Over the next several weeks, we’ll be breaking down some young players and their fits next to Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant, while addressing the likelihood of them being on the next Memphis Grizzlies playoff team. Parker Fleming covered Josh Jackson last week. Next up — Kyle Anderson.
Kyle Anderson was the Grizzlies’ biggest free agent signing in 2018 free agency. At 6’9” with a wingspan of 7’3”, SloMo has the length to be one of the premiere defenders in the NBA. Although he doesn’t have much of a jumper, Anderson is an interesting piece on offense since he has the ball handling skills and vision of a point guard.
Anderson’s stats from last season (8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.3 steals and .9 blocks per game) can be a little misleading. Although he’s not a high scorer, Anderson takes on a different role than most forwards in today’s NBA, as he does a lot of the little things that simply don’t show up in a traditional box score.
Anderson played in just 43 games last season as he dealt with a shoulder injury that had been bothering him for a few years. Anderson’s last game was on January 30th, and he spent a majority of the rest of the season seeing different specialists to figure out what exactly the issue was with his shoulder. After months of the Grizzlies providing updates on Anderson every few weeks, Kyle underwent shoulder surgery in April.
The shoulder injury is weird, and is certainly worrisome, but the Grizzlies expect Anderson to be a full participant when training camp opens up. Assuming he is truly healthy, how does Anderson fit in with the Ja and Jaren core?
Fit next to Jaren and Ja
With a nickname like “SloMo”, it’s easy to assume Anderson isn’t a great fit with the high-flying Jaren and Ja. However, Anderson could be a nice fit alongside the dynamic duo, should Taylor Jenkins figure out exactly how to use Anderson, which is something JB Bickerstaff never could do.
Kyle Anderson actually fits quite well with Jaren on both ends of the court. Defensively, the length of the two will make it hard for anyone to score (especially if you throw Brandon Clarke out there with them). Offensively, a Kyle and Jaren pick-and-roll has some solid potential. Anderson’s ball handling and playmaking should get Jaren, or others, easy shots out of the pick-and-roll sets. Kyle is also nifty enough as a finisher around the rim to attack the open space left after a ball screen from Jaren.
The fit with Ja isn’t as easy. Kyle will be able to take a little bit of the ball-handling pressure off of Ja, which is something he didn’t have while at Murray State last year. After being a ball-dominant guard at Murray, it will be interesting to see how Ja plays off-ball. If he can become a solid 3-point shooter and slasher, then his fit next to Kyle will be great. If he struggles moving without the ball, then the fit with Kyle will be awkward.
Ultimately, the Ja-Kyle fit can work, but it will definitely have some kinks to work out. Personally, I’m really excited to see how Jenkins can use the Jaren-Kyle fit because it is straight up scary on the defensive end with enough promise on the offensive side of the ball.
Can he be on the Next Great Grizzlies Team?
I suppose the answer to this question would determine on what your definition of “great” is. Kyle can be similar to what TA was to the Grit-n-Grind Grizzlies. He isn’t going to bring you enough to take you over the top, but he’s going to do a lot of things well to improve the floor of your team.
If Kyle is the 3rd best guy on the team? I wouldn’t count the Grizzlies being great, but if they surround a Ja-Kyle-Jaren core with enough shooters, then I can certainly see it. The ball is in Taylor Jenkins’ court to figure out the best way to use Anderson.
In a best-case scenario, Anderson could fulfill the role Andre Iguodala did for the championship winning Warriors for a contending Grizzlies team. Regardless, I don’t see Anderson being anything more than a key role player on a contending Grizzlies team.
Anderson has his flaws, but he’s also going to be just 26 years old when the 2019-2020 season starts. There is still plenty of time for his shot to develop to at least respectable averages. The biggest question mark with Kyle is the weird shoulder injury. Is the issue similar to Markelle Fultz? Or is it just a weird injury that is behind him now? If Kyle continues to have the shoulder pain, he’ll never get his shot right, and I doubt he’s part of any future plans. If he’s finally healthy and able to work on his jumper, then the sky is the limit.
Kyle has the size and basketball IQ to be a key part of future Grizzlies teams, it’s up to Taylor Jenkins to figure out exactly how to use him alongside Ja and Jaren.