More than twenty games into his Grizzlies career, Kyle Anderson seems to have established his role for Memphis. He is a versatile, above average defender who has decent rebounding and passing ability but struggles as a shooter. He is someone who is valuable despite his flaws being easier to identify than his strengths. However, with a style of play that is based in defense and outside the box score contributions, it can be hard quantify his value at times.
With the type of investment Memphis made in him, it is easy to see why many fans may be frustrated with his production. Anderson his limited athleticism and scoring ability, something that makes it very hard to succeed in today’s NBA game. He also does not have a dynamic skill, such as rebounding that stands out on a nightly basis. Without the counting stats to support the amount of minutes he gets, it seems Anderson may be labeled more of a disappointment than a success.
This is what makes him perfect for the Grizzlies, and the Grizzlies perfect for him. The franchise has seen this story before, and it was a successful one.
His name is Tony Allen.
To cull the immediate responses of outrage, let me preface that statement with this understanding: Kyle Anderson is not Tony Allen. While they do share some similarities, there is one key difference. ony Allen, like few players can, had a personality that could change the direction of a game in one play. He truly is one of the most beloved Grizzlies in franchise history. Few other players have the connection Tony Allen does with Memphis in NBA History.
The emotion and passion he played with, and the connection it had with his teammates, was fascinating. Numerous times, especially in front of his home crowd, the Grizzlies were able to pull off wins due to the momentum Allen caused with a clutch play, especially on defense.
This is where Kyle Anderson differs from Allen. Anderson seems to be a quiet personality with little emotion, even to the point of being labeled as boring. His play also reflects that as well. When Allen was on the court, his antics made sure people knew where he was at all times. He deliberately made sure of that. When Anderson plays, there are times you forget he is on the court. If Allen is passion personified, Anderson is poetry in slow motion.
Beyond their personalities, Allen and Anderson are quite similar when looking at their production from a statistical perspective. For their careers, Tony Allen has a career true shooting percentage of .529, while Kyle Anderson has produced a .534 mark. This is greatly aided by the fact both players have taking a vast majority of their shots inside the arc. For their career, 91.2% of Allen’s shots and 86.4% of Anderson’s shots have been two pointers. The reason for that is because Allen and Anderson combined have only made 33.4% of their career shots beyond 16 feet from the rim. In other words, neither player is much of a scoring threat away from the basket.
Per 36 minutes, Allen has averaged 13.3 points per game while Anderson has averaged 9.5 points per game over their careers. However, per 100 possessions, Anderson has produced an offensive rating of 108 versus Allen’s 103. The difference is a confirmation of how Anderson adds value with his basketball intelligence. For their careers, Anderson has a career usage percentage of 13.2% and assist percentage of 13.7%, while Allen produced marks of 18.7% and 9.6%. Allen has averaged 10.6 shots per 36 minutes, while Anderson has averaged 7.9.
While Anderson has been used less, he made better decisions with the ball. He passed more and shot less, which has led to his team having a better chance to score. Thus, he has produced a higher scoring output for his team when compared to Allen.
Anderson clearly has the edge on offense, but Allen clearly was the more elite defender to this point. If you need any proof of that, ask Kobe Bryant or ask Jamal Crawford The career defensive ratings for Allen and Anderson are 100 to 102, respectively. However, Allen has played nearly 3 times as many career minutes, and several more seasons as a starter. In the last season plus getting starter minutes, Anderson produced a rating of 101 and 105 last year and this year respectively.
The statistical strength of both players’ defensive ability is steals. Tony Allen is one of only 9 players (one of which is Brevin Knight) in NBA history with a steal percentage above 3.3% with more than 18,000 career minutes played. Both players are among the 5 active players who have played at least 5,000 minutes, have a career defensive rating of 102 or lower, and have averaged 2.5 or more steals per 100 possessions. Statistics show that when on the court, Anderson and Allen both consistently make a difference on defense.
The defensive value both players add is the biggest reason they were able to stay on the court. Yes, at times with both, it as seemed like the Grizzlies were playing 4 against 5 when on offense. However, the extra possessions created from Allen’s and Anderson’s ability to create turnovers helped minimize the liability of their offense.
As mentioned above, Kyle Anderson is not Tony Allen. TA was a role player who, because of the passion he played with and the connection he had with his team and his city, developed the reputation of a superstar. However, like Tony Allen, Anderson’s skill set is more valuable through the Grizzlies style of play than it would on most other rosters.
They both fit the Grizzlies team concept because their strengths as individual players enhanced the Grizzlies’ strengths as a team. No one will ever replace Tony Allen in the hearts of Grizzlies fans. However, the near decade experience with Allen should help fans’ appreciation for Kyle Anderson grow into the future.
Stats provided by basketball-reference.com.