suggest it will have much success and will compete for the best chance to land the No. 1 draft pick -- and maybe that's the plan.
While wins will be hard-pressed to come by, which will disappoint the fans, what the situation presents is opportunity -- and that's something every fan can identify with.
Part of the fun of rooting for a team is being there at the beginning of greatness. Fans are proud of players that were once considered second-thoughts but blossomed with a new team when given a chance (remember how popular Jeremy Lin was?)
The best place for young players to earn opportunities is with teams with very low expectations. Those organizations are already looking toward the future and with very little at stake in the present, it is worth it to try out young players and see if they can fit in and be viable pieces or stars for a future contender.
So while fourth-year player James Anderson won't be on a championship-contending team like he was with the San Antonio Spurs his first 2 1/2 seasons, and he won't get to go to work with stars Dwight Howard and James Harden in Houston, he does get an opportunity to showcase himself in Philadelphia.
Anderson is a former first-round pick. He was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs, which should say something about the potential he holds. This is the same front office that unearthed Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola and George Hill while also selecting solid NBA rotation guys like Tiago Splitter, Beno Udrih and Ian Mahinmi.
He was drafted because of his success at Oklahoma State. The former McDonald's All-American in high school scored 29 points in his first collegiate game (although, in fairness, it was against Prairie View). He upped his scoring average in each of his three seasons, culminating in scoring 22.3 points per game as junior and being named Big 12 Conference Player of the Year.
Anderson never averaged more than 11.8 minutes per game while with San Antonio and averaged 3.7 points per game. His first season was hampered by a stress fracture in his right foot that caused him to miss most of the beginning of the season. With Ginobili already in place, the injury set Anderson back and gave opportunities to Gary Neal and Danny Green -- who were both key contributors to the Spurs' appearance in the NBA championship against the Heat in 2013 -- a chance to crack the lineup.
He signed with Houston in January of 2013, playing 29 games (starting two) and averaging 4.0 points per game. The Rockets moved a lot of players this offseason in order to bring in Dwight Howard in free agency, and Anderson looks like an easy casualty who was replaced with rookies and rookie contracts.
Now with Philadelphia, Anderson could get an opportunity to break out. He's shown in both college and in limited instances in the pros that he can score in bunches when given a chance. In a game with Houston against the Cleveland Cavaliers in March, he scored 11 points in 12 minutes. In 25 minutes in a loss against the Clippers in February, he scored a season-high 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting.
The question is, what kind of role, if any at all, will he be given with Philadelphia?
He doesn't have a guaranteed contract, which means he could be a training-camp casualty. But he could very well fit in for depth purposes.
It depends on what kind of lineup the 76ers decide to go with. The 76ers could go big, drop Evan Turner down to shooting guard and Thaddeus Young to small forward and play, for instance, Lavoy Allen at power forward and Spencer Hawes at center.
Or the team could sit either Haws or Allen, move Turner to small forward and Young to power forward, which would then give Anderson the opportunity -- should he do well in training camp and the preseason -- to start at shooting guard.
Either way, the 76ers don't have much depth at shooting guard. Darius Morris and Tony Wroten are more point guards (although Wroten has some decent size to him), and Jason Richardson is hurt and was hurt for much of last season as well. For depth purposes and to be able to throw different lineups out, Anderson has a shot to make this team and contribute.
For a team that doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, it won't hurt to give a former first-round pick that can score a chance.
Phil Shore lives in New Jersey and is the creator and editor of Shore Thing Sports blog. He's been published in The Boston Globe, Philly.com, FoxSoccer.com, LaxMagazine.com and New England Lacrosse Journal.
- Sports & Recreation
- Philadelphia 76ers
- San Antonio Spurs
- Dwight Howard