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Making Use of Kyle Anderson

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He may not get buckets, but he’s still useful.

NBA: Washington Wizards at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

PPG — also known as points per game; a statistic that calculates the average of a player’s points over a given number of games.

While that’s probably a general definition for PPG, it’s also a statistic that most fans use to determine a player’s value. People used it to deem Lonzo Ball a bust. Others use it to suggest that a one-dimensional scorer like Andrew Wiggins is better than a more all-around player like Robert Covington.

When the Memphis Grizzlies signed Kyle Anderson to a four-year, $37M contract, many people used the “PPG” argument to validate their dissatisfaction for the signing. He came into this season averaging a whopping 4.9 PPG for his entire career, which is gross to look at in your first glance. If you factor in that his nickname is “Slo-Mo,” you’re completely out on him. However, if you look at his rebounding, defensive statistics, and his metrics, he’s a solid player.

Then the season came.

Clank. Clank. Clank.

It seems like all of Kyle Anderson’s shots have clanked off the rim so far this season. He’s shooting a putrid 38.5% from the field. He’s missed a few layups. Again, the common fan is ready to call his signing a poor move and Anderson a trash basketball player.

Granted, there’s still time for him to bounce back, as the season is only 6 games old and Anderson has a 4-year contract. His shooting numbers will probably rise, as he shot roughly 48% from the field for his career prior to arriving in Memphis.

He will never be a PPG-darling or a 3-point specialist, but Kyle Anderson is still a useful piece to the puzzle. There are so many non-scoring ways he can impact the game, and you shouldn’t think otherwise, because he’s not scoring the ball super well.


Rebounding

I know rebounding isn’t necessarily a glamour stat, but it’s vital to success. The Grizzlies gotten out-rebounded by 36 rebounds combined in their 2 losses this season. When JaMychal Green went down, everyone was worried about the team’s rebounding woes, since he was their best rebounder.

However, Kyle Anderson has filled in and so far in a small sample size has produced in that category just as good as — if not better than — JaMychal Green. In his three games as a starter, he’s averaging 8.3 rebounds, which eases pressure off bigs Jaren Jackson Jr. and Marc Gasol.

Not to mention, with a potent playmaker like Anderson crashing the glass, it opens up the Grizzlies offense. He can immediately initiate the offense off a defensive rebound, which allows guys like Garrett Temple and Mike Conley opportunities to sprint down the court to the 3-point line.

Because of the versatile forward, the least glamorous aspect of basketball might unlock a new, more deadly dimension to Memphis’ transition offense.


Playmaking

Kyle Anderson has also been heralded for his playmaking abilities. In college, he was used as a big point guard. In San Antonio, he thrived as both a primary and secondary playmaker in the Spurs’ first and second units. This skill would be valuable to a Grizzlies’ team looking for more playmakers on the perimeter.

The Grizzlies have had two bigs start around the elbow on offense, and it’s honestly intriguing. With Marc Gasol and Kyle Anderson both operating there, it opens up more opportunities for guys like Mike Conley and Garrett Temple to come off screens or to get the ball from a handoff.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe highlighted a phenomena in his “10 Things” column last week. More players, primarily big men, are passing out of shots in the paint for open triples. It’s a trend that the Warriors made popular, as Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green generated a ton of their assists off it. Anderson has been used in similar situations so far this season:

Since Kyle Anderson is a non-factor when it comes to perimeter shooting, and the Grizzlies have an abundance of 3-point threats on this team, using him in these situations could open up plenty of opportunities for this offense.

Former GBBer Matt Hrdlicka mentioned in his latest Patreon post that Anderson’s usage rate is at 12.5% — the lowest on the team. For the Grizzlies to continue pushing through in the Western Conference, his usage rate should significantly increase, as he’s really the only good secondary playmaker from the perimeter.

He’s a unique talent for the Grizzlies, as he’s a 6’10” forward that has the vision of a point guard. The Grizzlies have to maximize his playmaking abilities, as it can also help cutters and shooters easy buckets.

The Grizzlies haven’t really had a playmaker from the wing like Anderson, and it’d be a shame if they don’t try to capitalize on it.


Defense

Kyle Anderson’s money will be made on the defensive side of the ball. Last season, he was an analytics star on that end of the court:

  • 3rd in Defensive Box Plus/Minus — 4.3
  • 16th in Defensive Win Shares — 3.8
  • 6th in Defensive Rating — 101.2
  • 4th in Steal Percentage — 2.9%
  • 13th in Steals Per Game — 1.6

This season, despite his offensive struggles, he’s been valuable on the less glamorous end of the court:

  • 13th in Defensive Rating — 98.6
  • 7th in Defensive Box Plus/Minus — 4.9
  • 4th in Steal Percentage — 3.2%
  • 20th in Steals Per Game — 1.5

Ok, I’ll take care of this for you before I continue...

Annnnd we’re back!

Aside from the numbers, Kyle Anderson is a valuable defensive weapon for a team looking to regain and modernize its “Grit ‘n’ Grind” identity. He can cover the opposing team’s best perimeter player, when necessary. He’s also big enough where if you slotted him at the 4, he’s a defender that can cause problems in switch situations.

So far this season, Anderson has shown the ability to jump into passing lines and generate steals.

In addition, Anderson can also pick people’s pockets like a thief:

(Isn’t it so fun to see Kyle Anderson rip Grizzlies legend Jeff Green???)

Kyle Anderson might be the most versatile defensive weapon the Grizzlies have ever had — Tony Allen is basically a 1B, because he couldn’t guard big men. Even if Anderson’s offense isn’t quite there, his defense alone is vital for this team’s success, as pairing him with Conley, Temple, Jackson and Gasol can be dangerous for the other 29 teams in the league.

Besides, didn’t the Grizzlies do just fine giving an elite defender that was an offensive liability 25-30 minutes a game?


NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Sacramento Kings Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Anderson isn’t going to be another Tyreke Evans. He’s not going to score 20-30 points on any given night. He’s not going to be a lights-out 3-point marksman like Mike Miller. Honestly, the best thing about his offense is his snail-like Euro step.

The Memphis Grizzlies don’t need him to be either Evans or Miller.

He’s a versatile weapon that can change and revamp the Grizzlies’ GNG identity. His sneaky elite defense gives the Grizzlies’ a good primary perimeter stopper. His superb playmaking allows your best scorer to actually play off the ball, where he thrives.

If you look for big scoring production out of him, you’re going to be disappointed. If you look at what he does in every other aspect of the game though, you’re going to become a VIP member of the “Kyle Anderson Fan Club.”