Is Kyle Anderson's savvy offensive game enough for him to succeed in the NBA?
Position: Small Forward
Stats via sports-reference.com/cbb
· Height: 6 '7.5" without shoes, 6' 8"5 with shoes
· Weight: 230 pounds
· Age: 20
· Wingspan: 7' 2.75"
· Standing Reach: 8'11 1.5"
Did not test due to injury.
Anderson is one of the most unique players in the draft. At his height and wingspan, he operates on the floor as a point forward. He was UCLA’s point guard last season, as he brought the ball up and was the first player the big would look for to start the fast-break. Anderson’s nickname throughout his UCLA career was "Slo-mo" because of his pace when he had the ball. That might puzzle you a bit if you’ve never seen him play, but Anderson makes it work in his own way. Players around him know that if they stay active and get open that Anderson will find them. He’s one of the best passers in this draft who will lullaby a defense to sleep while he walks around dribbling the ball searching for angles. Whenever he dribbles the ball up in either transition or the half-court, his head is always up and looking for that quick pass (remember, he can see over everyone at 6’9). Even when Anderson receives the ball on the catch, his head shoots right up, as he knows where everyone is on the floor and is sure to make the defense pay if they are at all out of position.
One of my favorite quotes from LeBron James was about him beginning to learn how to dominate in the league. I don’t have it word for word, but basically what LeBron said was that once he learned to ignore his initial defender and pay attention to what defenders 2-5 were doing he could dominate the floor. Now everyone pump the brakes here, I’m not coming close to comparing the two as basketball players. In that small facet though, Anderson gets it. He understands if he moves the ball somewhere, the defense will shift accordingly, and he can manipulate that. This is a very long way of saying that Anderson has a great basketball IQ.
As a scorer, Anderson uses his large frame well to score in many different ways. Some of you Bright Side readers might have seen him at his best in the Pac-12 championship game against Arizona. Despite being defended by Aaron Gordon for most of the game, Anderson finished with 21 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists. Gordon moves so well laterally, but Anderson’s long strides and relatively big frame were enough for him to get to the basket for 13 free throw attempts. Anderson is a crafty enough finisher to get it done despite lacking decent athleticism. Now you might be wondering how he’s getting into the lane.
Well, Anderson shot the 3 at a ridiculous rate last season, hitting 48% of his 1.6 attempts per game. He understands how this game works, so Anderson will use little head fakes and such knowing that his defender knows he can hit the shot. If he has a smaller defender on him, Anderson will use his high release to hit shots. Even if it is contested, he's getting a pretty good look if it's a smaller guard. It’s a weird paradigm with him, because Anderson usually has the ball in his hands so being a catch and shoot guy is not his thing, but he was great at that as well. He’s hitting these threes contested and with guys right in his face sometimes, so you’ve got to think it wasn’t just an insane hot streak all season. His 21% from his freshman season could have been the fluke instead of last season, but we will just have to wait and see.
Once again, Anderson is a slow dude, but he understands the geometry of the floor. If you put a quicker guard on him to keep him out of the key, he will get the ball in the post and operate from there. There’s no way you are ever sending a double on Anderson because you know he will find the open man in a split-second. If you bump him at the three-point line and switch off to contain the rim, Anderson has a good enough mid range game to pull up and make you pay.
Despite not being a good leaper, Anderson is a very good rebounder. He grabbed nearly 9 a game last season, and uses that insane wingspan and understanding of the floor to get the ball. He’s got that Kevin Love gene in that he understands the way the ball is going to bounce off the rim, so he’s always jumping at the precise moment and is usually in the right spot to grab the rebound. Besides the normal advantages a good rebounder has, Anderson’s are beyond that as his ability to go coast to coast is up there with anyone in this draft.
This is the giant red flag everyone is waving and I agree. Anderson is a very bad defender. He does not possess good athleticism and quickness, which he even struggled with mightily at the college level. It’s only going to get worse at the NBA level. UCLA would attempt to hide him on the worst offensive wing or guard the other team had, which meant he was primarily an off ball defender. Anderson frequently loses his man by paying attention to the ball, and that lack of quickness usually leaves good passes burning him. Laterally, he is a nightmare. He attempts to use that frame I previously discussed to body his man as much as possible, but it can only help him so much. At only 230 pounds, NBA level bodies were destroying him in college. In the post, it’s about the same story, as he doesn’t have the toughness to go against any sized power forward.
The good news defensively is that Anderson uses that ridiculous 7’3" wingspan to get deflections, steals, and blocks, as the stats show from last season. He would rack those up against bad opponents who would run through the motions offensively or think they had enough space on him when they did not. Like his ability to get to the rim, these may fade away at the NBA level.
Anderson might be the most unique prospect in this draft. His absurd court vision and playmaking abilities have him on his own pedestal, and the package he has shown as a scorer and shooter make him a great overall offensive player. However, his athleticism and struggles defensively have teams very wary of selecting him. Also, Anderson is so different as a prospect that it is going to take the right fit in order for him to succeed and for a team to get the most out of him. Those three concerns are why you see him around the mid to late first round in most mocks.
A better Boris Diaw offensively
Fit in Phoenix
This one is up for debate. Anderson’s role is going to come off the bench as the guy you hand the keys of the offense to and tell him to go run the show. Could he do this for the Suns? I think so. The Suns already have two scorers off the bench in Markieff Morris and Gerald Green that require the ball enough, but Anderson could be that guy to make sure that they do get the ball and in the best spots. In a fanpost last week, I aired my concerns about the assist numbers for the Suns. A pass first player who could potentially be a knockdown shooter from three would really help. I like him at 18 and love him at 27.