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2020-21 Memphis Grizzlies Player Preview: Kyle Anderson

“Is Slo Mo better than No Mo?”

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Memphis Grizzlies v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Kyle Anderson has been quite the conversation starter amongst Grizzlies fans. Some value his length, skill, intellect and versatility. While others see him as an outdated small forward playing out of position as he fills in for an injured Jaren Jackson Jr, whom is still recovering from his knee injury suffered during NBA Bubble play. Which one is he? Only his play will define that, but hopefully his shot has improved to be reliable. He needs “extendo clips” aka extended range on his burner.

Kyle Anderson is certainly more so a glue guy than anything close to a star; however he is truly a unique build to find today as a “Playmaking Defender,” but it’s certainly proving useful. His ability to play 1-4 on offense and defense, play point-forward, and virtually elite level defense are what rendered him the 4-year deal he signed with Memphis over two years ago. However, if his shooting doesn’t prove to he consistent, this maybe his swan song as a member of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Justin Lewis mentioned in Jaren Jackson Jr’s player preview that the likes of those who play the position many want Jaren to ultimately play which is Center. He mentioned how most of the centers on the contending teams are not even top 3 options, such as Javale McGee, Dwight Howard, PJ Tucker, Dwight Powell, etc. On the other hand “Trip J” whom is clearly at least the #2 option for Memphis. Well some may beg to argue that Kyle Anderson is the polar opposite in comparison, especially when you consider the wings on many the contending teams are possibly the best options on the team or certainly top 3 when you realize that consists of Kawhi Leonard, Luka Doncic, LeBron James, Paul George, etc.

Can Kyle make due without a jumper, or is there no getting around the fact that Kyle starting signals the need for a serious upgrade in wing players on this team?

2019-20 Season Review

Kyle Anderson played 67 games last season and started 28 of them. In 19.9 minutes per game, “SLO Mo” averaged 5.8 points 4.3 rebounds & 2.4 assists per game. He shot 47% from the field, although he only shot 28% from three-point territory, so he only attempted 1.3 three-point attempts per game — which made him a non shooting threat despite his efficient but misleading field goal percentage. So the question is, “Can he finally upgrade his range extender badge?” If he can do so, Kyle becomes the ever interchangeable player for Memphis.

Projected Role

“Slo Mo” is currently projected to fill in as the starting power forward until Jaren returns. That being said, it’s certainly not a sure thing with the recent influx of forwards on this season’s roster. Anderson offers modern-day versatile defense, his understanding of the game, as well as his length & skill. Such a resume has made him somewhat of an analytics darling, despite his inefficiency as a shooter. Can his very solid ability as a “Playmaking Defender” keep him ahead of bigger guys whom are also more of shooting threats, such as Jontay Porter, or Killian Tillie? Will Brandon Clarke finally translate his second-unit dominance amongst the starting lineup, or is he destined to be a “Super Sub?”

Another role we should see Kyle play at least in spot time is “Point Forward.” Kyle averaged over two assists per game despite playing less than 20 minutes per game and doing so as a forward. That screams playmaker, sound awareness, selflessness if nothing else. Kyle gives Ja essentially a facilitating point guard in a modern-day forward’s body. This allows Ja to play some off ball and focus on scoring either as a slasher or the truly improving shooter (35%+) he is expected to be.

Again, if Kyle’s 2020-21 preseason showing is any indication of what he will bring this year, then we have an evolved version of “Slo Mo.” That my friends is a pretty solid piece that should contribute to a lot of wins this season. The crazy thing is, Kyle can serve as ALL of these roles on a consistent basis, making himself a player hard to bench and finally able to prove he can sustain what his per-36 minutes projections and current preseason play has indicated.

2020-2021 Memphis Grizzlies Content Day Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

BEST CASE SCENARIO

“Slo Mo” in best case becomes a hybrid of Tayshaun Prince & Nic Batum. Such serves as a very versatile forward and pretty productive shooter (2-3 three point makes per game) option to help form a “Second Scoring Option by committee” commission with the others to assist Ja in the bottom-line stat of points scored specifically stretching the court. He would also serve as a primary defender in the lineup who will help on switching, while also being tasked with being a defensive pest to the likes of the LeBron James’ and Anthony Davis’ of the world whom both play the positions Kyle will mostly see minutes at.

WORST CASE SCENARIO

Worst case scenario will probably be injuries that keep “Slo Mo” out of the lineup. Another worst case scenario (not as bad) would see Kyle Anderson becoming a “Great Value Draymond” but certainly still a serviceable player as long as he’s healthy. His versatility and experience alone will make certain of it. Thing is, how long can you play him if his shots aren’t falling and defenses are adjusting accordingly?

2020-2021 Memphis Grizzlies Content Day Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

OVERALL EXPECTATIONS

“Slo Mo” is expected to be a veteran glue guy who has become an efficient shooter(37%+). He will never be asked to score even close to 20 points per game, but he will be expected to get half way there as long as he’s playing starter minutes.

He’ll be asked to play everything from point guard, primary defender, switchable defender, defensive leader, to spot-up shooter and veteran expertise with winning experience. Kyle makes around nine million in salary, so if he meets expectations, he is a bargain in expense. If not? Then it’s likely “Slo Mo” is not better than “No Mo” or at least with that price tag. Head Coach Taylor Jenkins will rely on Kyle to be the missing link (aside from a major scorer of course) at all times. Consistency and an extended shooting range (20-25 ft) will serve as the final and only missing Infinity stone for Kyle’s career.

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