For years, the Memphis Grizzlies have tried to right the wrong of the Rudy Gay trade.
Tayshaun Prince was essentially a short-term solution at the small forward position. He was a two-way complementary piece next to the “Core 4.” However, his age and inability to space the floor prevented the Grizzlies from catapulting to “title-contender” status.
Then, the Grizzlies traded for Jeff Green, who was seen as the “missing piece” to title contention — an erroneous decision that surpriseda front offices up until the summer of 2016. He was simply a lackluster addition, as his wild inconsistency prevented him from filling Rudy Gay’s shoes.
Then there’s Chandler Parsons, the most infamous of the 3. Once seen as a top-10 small forward, Parsons was the supposed to be the piece for one last push with the “Core 4” and the third wheel next to Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. Instead, his body has betrayed him, and he’s a shell of his former self.
After signing restricted free agent Kyle Anderson from the San Antonio Spurs, it seems like the Grizzlies are trying to find the “Rudy Gay replacement” yet again. It’s surely not the most exciting pick-up in the world, especially when most Grizz fans and blogboys were anticipating the arrival of Avery Bradley, Will Barton, or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
However, at 24 years old, Kyle Anderson is a solid young player that can help the Grizzlies compete both now and in the future. However, he doesn’t fit the mold of the past Rudy Gay replacements.
What sets him apart from Rudy Gay, Tayshaun Prince, Jeff Green and Chandler Parsons? Is it still good enough for the Grizzlies?
The Grizzlies didn’t risk that much to get him
In the past, the Grizzlies gave up quite a bit for these Rudy replacements.
Tayshaun Prince was a part of the Rudy Gay trade, a move you could say crippled this franchise. It doesn’t ease the pain when you consider the tax-cutting move that ultimately cost them a 2017 first-round pick, which sounds really nice right about now.
The Grizzlies sacrificed a protected first-round pick for Jeff Green, because Danny Ainge is the world’s greatest thief. This trade is a looming roadblock to the Grizzlies’ inevitable rebuild.
We all know what it cost to get Chandler Parsons. $94M over 4 years, and the financial inability to add a legitimate 3rd wheel next to Gasol and Conley.
The price-tag for Kyle Anderson seems kind of high for a guy with his career stat-line (4.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists), as he’s receiving over $37M through 4 years. However, it’s really not that bad when you consider multiple factors.
At 24 years old, Anderson is a starting-caliber player that the Grizzlies have under contract as he enters his prime. For a team looking towards the future, this signing is a nice, savvy move.
His contract isn’t going to destroy the Grizzlies’ salary situation. Next summer, both JaMychal Green ($8.5M) and Ben McLemore ($5M) will be off the books — and Marc Gasol could opt out, which takes his $25M off as well. Chandler Parsons and Marc Gasol will both be free agents in the summer of 2020, leaving Anderson as the second-highest contract on the team. His deal may seem high now, but it won’t prevent them from getting better through free agency.
The cost of the past Rudy Gay replacements have ultimately hurt this franchise, whereas Kyle Anderson is a relatively low-risk move — one the Grizzlies haven’t made in a minute.
More of a Playmaker than a Scorer
Rudy Gay was a high-level scorer that could go out and get 20-25 points each night, with hopes of a random 30-35 scoring outburst. This ability alone made him a hard commodity to replace.
Tayshaun Prince was reaching the end of career when he came to Memphis, and he was never really regarded as a “scorer.” Prior to arriving in Memphis, Jeff Green and Chandler Parsons both could get your team 15-20 points, with the occasional 25-30 point game. However, inconsistency and injuries derailed this from happening in Memphis.
Kyle Anderson won’t be mistaken for a big-time scorer. However, don’t let it distract you from recognizing the impact he could have on the offense.
Last season, he averaged a career-high 7.9 points on an efficient 52.7 percent shooting. He also doesn’t force many 3’s, as he only attempted 57 triples last season. Anderson may not be a lights-out shooter or an athletic, dynamic scorer, but he picks and chooses his spots on the court.
Nothing wrong with that, right?
In addition, Anderson’s per-36 assist numbers (3.5 for his career) indicate his potential as a solid secondary playmaker next to Mike Conley. The Grizzlies have lacked a wing that could ease the playmaking burden off Conley. Now, they have a big, crafty wing that can serve as a “point forward” and find easy scoring opportunities for his teammates.
Anderson’s efficient scoring and deft playmaking make him a valuable commodity for the offense-deprived Grizzlies.
Rudy Gay was never a lock-down defender, but he never needed to be one when “Mr. First-Team All-Defense” Tony Allen was on the court. While Tayshaun Prince was an elite defender, Jeff Green and Chandler Parsons weren't going to slow down or stop the opposing team’s best player.
Green was a good defender in theory due to his size and athleticism. However, in reality, he served more as a matador than a defender.
While he was never a true defensive liability, Chandler Parsons was more of an offensive-minded player for his whole career. You weren’t winning games because of his defense.
On the other hand, Kyle Anderson gives the Grizzlies a versatile, switch-everything wing, something they didn’t have last season. He’s a smart defender that rarely fouls and knows how to pick an opponent’s pocket.
Anderson’s defensive tools also makes life easier for his teammates. Dillon Brooks can now focus on locking down opposing off-guards, and JaMychal Green can be assigned to 4’s — his natural position.
Because of his size, he has no problem either guarding or switching onto big men. Despite the “Slow Mo” nickname, Anderson can stay in front of perimeter players as well. He’s simply someone you can throw in front of LeBron James and Kevin Durant without getting exposed.
Anderson’s defensive versatility makes him a wise signing for a team trying to rejuvenate the culture that yielded an elite defense.
Which leads me to..........
Anderson actually fits “GNG”
Culture is important to a team’s success. When establishing a culture, you have to find players that fit the mindset. You’ve seen it for years with the Spurs, Patriots, and Warriors. The Grizzlies had the “grit ‘n’ grind” mantra on lock, until they let Zach Randolph and Tony Allen walk without finding viable GNG replacements.
Unlike the past Grizzlies’ small forward options — besides Prince — Anderson fits the “Grit ‘n’ Grind” mold.
GBB Site Manager Joe Mullinax illustrated perfectly how Anderson fits the Grizzlies’ culture: a player that zagged as everyone else zigs.
He’s not the wing that’s going to drive down the lane and dunk on your head. He’s not going to wow you with his speed or athleticism. While 3-and-D reigns supreme, he prefers to find more efficient scoring opportunities, even if it comes in the form of the 2.
Anderson’s style of play isn’t pretty — the dude’s nickname is “Slow Mo” for goodness sakes. The process may be ugly, but he’ll make the plays that’ll yield positive results.
Isn’t that what the GNG Grizzlies is all about though? If it is, then Kyle Anderson is a hand-in-glove fit here.
Kyle Anderson isn’t the most glamorous free agent option in the world — even for the Memphis Grizzlies. He’s not even the kind of wing the Grizzlies have searched for in the past. However, Anderson could be what this team has been searching for since 2013: a long-term, reliable starting small forward.