Kyle Anderson has been a solid role player for the Memphis Grizzlies this season. Frankly, if a person were to analyze his box score for this season, he or she may not be inclined to agree with me. However, if a person has watched how Anderson utilizes his minutes, an argument that he should have more minutes — or even a starting role — could be compelling. It is certainly worth asking the question.
In a recent post Thinking Outside the Box[Score], I highlight the value of intangibles and credit Kyle Anderson with being a prime example of adding unquantifiable value. In the preseason, I wrote a post on what fans should be able to expect from Kyle Anderson if he is healthy:
“Fans know this is a season that will look more like a laboratory of development than a grind toward the playoffs, so that should buy Anderson some grace to heal at his pace. If healthy, fans can reasonably expect consistent effort on both ends of the floor from Anderson.”
The Grizzlies are 34 games in to the regular season with a record of 13-21. Anderson does not often score a lot of points. In fact, he has scored over 10 points in only five games and only two of those games were wins.
What Anderson lacks in points, he typically shows viability in other areas. For example, in the Grizzlies’ win against Charlotte, Anderson only scored 5 points but earned 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block and 1 steal. Just because Anderson is not doing any one thing remarkably does not mean he isn’t doing a lot of things effectively.
But what about the effort that does not lend itself to the box score? Whether it is Anderson’s swipes at the ball on defense, effort to snag the rebound of his own misses, or ability to poise himself among fast-paced game flow, there is no shortage of examples of Anderson passing the “eye-test.”
The juxtaposition of Anderson’s slow, deliberate style of play against the Grizzlies’ newfound fast-paced schemes can be disruptive to defenders who are pacing their defense faster than Anderson, enabling him often to make smart, focused shots or passes.
The Grizzlies are not even halfway through their regular season, so adding more minutes to Anderson should he remain healthy is a low-risk proposition. Last season, Anderson averaged nearly 12 more minutes than he is averaging now, shot over 54% from the field, averaged 5.8 rebounds, 0.9 blocks and 1.3 steals.
What the box score does confirm is that Anderson’s efforts show up everywhere. He is adding value on offense and defense. The eye test only bolsters the notion that Anderson has a bonafide basketball IQ, invaluable work ethic and a hustle that does not rely on speed.
The Memphis Grizzlies ought to utilize as many “knowns” as possible during this rebuild. We are learning in real time the value of players like Ja Morant, Brandon Clarke and Jaren Jackson Jr., and they have done a wonderful job of exceeding expectations. That said, and health concerns aside, weaving in the veteran Anderson to provide a stabilizing presence is a good gamble for a team with the bandwidth to gamble and flexibility to pivot and try something different. While the Grizzlies have Anderson, they should maximize his value and give him more minutes.