NBA Position: SF
General Information: 20 year old Sophomore, played at UCLA. From North Bergen, New Jersey
Measurables: 6'8.5", 230 lbs, 7'2.75" wingspan, 8'11.5" standing reach
2013-14 Season Statistics: 14.6 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 6.5 APG, 1.8 SPG, .8 BPG, 3.1 TPG (33.2 Minutes per contest) - 48% FG, 73.7% FT, 48.3% 3P, 56.6% TSP
Summary: Kyle Anderson is one of the more unique players in the class, due to his length, feel for the game, passing abilities, improved shooting stroke, and lack of NBA level speed or verticalility. Anderson posted fantastic stats and insane efficiency levels last season for UCLA, and if he had even average NBA athleticism he'd be in contention for a top selection. As he is, any NBA team that selects him will get a gifted offensive player who will be a serious liability on defense.
Offensive Breakdown: Getting the bad out of the way here first: Anderson is a slow player. He lacks good foot speed, a quick first step or leaping abilities. No hyperboles here-his nickname since middle school has been "slow-mo". He didn't participate in the drills at the NBA combine, but there would have been big men that ended up with superior court sprints/no step vertical numbers.
When you watch him on the court, he plays with a rigid, precise style to compensate for his athleticism issues. The best way I've seen him described was in a fantastic piece by CBS Sports' Matt Norlander that has stuck in my mind; he "thrives off adjusting pace" and "dupe(s) opponents into rhythms and body positions... It's not just about speed, but the angles" (Do yourself a favor and read that whole piece).
The best part about Anderson is that he knows his issues and was very successful offensively in his sophomore year because he learned to work around his limitations. What he lacks in speed, he helps make up for in length-his 7'2.75" wingspan and 8'11.5" standing reach is tops in the class for small forwards. He knows how to use his length in the post against smaller defenders, and became adept at fading away and using the extra distance his arms granted him to get jumpers off.
Anderson saw significant improvement last year on his jumpshot; he went from shooting 41.6% from the floor his freshman year to 48% last year, and from 21.1% from three to 48.3%. While the improvement is impressive, it is important to note that Anderson shot just 58 threes total last season. That's a whopping 15.4% of his shot total, so there are questions whether that sample size will carry over into the NBA (remember Derrick Williams, anyone? At least he shot 74 threes).
Anderson has a very slow release, but he made it work against better leapers thanks to his length. He'll have a more difficult time with his jumper against the lengthier NBA defenders, but he's comfortable with any method of shot. He constantly used the fadeaway, but also took a lot of shots off the dribble and was still effective.
The most unique part of Anderson's game is his point forward abilities. He has been molded since a young age for the point guard position, and UCLA took advantage by letting him run the show last year. He averaged 6.6 assists per game, which translated to 7.9 per 40 minutes - best among those at any position in the class likely to get drafted. His assist rate of 34.3% was tops for small forwards and better than Tyler Ennis, Elfrid Payton and Marcus Smart. He's a natural passer and a very unselfish player who almost never missed a chance to find a teammate cutting to the basket.
Despite the fact that he pretty much handled the ball exclusively for UCLA (with moderate help from freshman SG Zach LaVine), his usage rate was only 24.1%, less than Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. Turnovers were a problem for Anderson; he averaged 3.1 a game, and while that still lead to an impressive 2.1/1 assist-to-turnover ratio, this will be a problem in the NBA.
Defensive Breakdown: Anderson is a poor defender aside from his ball-hawking abilities. He produced a nice 1.8 steals per game and almost 1 block per contest thanks to his length; he became increasingly good at realizing when he needed to flick his massive limbs at his opponents to poke the balls away.
Unfortunately his steal rate (3.1%, tops for the SFs) is pretty much the only positive for him defensively. His lack of athleticism is far more noticeable on that end, and he often got regulated to defending the opponents non-scorers. He's not quick enough to stay in front of most small forwards, and often caved when forced into the paint by bigger players. Far too often on the perimeter, opponents blew right past him without any trouble.
For all the effort he's put into adapting his offensive style to compensate for his athleticism, he'll need to put that effort into working on his defensive instincts. He is not close to NBA ready, and any team that takes him should have a well-established defensive team already to help cover up his issues.
The last big advantage Anderson has is on the boards, where his length and instincts helped him snag 8.8 rebounds a contest. His 25.5% defensive rebounding rate was better than many power forward/centers in the class; better than Julius Randle (24.7%), Aaron Gordon (19.3%) and Doug McDermott (17.8%). Again, he won't have the same success when he plays bigger, lengthier opponents, but it isn't an problem like his defense is.
Intangibles: Fit will be a big issue for him in the pros; his coaches will have to determine just how to use a point forward who has grown up with the ball in his hands. In his freshman year at UCLA, Ben Howland didn't play Anderson as the team's primary ball-handler and his play suffered because of it. This season, Steve Alford let him run the show and he produced fantastic statistics. Would Anderson accept playing a more traditional wing role?
Fit with Sacramento: I don't believe Anderson would be a great fit in Sacramento. He'll have trouble creating offense like he did in college when he has to compensate to quicker NBA defenders, and the sample size on his long-range shot is troubling. He'd give the Kings another willing passer with a great feel for the game, but even under Michael Malone defined roles weren't always clear. How would they use a point guard in a unathletic forward's body when he's had the ball in his hands most of his basketball life?
In my piece on Dario Saric, I discussed the benefits offensively of adding a point forward (a mutually unathletic one at that) to the Kings roster, but where Saric is a firey defender needing muscle mass, Anderson isn't a tough defender and needs far more growth than muscle. There are plenty of unathletic defenders in the league who have found success, and to survive in the NBA, Anderson needs to work on his defensive instincts and toughness. I'm not sure the Kings could handle adding another poor defender.
I do believe Anderson will have success in the league. Plenty of teams could compensate for Anderson's weaknesses: the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs always need smart offensive minds, and both have the talent defensively to cover for him. He'd be best on a team with well-defined roles that can give him one immediately; for his sake, I hope Anderson falls to a team that can develop him properly.
His offensive skills and intelligence will make him stick in the NBA, but I do think his lack of athleticism and poor defense will keep him as a role player. How successful he is as a role player will hinge on his defensive improvement, and on continued three-point shooting success. His future NBA team will have a multi-tooled weapon, but on who comes with well-defined weaknesses and question marks.