Murphy: Justin Anderson is the key to the Sixers' deal

Mavericks Thunder Basketball
Justin Anderson (1) goes up for a shot while defended by Oklahoma City center Enes Kanter on Jan. 26, 2017.

FORGET THE FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK the Sixers reportedly will receive from the Mavericks in exchange for Nerlens Noel. The success of the deal will very likely hinge on the development of 23-year-old shooting guard Justin Anderson, who has spent his first two seasons near the back of the Mavericks rotation.

In October, an NBA scout gave a glowing review of Anderson to Sports Illustrated, opining that he considered the second-year guard to be "almost as good a player as Harrison Barnes," the former Golden State Warrior whom the Mavericks signed to a big free-agent contract in the offseason.

"Justin Anderson is gonna be good. I wonder how long of a leash (coach Rick) Carlisle will have with him. Rick prefers to play two guards, two smaller guards who are good pick-and-roll players, and that's not Justin . . . I actually think Justin Anderson is almost as good a player as Harrison Barnes. Maybe not quite as good as a scorer, but rebounding, shot-blocking, he'll be a decent shooter this year. He'll be a solid piece of their rotation."

Anderson, the No. 21 overall pick in the 2015 draft out of Virginia, had a limited role in the Mavs' rotation this season, averaging 13.9 minutes per game after averaging 11.8 as a rookie. He shot 26.5 percent from three-point range as a rookie and 30.3 percent this season (37-for-122).

In December, ESPN's Tim McMahon wrote about Anderson's regression:

"Anderson's ceiling is to be a bouncier version of (Jae) Crowder, who has emerged as an excellent glue guy with the Boston Celtics. Like Crowder, the 6-foot-6, 228-pound Anderson is a powerfully built wing with the physical tools to be a ferocious defender . . .

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"He's very limited as an offensive player - his strength is his finishing ability, never mind his blooper miss late in Saturday's loss - and he often looks tentative and lost on that end of the floor."

dmurphy@phillynews.com

@ByDavidMurphy

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