In his four seasons in San Antonio, Kyle Anderson was never the go-to scorer in the Spurs offense. He was always more of a facilitator on the court who made his impact on the defensive side. His numbers were nothing to write home about, as he only averaged 7.9 points per game last year (career-high) and shot a shaky 33.3% from three.
However, Anderson is going into the fifth year of his NBA career. He has room to advance his game with a new team and a new opportunity with the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies will give him a fresh start offensively, and it all comes from the players around him vaulting Anderson to that next level. Throughout his first four seasons, he has never had a point guard of Mike Conley’s caliber. Conley’s style of play has a chance to elevate Anderson’s offense to another level.
Before we get into the X’s and O’s of my reasoning, I do want to address the people who will be quick to mention Tony Parker being a better point guard than Mike Conley. Yes, I do realize that Tony Parker should be a Hall of Famer one day and his credentials are more impressive than Conley, but we are only discussing the time during Kyle Anderson’s NBA career. That realistically only accounts for the past three years since Anderson did not play in many games his rookie year. Also, during these three seasons, he tallied significantly more minutes with Patty Mills and Dejounte Murray than with Tony Parker.
The main difference between any point guard Anderson has ever played with and Conley is the scoring and play making ability that Conley has on his own. He can create off the dribble or shoot from three at will. Conley has defenses on their heels knowing he possesses the ability to beat you to the rim. That is something that Patty Mills does not have and Dejounte Murray has not fully developed yet.
For Anderson, this creates a situation where defenses will have to sag off him more to defend the paint shading Conley, or they will have to switch off and close out if Conley has a chance for a pull up three-point attempt. Now, as it was stated before, Anderson still needs his three-point percentage to come around. In his final year at UCLA, he shot 48.0% on 58 3PAs. Not a huge sample size, but it is still something to prove he has the stroke. The remedy that could help the poor shooting is the separation and the little bit more room he will receive from Conley being the focal point on offense.
There are not many clips of routine Conley assists, but this clip shows a great example of how he could have kicked it out to the corner when Davis Bertans collapsed on his drive to the basket. If he would have passed that to JaMychal Green in the corner, Green would have had plenty of space to gain his composure to make the shot. Hopefully, this could be the case with Anderson as well. His shot can improve with more spacing from the defender which he did not always have in San Antonio.
This space can also be exploited on any pick-and-pop set Memphis could draw up if KA is playing the 4 position. The pick-and-pop, of course, has been the staple of the Grizzlies offense for years with Conley and Gasol. With a greater consistency of made threes, Kyle Anderson could fit nicely and have more chances to shoot open threes.
Anderson also has the basketball IQ to understand these situations and play off ball to find a position on the court to put him in the best opportunity to score. When Conley cuts with the ball, he can stay there and let Conley make that read to distribute the ball for a more open shot than he had before with a less intimidating point guard. Or as we have seen in San Antonio, when the double comes, he always knows to cut to the basket.
Even as that video shows miserable defense from Dwayne Bacon, it does show the basketball smarts by Anderson to cut to the rim after the double. This may seem obvious and easy to say after seeing this clip, but it is a skill not all NBA players possess. In situations like this with Conley, or Gasol as well, it is nice to know that Anderson recognizes where he is supposed to be on the court.
All in all, Kyle Anderson was a constant cog in San Antonio’s system. He played his part and was a solid versatile defender which will translate over to the Grizzlies. Even with that skill set, Anderson has so much more of his talent to tap into. His offense can develop even without having a quick step to the rim. If he can develop a three-point stroke with any kind of consistency, he will turn into a vital 3-and-D player for the Grizzlies.
Mike Conley can help him with this. Anderson has not had this type of opportunity outside of the Spurs system. Conley is a ball-dominant point guard who will draw attention from the defense which will create more space for Anderson to work with. Because of this, Conley could elevate his game to the next level offensively. It could be the perfect situation Kyle Anderson never knew he needed.