Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA
There is nobody else in this year's draft class quite like Kyle Anderson. As a matter of fact, there hasn't been somebody like him in the NBA for a really long time. That makes him difficult to evaluate and project for teams.
The trendy comparison for Anderson is Boris Diaw. While Diaw possesses great versatility, as he just put on display for the San Antonio Spurs on their march to an NBA championship against the Miami Heat, he doesn't have true point guard abilities like Anderson. Also, Anderson can't touch Diaw's skills on the defensive end. So, while there is no perfect comparison for Anderson, he certainly possesses a unique skill set that will get him a lot of looks early in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft. After all, 6'9 guys with the ability to play point guard just don't come around very often.
Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference
UCLA, one of the most storied college basketball programs in the country, oddly didn't get much national publicity last season. This is a shame, because many people missed out on Kyle Anderson until the NCAA tournament rolled around.
Anderson was no longer under the radar after he demonstrated his talent and versatility to the masses in UCLA's first tournament game against Stephen F. Austin, posting a line of 15 points, 5 rebounds, and 8 assists. He followed that with another big-time performance against the top-seeded Florida Gators. Although the Bruins were eliminated by the Gators, Anderson filled up the stats sheet once more with 11 points, 5 assists, and 9 rebounds. A top five defensive team for basically all of the 2013-14 season, the Gators swarmed the Bruins, Anderson included. A 48% shooter from the field during the season, Anderson was held to a paltry 36% on just 4-11 from the field by the staunch Florida defense.
Offensively, Anderson is a joy to watch. He does everything a team could want. He can shoot, create for himself, and create for others. Let's breakdown each of these skills individually.
As a sophomore, Anderson drastically improved his shooting numbers from his freshmen season. An awful 21% shooter from deep his freshmen season, he rebounded during his sophomore campaign, shooting 48% from behind the arc. He only took 58 threes last season (1.6 per game), so his improvement is based off of a small sample size, but if he is able to continue shooting that well in the NBA, he will be a lethal shooter when you add in his size. He has a smooth shooting motion, but the major flaw in his release is just how slow it is. Against bigger and taller defenders in the NBA, that could matter a great deal. If his shot proves easy to disrupt, his good mechanics won't matter. However, his 7'2 wingspan and high release make it unlikely that his slow release will hinder his shooting at the next level all that much. His size will allow him to shoot right over most defenders.
Perhaps the spot on the floor where Anderson is most dangerous as a shooter is in the mid-range. Again, he can shoot over nearly anybody that's thrown at him, and he sinks mid-range jumpers at a high rate. His ability to catch the ball in the post and face up to a defender makes him scary because of his ball-handling ability. If the defender gets too close, all it will take for Anderson to get to the rim is one dribble and a long stride. If the defender sags off, Anderson will just use his height to rise and fire.
When Anderson does put the ball on the floor, options begin to arise. He doesn't possess great athleticism, but his long strides and big body allow him to slash easily to the rim. Defenders in the NBA will be much quicker than PAC-12 defenders, and Anderson's lack of speed might make it increasingly difficult for him to create for himself. Everything Anderson does is slow. If defenders are able to slide over quick enough to cut off his penetration (they will be), he will have to make adjustments and develop moves for his slashing ability to carry over and be effective. However, if his speed doesn't hinder him, his slashing ability would be incredibly useful to the Grizzlies, as they need need shot creators as much as they need shooters, and Anderson fits the bill on both.
Anderson's penetration isn't meant to accomplish getting him a shot every time. More often than not, his drives were to open up the floor for shooters, which UCLA had in abundance. The Bruins essentially played two shooting guards next to Anderson, and he would kick the ball to one of them after he found holes in the interior of the defense. If you're reading this, you likely know the Grizzlies are currently lacking in the shooters department. Slashing becomes far less effective when you don't have guys that can space the floor properly. Driving lanes close up a lot faster, and that could be frustrating for a guy like Anderson whose creating ability is largely dependent on being able to drive and dish or kick.
The Grizzlies have long needed a guy that could be a secondary ball-handler for Mike Conley. Anderson could be that guy. He will most likely need to move over to play small forward in the NBA, but that could make him an ideal fit in the Grizzlies lineup. Anderson's a really good passer, although he still needs to lower his turnover rate. His height allows him to make passes that most guys couldn't dream of making. He probably won't be ready to start his rookie season, especially for a team with championship aspirations. However, in several years, Conley and Anderson could be a scary duo to face. Teams have taken note of how the Phoenix Suns use two ball-handlers in Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, and they will now try to replicate that success because the NBA is a copycat league.
Of course, uncertainties will arise if the Grizzlies draft Anderson to serve as a secondary ball-handler to pair with Conley. First, Conley doesn't have much experience playing off the ball. He might be great at it, but that would be a gamble for the Grizzlies. Also, Anderson needed the ball in his hands all the time at UCLA to do his work. He won't get that luxury on a good NBA team, and he will need to adapt. Given the Grizzlies narrow window and the work Anderson still needs to be a major contributor in the NBA immediately, he might not be the best selection for the team.
Defensively, Anderson's lack of quickness is a concern. If matched up with a great athlete, he could struggle on both sides of the ball. Against the likes of Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Nicolas Batum, Chandler Parsons, and Andre Iguodala among other small forwards he will have to face if drafted by the Grizzlies, will Anderson possess the sufficient lateral quickness to be able to contain those guys? That's a valid question, and one that doesn't have an answer right now. Additionally, his stance is extremely rigid and upright, as is normal for guys that big. He takes a lot of gambles for steals defensively, and that's not exactly what you want from a mediocre defender. The one thing Anderson has going for him on defense is his size. If he can fill out his frame, he will be able to guard somebody with his sheer size, assuming an NBA team teaches him a proper defensive stance and how to position himself better.
What teams like most about Anderson is his versatility offensively. He's a big with the skill set of a point guard, and his size and dribbling ability make him deadly in the pick & roll. Off the ball, Anderson will be able to be a catch-and-shoot small forward when necessary if his shooting proves no fluke. If a team really wants to create a unique lineup, they can position him at the elbow as the pivot man of the offense, where his passing ability would be very scary for opposing teams in a Horns set. There are countless ways he could be used, and that makes him highly valuable in today's NBA where teams are constantly struggling to outmaneuver opponents with different lineups.
A 6'9 point forward, Anderson is truly the only guy around with that size that can handle the ball as well as a true point guard, which makes him incredibly valuable despite his flaws. He's a true five-tool player that can shoot, create for himself, create for others, rebound, and play a little bit of defense. Rare skill sets are a hot commodity in the NBA, so it is likely that Anderson doesn't make it to the Grizzlies at 22. That's too bad. He might not be the perfect fit on the current Grizzlies squad, but he would find a way to make an impact. Guys with that many skills are tough to stop.