Jan 29, 2012; Dallas, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs shooting guard James Anderson (25) steals the ball from Dallas Mavericks center Ian Mahinmi (28) during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Mavericks defeated the Spurs 101-100. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

Season review: James Anderson

The profile
Minutes: 11.8
Points: 3.7
Rebounds: 1.5
Assists: 0.8
FG%: 37.9%
3P%: 27.9%
FT%: 75.0%

The (advanced) profile
TS%: 48.3%
USG%: 17.2%
PER: 8.8
Offensive PPP: 0.83 (311th)
Defensive PPP: 0.99 (428th)
Offensive rating (points per 100 possessions): 97
Defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions): 107

***

Selected with the 20th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, James Anderson was a colossal disappointment in his brief two-year tenure with the San Antonio Spurs. Anderson missed 56 games in his rookie year due to a stress fracture in his right foot. He never could recover from his impressive, albeit short lived, start to his first season. Anderson finished with averages of 3.6 points, 0.9 rebounds and 0.7 assists. He garnered 11 minutes per game and was never a legitimate part of the rotation.

As the lockout ended and camp opened up, it seemed that Anderson was determined to fill a pressing void on the Spurs’ roster. Given his lofty (for the Spurs) draft status and athletic ability, Anderson had the inside track at earning legitimate playing team in Gregg Popovich’s system. Tony Parker adamantly proclaimed Anderson the “surprise of camp.”

“He’s been playing great since the beginning of camp, he’s been playing very well,” Parker said. “I think we can expect a lot from him. I think he’s going to play better and better. It looks like he has more confidence. If I had to choose one surprise in camp it would be him.”

It just wasn’t meant to be. Danny Green, an unappreciated swingman selected with the 46th overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, eventually overtook Anderson’s minutes and filled a significant role with San Antonio. Anderson initially posted six consecutive games to open the season with 20+ minutes indicating that Pop deemed Anderson worthy enough to play.

The experiment didn’t last long. Anderson, a career 37.5% shooter from behind the arc with Oklahoma State, didn’t shoot well enough to sustain minutes in the Spurs’ system. Anderson missed 13 of his first 16 3-point attempts, a sparkling 18.8%. That’s not a sufficient sample size to judge his skills of course, but Pop felt that Green was a better option because of his superior shooting and defensive prowess. Anderson finished the year shooting 27.9% on 3-pointers and his promising attributes (length, athleticism, scoring) never came to fruition.

April 26, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard James Anderson (25) dribbles the ball against the Golden State Warriors in the first quarter at ORACLE Arena. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE

His entire situation hit rock bottom when he formally requested a trade on Feb. 21 after San Antonio declined his option for the 2012-13 season. I guess I can’t blame him — he was behind Gary Neal, Green, Kawhi Leonard and Richard Jefferson on the depth chart after all — but I wish he wouldn’t make his frustrations public. It’s not the way San Antonio operates. In fact, I wrote a piece for Pounding the Rock on possible trade scenarios involving Anderson.

“Like Steve Novak and Beno Udrih before him, PATFO have been very accommodating when their players have wanted to go to a different team. I expect them to do the same mostly because we have built solid depth at the SG/SF spots to withstand “giving” up on last year’s No. 1 overall pick and because the Spurs value team chemistry and continuity over athletic ability. They don’t want an unhappy player to inhabit the locker room and influence the team in a negative way. I’m not necessarily calling Anderson unfit to play for the Spurs (he’s not that kind of player) but with his intentions public, it would be the ethical thing to let him attempt to salvage a career. Not to mention that his playing time has dwindled to nearly zero for stretches of the season.”

With his intentions public, Anderson logged 35 minutes in a 40-point loss at Portland. You probably remember the game because Pop infamously ended San Antonio’s 11-game winning streak by sitting Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Tiago Splitter. Maybe the Spurs were showcasing his talents for the rest of the league?

That didn’t turn out to be the case and Anderson toiled in obscurity, shackled to the bench. He was in a precarious position: no opportunity and a ticking time bomb that was his contract with the Spurs. He never played significant minutes aside from a couple games at the tail end of the year and, inexplicably, 15:41 minutes in Oklahoma City’s 20-point route in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals.

On July 1st, the Spurs and Anderson will part ways and (likely) will go their separate ways. San Antonio will be content with their depth aside from Green’s contract situation. Ultimately, Anderson’s talent never was allowed to flourish. Opportunity, injury and misfortune intervened making his two-year tenure with San Antonio nearly irrelevant.

***
Performance of the year: Jan. 29, 2012 at Dallas. L 100-101.
The line: 20:27 MIN | 3-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 8 PTS | +17

This had to be the most fun I had watching the Spurs lose this season. Shawn Marion and Jason Terry combined for 35 points through the first three quarters. Dallas built an 11-point lead despite Dirk Nowitzki mustering up four points on 2-for-4 shooting. The deficit compelled Popovich to trot out a very curious lineup.

Neal-Green-Anderson-Bonner-Splitter.

Huh? I remember thinking.

Turns out I was wrong. The group finished the quarter with 56.5% shooting from the field including seven 3-pointers. The 11-point lead was eliminated and Green nearly ended the game in regulation after his shot with 0.5 seconds left hit the bottom of the net. Slightly late.

Pop trusted the entire group to cut the lead despite the preposition of inserting a fully rested Parker or Duncan, a potentially devastating option against a Maverick team desperately trying to maintain the lead.

While his eight points wasn’t his season-high, Anderson looked like the player we always wanted him to be. He made a couple of timely 3-pointers, grabbed rebounds, distributed the ball and played good on-ball defense. It was a near perfect performance for a player that needed some confidence.

Season grade: D

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