UCLA’s Kyle Anderson has to be considered one of the tougher prospects to accurately gauge as a draft prospect, as well predict what position he will actually play at the professional level. Anderson ran the point in high school, where he was a national standout and a McDonald’s All-American, but UCLA played him at the wing in his first year, alongside veteran point guard Larry Drew II, who averaged 35 minutes a game.
Anderson wasn’t overly impressive during that first season. He lacked the quickness and scoring repertoire to really generate much offense on his own, and without an effective outside shot, he became more of a passing specialist than a scorer or playmaker.
Kyle Anderson Sr., a high school basketball coach in New Jersey, had spent years molding his son into a point guard. So he was upset when coach Bob Hurley Sr. used Anderson as a shooting guard at St. Anthony High in Jersey City. “I was offended by that,” Anderson Sr. said, and continued to be upset when former UCLA coach Ben Howland did the same thing last season.
But then out went Howland, and in came Steve Alford, and with him came a move back to the point for Anderson. Instead of seeing a player who was too slow or a shooting guard playing out of position, Alford saw something unorthodox but special. Alford said, “He’s very unique. A 6’9″ point guard that facilitates the way he can. He’s a nightmare to match up with.”
Anderson quickly proved his value at the position, and was selected as one of six finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, presented annually to the nation’s top point guard. He also earned all-Pac-12 honors for his efforts. In 36 games Anderson averaged 14.6 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 6.5 APG, and 1.8 SPG while playing 33.2 minutes per game. His slash line is .480/.483/.737. His career numbers are 12.2 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 5.0 APG, and 1.8 SPG in 31.6 minutes a night. His career slash line is .452/.375/.736.
Matt Norlander of CBSSports.com writes that Anderson is unique, and has no match in college basketball. Norlander stated in his article, “Standing 6-feet-9 and playing point guard — and doing it well — he’s the closest thing to Magic Johnson since Magic Johnson. No, he’s not the next Magic Johnson, nor is he approaching Magic Johnson. But a player so tall, lengthy and commanding never gets trusted to run an offense in contemporary college hoops. ”
On KenPom.com (subscription required), the per-possession player stats are tracked and ranked in 15 different categories. Players whose stats fall in roughly the top 10 percentile among players in each category are highlighted in yellow. Anderson’s stat line is yellow in 11 out of the 15. Pretty impressive for a relatively unheralded player.
It’s metrics like that, plus his intriguing size and versatility that has taken him from being just another college prospect and now positioned him as a first-round, and possible late-lottery selection. The scouts are quite divided on where Anderson will end up being taken. NBA Draft.net has him going as high as fifth. Draft Express.com has him going 19th, while both Bleacher Report and CBSSports.com have Anderson being taken 24th. He currently sits 23rd on Chad Ford of ESPN.com’s Big Board.
The biggest knock on Anderson is his speed. His nickname is “Slow-Mo,” and being slower is a major concern, especially when you consider the speed at which the point guard position, or any position, is traditionally played at in the NBA. The argument against Anderson actually starts at the defensive end. With below-average lateral quickness, he won’t have an easy time guarding opposing point guards, and without much strength, athleticism or explosiveness, he’d be open to exploitation as a wing defender. There really isn‘t a defensive position that can hide his weaknesses. Anderson might be a versatile threat on offense, but he’s a tweener on defense.
In college, Anderson was able to use his size and basketball IQ to his advantage. He ranked ninth in the Pac-12 with a defensive rating of 95.4, and his defensive win shares of 206 was good for sixth in the league. Anderson was third in steals with 1.8 per game, and also ranked first in total defensive rebounds with 270. He has the ability and desire to be productive on the defensive end, but whether or not his lack of elite level athleticism will hamper him at the next level remains to be seen.
Offensively, scouts wonder if his lack of breakdown burst will prevent him from creating his own shots or getting to his spots, both as a point guard or a small forward. Despite the improvements he made to his jump shot, it’s still not a reliable weapon. Anderson made less than one three-pointer a game, and he doesn’t have the most confident release, which dampens hope that he can become a scoring threat from outside. An NBA scout said, “I honestly don’t see him lasting more than a few years in the league, though I’ve talked to other scouts that really like him. I just think his offense will take a step back once he gets to the NBA, and his inability to defend is really going to hurt him.”
As with any point guard, his true value will be measured in how well he runs an offense. Anderson is a very strong playmaker. He is very good at finding people in transition, he throws an accurate lob pass, and is effective at throwing outlet passes to facilitate fast breaks. Anderson is also good at recognizing the open man and setting up his shooters. As a ball handler though, he was prone to turnovers, averaging 3.1 per game this year. He was especially vulnerable to being stripped when driving to the basket. More experience running the point could correct these tendencies, but it is something to be wary of.
The final verdict on Kyle Anderson is a complicated one. Natural point guards of his size don’t come along very often, so this alone makes him an intriguing candidate. His lack of speed and athleticism is an issue, especially in the NBA where guards seemingly get faster every year. Anderson has the ability to play multiple positions, which could make him a valuable role-player off the bench. I also see his size and passing ability being a plus in certain systems. The triangle offense is one that requires a “point forward”, and is a role that I could see Anderson sliding into very well. His pre-draft workouts will be especially important to where he eventually gets selected. If he can belay some fears about his lack of explosiveness, he might prove too intriguing a prospect to pass up. I believe he’ll be taken in the 15-22 range of the upcoming draft. If he ends up with a team that runs the right system and exhibits some patience with his development, Anderson might have a future in the league. I just don’t see him becoming an all-star anytime soon.
Note: Kyle Anderson Sr. tells Hoops Rumors that he was misquoted in the USA Today article linked in the third paragraph, and that he loved the multifaceted role that Hurley crafted for his son at St. Anthony. Anderson Sr. said he “never once had a complaint” with his son’s high school coach.