But circumstances can change dramatically.
The 24-year-old went from a can't-miss prospect to an end-of-the-bench journeyman.
Anderson was sidelined early in his rookie season with a stress fracture of the fifth metatarsal of his right foot.
After two seasons, he became a free agent because the Spurs didn't pick up his player option. The Arkansas native signed with the Atlanta Hawks on Sept. 27, 2012, only to get waived a month later.
"Then I went to the [NBA Development League] and I played two preseason games [with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers]," Anderson said of being acquired by the Bakersfield Jam before being traded to the Vipers. "Then the Spurs called me back when Stephen Jackson got hurt. So I was there until December."
He was reacquired by the Vipers Dec. 25 before signing with the Houston Rockets on Jan. 2. But even that was short-lived.
Clearing salary-cap space for free agent Dwight Howard, the Rockets waived Anderson and Tim Ohlbrecht in July. The Sixers picked up their non-guaranteed contracts.
In three seasons with San Antonio and Houston, Anderson appeared in 116 games, with six starts, and averaged 3.7 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 11.1 minutes played.
But he has been one of the Sixers' best players since coming to Philadelphia.
Anderson is averaging 12.3 points through three exhibition games and shooting 50 percent (6 of 12) on three-pointers.
"This is definitely a great opportunity for me," he said of being a Sixer. "I feel like this is the best one I have so far.
"I definitely want to take advantage of it."
Anderson is one of the more experienced players on this youthful and inexperienced Sixers squad. He was penciled in as the starting shooting guard from the first day of training camp.
"That's really been the big difference," he said, "Me getting to play and get a rhythm from the jump, I think that plays a big role."
On Friday, Anderson scored 16 points on 6-for-10 shooting (2 for 4 on three-pointers) to go with six rebounds in 24 minutes, 26 seconds in the 97-85 victory over the Boston Celtics at the University of Delaware's Bob Carpenter Center.
His biggest test will come Monday at 7 p.m. in a preseason game against the Brooklyn Nets at the Wells Fargo Center. He'll probably go against the Nets' standout shooting guard, Joe Johnson.
But so far he's making an impact.
"He fits in with us with his open-court skills," said new coach Brett Brown, who coached Anderson as a Spurs assistant. "He's got a quiet disposition ... You know, maybe he's at a stage of his career that he's going to catch a break and move forward.
"Maybe myself and the program is catching James Anderson at the right time of his career."
It sure looked that way in the home locker room after Friday night's victory.
Anderson smiled as he stood near the entrance and answered a few questions.
"I was just playing my game," he said. "I just took what was there. I didn't try to force too much.
"It was solid."