RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Kyle AndersonPosted by Bennet Hayes on May 29th, 2014
The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 26, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of 20 collegians likely to hear their names called by Adam Silver at some point in the draft’s first round. We’ll start with prospects currently slated for the back half of the opening round, but as June progresses we will slowly work our way up and through the presumptive lottery selections. RTC National Columnist Bennet Hayes is tackling this series; you can find him on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.
Player Name: Kyle Anderson
Height/Weight: 6’9”/230 lbs.
NBA Position: Point Guard/Small Forward
Projected Draft Range: Mid to Late First Round
Overview: UCLA may be losing one of the most unique talents to grace the college hardwoods this millennium, but the Bruins’ loss is the 2014 NBA Draft’s gain, as Kyle Anderson has simultaneously become one of the most intriguing and confounding prospects of this or any draft. Long and rangy 6’9″ point guards don’t grow on trees, particularly ones who led their teams to the Sweet Sixteen and posted per game averages of 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 6.5 assists last season. Along the way, Anderson became the first Pac-12 player to compile 200 assists and 200 rebounds in a season — just one of many statistical firsts that this freakishly versatile sophomore recorded in 2013-14. New head man Steve Alford’s decision to let Anderson run his team’s point — he wasn’t offered that opportunity during a statistically pedestrian freshman season — paid almost immediate dividends, as Anderson fueled an up-tempo Bruins offense that quickly staked its claim among the nation’s best (they finished 13th nationally in offensive efficiency). A pair of potential first-rounders in this year’s draft (Zach LaVine and Jordan Adams), among others, joined Anderson in breaking the chains off the stagnancy of the Ben Howland era, but no player deserves more credit for that than Anderson. Aside from an unusually high turnover rate (20.2%) and occasionally soft one-on-one defense, Anderson offered positive contributions in nearly every area on the floor. He shot 48 percent from both two and three-point ranges, 73 percent from the line, and chipped in defensively with a combined 2.6 blocks and steals per contest. Below average athleticism (they call him “Slo-Mo” for a reason) and an uncertain role at the next level has the former UCLA guard grading out as a late first-rounder right now, but Kyle Anderson is as distinctive an NBA prospect as you will ever encounter.
Will Translate to the NBA: Whether an NBA coach ends up turning over the point guard duties to Anderson, the UCLA product’s passing and vision will serve to benefit the synchronicity of the offense around him. Anderson’s basketball IQ is off the charts, and he consistently makes the right pass – whether a dazzling no-look dish or a simple outlet feed to move the ball upcourt. Few college teams seemed to put together as many successful, dribble-less possessions as UCLA did last season. As mentioned before, there were a number of gifted offensive players on the Bruins’ roster, but their maestro (Anderson) deserves the lion’s share of the credit for the crisp and efficient (not to mention aesthetically pleasing) ball movement that took place in Westwood last season. His exact role in the NBA is very much TBD, but expect Anderson’s passing and anticipation abilities to again prove elite, even among the greatest basketball players in the world.
Needs Work: If Anderson is ever afforded the opportunity to put that brilliant offensive mind on full display (read: starter’s minutes in the league), he will have almost definitely patched up a current shortcoming or two. His athletic limitations may be here to stay, but they shouldn’t automatically submit the former Bruin to an NBA career defined by turnstile-esque defense. His effort on the defensive end wandered at times during his two years in college (although Anderson’s consistently calm, sleepy demeanor surely exaggerated this tendency), and while he didn’t exactly “get away with it” at UCLA, that sort of indifference can prove to be a career-killer in the NBA — especially when you possess the lateral agility of a freight train. At the other end, Anderson could stand to both minimize turnovers and improve his jump shot. The long point guard often struggled to protect the ball from smaller, quicker defenders in college, and despite shooting 48 percent from three-point range as a sophomore (on only 58 attempts), he still needs to prove himself as a reliable perimeter shooter.
Best Case Scenario: Anderson becomes a three-time MVP, five-time NBA champion, and one of the five best players in the history of basketball. Wait, not every oversized point guard that enters the NBA develops into Magic Johnson? Okay, okay – I’ll relent. But the Magic comparisons are floating around (as they do for almost every tall lead guard preparing to enter the league…or even a top college program), fairly or unfairly. There are undeniable similarities between the two, but let’s not take them too far. Expecting a career that comes anywhere close to Magic’s is simply unrealistic, but Anderson’s uniqueness as a prospect does supply him with a higher ceiling that many other prospects who are expected to be drafted in the late first round. If the athletic limitations don’t prove crippling and Anderson can use his savvy to grow into even an average defender, this offensive visionary could become a nightly triple-double threat and an All-Star caliber player. As boom-or-bust a prospect as this draft has to offer.
Best NBA Fit: Anderson is the type of prospect who could make a late surge up the draft board, but if he does fall in the back half of the first round, the Chicago Bulls (selections at #16 and #19) could make some sense. Anderson doesn’t fit the Tom Thibodeau prototype in the least (play some defense, Kyle), but he could be intriguing as a high post distributor and complement to Derrick Rose’s slashing ability (insert mandatory “if Rose is healthy” clause here). Charlotte (pick #24) and its shoot-first point guard (Kemba Walker) could offer a similarly beneficial offensive setup, but I think the team with the best fit for Anderson would be the owners of the final pick of the first round (#30) – the San Antonio Spurs. Anderson’s offensive acuity would be right at home next to basketball savants like Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, and he would be another high character guy on a team that values selfless team basketball above all else. The Boris Diaw comparison is also in play for Anderson, and Coach Pop has coaxed plenty of production out of him, a player that the Spurs more or less scooped from the scrap heap. The big caveat would still exist for Anderson in San Antonio – the defense must improve – but without salivating, consider the number of ways that Popovich could employ Anderson in the Spurs’ offense. Could be pretty fun, no?
Scout’s Take (from NBADraft.net): “Has great floor vision thanks to his height and his instincts… Despite his lack of speed and acceleration (Anderson’s nickname is Slow-Mo), Anderson is able to get past normal-sized point guards with his long strides… Great at using spin moves and head fakes to make up for his lack of speed and create a shot for himself… Has the size and skill-set to play three or four positions… A very intelligent player who knows how to set up his teammates and make good, pro-caliber plays.”
NBA Comparison: Jalen Rose/Boris Diaw
In 140 Characters Or Less, The Case For Anderson: