Perhaps the only thing more interesting than Juan Anderson deciding to return to Marquette one month after requesting his release was the news that he will make the transition to the backcourt for his junior season.
Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook’s Mark Miller first reported the news, and it came, more or less, as a shock. After all, Anderson had played inside his first two seasons–more out of necessity than anything–and originally projected as a small forward coming out of Castro Valley High School (Calif.).
There’s reason for optimism that Anderson can make the move, considering A) he has shown range from beyond the 3-point arc, B) has shown some handle in the open court and C) has good speed/quickness for a 6-foot-6 switchable.
But where Anderson may have the best argument to transition from forward to guard is on the defensive end.
If we’re being realistic, the main reason for his move to the perimeter is to get him as far away from the paint as possible. The 210-pound Anderson missed an entire offseason to gain weight and muscle, and nine out of 10 times he was over-matched inside. The Marquette Brand partially has been built on forwards playing “up” a position–small forwards to power forwards; power forwards to center–however, it’s clear Anderson isn’t part of that equation. He has plenty of room for growth and the potential is there, just not inside.
The general consensus is Anderson must prove he can hang with guards on the perimeter. It’s not a matter of shooting, driving to the basket–though he will need to show marked improvement there–or playing in transition (Anderson was fourth-best on the fast break, based on PPP, per Synergy). It’s proving he can stay in front of the smaller, likely quicker players. His length will help, and it’s something he proved last year.
Consider these stats from Synergy:
Last year Anderson was crushed in the post, allowing 1.111 points per possession. That ranked in just the 9th percentile for all NCAA players, a quite telling (and awful) number. Again, these numbers shouldn’t be surprising. Anderson did play well against the pick-and-roll as the “big” in the equation, allowing 0.786 points per possession, ranking in the 55th percentile for all players. The latter numbers aren’t bad by any stretch; the big takeaway is the post-up defense.
The Oakland native was much better on the perimeter. In playing defense against spot-up shots–the closest type of shot to a perimter-based attempt–Anderson allowed 0.87 points per possession, in the 56th percentile for all players. He also played well in limited attempts against pick-and-roll ball handlers, ranking in the 54th percentile.
These numbers show Anderson was much better outside of the paint, but now they need context. Anderson’s 0.87 PPP-against versus “spot-up” shots was similar to Jamil Wilson (0.84), Vander Blue (0.822) and Junior Cadougan (.813).
The one caveat here is obvious: Anderson’s numbers came against other small/power forwards. If he’s going to play as a shooting guard this year, he’ll have to defend the same position. Can he do that? Time will tell, but last year proved he’s an above-average defender on the perimeter and, maybe more important, not all that useful in the post. The move to shooting guard may prove to be beneficial for both Anderson and Marquette’s post defense.