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Keeping it real with Kyle Anderson

It is all about fit...and Memphis is no longer it.

Memphis Grizzlies vs Brooklyn Nets Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

Kyle Anderson is a very good basketball player. He is somewhat among unicorns in a modern NBA supposedly full of them, a 6’9” point forward who is able to impact and provide winning plays without the need to score or run the floor as an elite athlete. His footwork and high-level basketball IQ make him an asset for any team that he plays for, making up for any foot speed he may be lacking. He is playing about as well this season under a new head coach in Taylor Jenkins as he did under the previous head man, J.B. Bickerstaff.

In fact, according to Jenkins is using the 6’9” Anderson - an excellent defender, especially on switches on the perimeter - more in what may be his best position given his skill set as a “traditional” power forward than Bickerstaff did.

2018-2019 Kyle Anderson: 29.8 minutes per game, 54.3% shooting (26.5% from three), 13.4 points per 100 possessions, 9.7 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 2.1 steals per 100 possessions, +3 net rating (110 offense, 107 defense), 12.8 Player Efficiency Rating, .100 win shares per 48 minutes.

2019-2020 Kyle Anderson: 19.3 minutes per game, 49.3% shooting (25.8% from three), 13.7 points per 100 possessions, 10.5 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 1.9 steals per 100 possessions, +2 net rating (111 offense, 109 defense), 13.0 Player Efficiency Rating, .095 win shares per 48 minutes.

The main difference? Shooting percentages (which are indeed drastically worse, perhaps due in part to Kyle’s return from his shoulder injury). Everywhere else, though, Kyle is comparable or better.

So why is this article about ways to trade Kyle Anderson? Because the other main difference is in minutes played per game.

When Anderson was signed, Memphis was in a very different place. Bickerstaff was head coach. Chris Wallace was calling the shots. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley were still on the roster, and the team was re-committing to defense and the idea of “Grit and Grind”. Anderson fit that mold and then some, while also providing some creation skills for others as a dribbler - something that was in short supply for Memphis then.

Atlanta Hawks v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The team now looks a lot different than the one Anderson signed with in the summer of 2018. The 2018-2019 Memphis Grizzlies were 30th in the NBA in pace (96.6) and 25th in three point shots attempted per game (28.9), so the fact that Anderson is nicknamed Slo-Mo in terms of his speed and is not a three point shooting threat did not hurt him in terms of value to Memphis. His career 30.7% performance from beyond the arc was not as important as his defensive versatility. The Grizzlies continued to lean in to going against the NBA grain...and that ended not so well.

Then, the front office overturn occurred. Bickerstaff/Wallace and others were gone from their posts and a new direction was initiated. The Grizzlies are now 7th in the NBA in pace (102.8), and while Memphis is still 25th in threes attempted (31.1) they have increased their desire to create space via perimeter shooting. That will only grow as players that will likely be with the Grizzlies long-term, such as Ja Morant (2.4 threes attempted per game), De’Anthony Melton (2.3 per game), and Tyus Jones (1.9 per game) take more shots. Even Justise Winslow, who has yet to play a minute for Memphis, will probably be chucking it close to four times a game when he does indeed debut.

The third and fourth leading overall three point shot takers for Memphis this season (Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill) are no longer Grizzlies. Those attempts need to be filled and even grown upon, and with Winslow more than likely becoming a starter Anderson’s role in the new-look Grizzlies comes more and more in to question.

That is what happened when Crowder and Hill were here - those two got more run than Anderson did despite most statistical information suggesting what everyone should know. Anderson is a better basketball player. Yet Hill and Crowder, who in particular has played 14 fewer games as a Grizzly than Anderson yet still has played almost 200 more minutes than Kyle has so far this season, were preferred by Jenkins. The proof is in the playing time.

Memphis Grizzlies v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The writing is on the wall. While players like Marko Guduric likely aren’t longed for Memphis, perhaps Kyle Anderson isn’t either. The good news? The bench and releasing him aren’t the only options. Remember, Kyle can play. This isn’t about a bad player/contract. This is about the world around Anderson changing, and the fit no longer being ideal.

So when searching for a trade partner for Anderson, Memphis should take in to consideration the team that Kyle signed to be a part of almost two years ago. That means possible suitors should fall under the following categories-

  • Roughly bottom third of the NBA in pace
  • Roughly bottom third of the NBA in three point shots attempted
  • Roughly top third of the NBA in defensive efficiency

If you prioritize these three areas, you can sell a team (probably a good team, if they’re close to the top-10 in the NBA in defensive efficiency) on strengthening an area they’re already near elite in without going against what makes Kyle good. Anderson, whether as a starter or reserve, could prioritize initiating offense as a point forward and defending multiple positions both around the rim and on the perimeter. He doesn’t have to be something he isn’t meant to be.

There are, thankfully, five teams in particular that fit this bill. Here are the three that make the most sense, with two honorable mentions.


Oklahoma City Thunder: Tied-22nd in NBA in pace (100.9), 27th in NBA in threes attempted (29.3 per game), tied-9th in defensive efficiency (106.6). Dennis Schroder is the only player that could potentially make sense contract wise. OKC isn’t trading him for Kyle Anderson, and Memphis shouldn’t lose assets to get him. Not a fit.

Philadelphia 76ers: 12th in NBA in pace (101), 21st in NBA in threes attempted (31.6 per game), 7th in defensive efficiency (105.5). It would be difficult to make money match outside of Josh Richardson, who the 76ers acquired in the Miami Heat trade involving Jimmy Butler. Mike Scott and Zhaire Smith for Kyle Anderson strangely feels like too much from Philly and not enough for Memphis at the same time. Closer than the Thunder, but still not quite there.

3. Denver Nuggets: 29th in NBA in pace (99.6), 26th in NBA in threes attempted (30.4 per game), tied-12th in defensive efficiency (107.1)

Denver Nuggets v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Denver is cash strapped. Between Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris, the Nuggets have roughly $82 million committed. That is less than ideal. Given the current world situation and the uncertainty regarding the salary cap, the Nuggets may have genuine interest in shedding some money. Anderson would fit with the unselfish Nuggets like a glove, and his ability to defend at a high level could make the Nuggets a top-10 team in that regard relatively easily.

An easy exchange in terms of money matching would be Anderson and a 2nd rounder or two from the Grizzlies for Will Barton, but Denver loves Barton and likely would prefer to have his proven offense on a championship contender than wait and hope for Gary Harris to turn around. The Grizzlies have a large trade exception from the Mike Conley trade that expires this summer, and between that and the ability to match contracts via restricted free agency with De’Anthony Melton this summer...

Gary Harris from Denver for Kyle (give or take a 2nd rounder or two from Memphis) to clean up their books some may help both sides. Harris is struggling, and a change of scenery may do him good. If he doesn’t? He is off the Grizzlies books in the summer of 2022, right as the likely Jaren Jackson Jr. max extension kicks in. Still, Harris - a career 36% three point shooter - provides depth on the wing and a potential home run threat if he returns to form, despite the money owed to him.

The unlikeliness of Denver parting with either of these players for Kyle (Barton is too good, Harris got paid for a reason - this season may be an aberration) makes them third on this list. But they fit the profile...and Harris’ decline is intriguing as a possible buy-low candidate.

2. Orlando Magic: Tied-26th in NBA in pace (100.6), 19th in NBA in threes attempted (32 per game), tied-9th in defensive efficiency (106.6)

Orlando Magic v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

This could perhaps be the best option if you are of the mind that the Grizzlies should still be in asset acquisition mode.

The Orlando Magic currently have Al-Farouq Aminu under contract through 2022, the same length of the Anderson deal. Aminu is due to make $9.7 million in 2020-2021 and $10.1 million in 2022. In 18 games this season for the Magic before his injury (torn meniscus), Aminu posted near career-worst numbers across the board, including a nightmareish .018 win shares per 48 minutes. Aminu of course is better than that, but he is 29 and coming off a knee issue. Anderson is 26, and is about $600,000 cheaper over the life of his contract than Aminu is. Kyle is younger, taller by an inch with a similar wingspan, and brings a more complete offensive skill set to the table for Orlando in terms of facilitation and legit point forward talent.

What is that worth to the Magic?

If the answer is a 1st round pick - say on draft night 2020 the Magic offer Aminu, their 2020 2nd round pick (#45 currently) and a heavily protected 1st rounder that becomes two future seconds if it doesn’t convey - the Grizzlies should consider. Anderson doesn’t fit what Memphis is doing, and maybe Aminu doesn’t fully either. But if he comes back healthy he’s a better three point shooter than Anderson (33.5% career shooter) and was a solid contributor for Portland, his previous team before Orlando. If he rides the bench, the Grizzlies at least got more assets out of a player they move on from they can tag on to a future acquisition.

This isn’t the most fun option. Aminu isn’t as good as Kyle. But another pick - and in this case two or three - comes to Memphis, and assets should remain a priority despite the rebuild being ahead of schedule.

1. Indiana Pacers: 23rd in NBA in pace (100.8), 30th in NBA in threes attempted (27.5 per game), 6th in defensive efficiency (105.4)

Memphis Grizzlies v Indiana Pacers Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Grit and Grind, eat your heart out.

Two very good bigs in Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner. Strong point guard play from Malcolm Brogdon. T.J. Warren and Victor Oladipo (when healthy), the wing scoring presence of Jeremy Lamb, the great coaching acumen of Nate all adds up to great basketball. The Pacers are one of the best teams in the NBA that literally no one talks about, and they could potentially make some noise in the postseason.

Yet one player sticks out like a sore thumb. He’s a tremendous scorer, especially from range, but Indiana doesn’t necessarily care about that as much (dead last in threes attempted) and all the players mentioned above have a better defensive rating than this man, who is dead last on the roster in that area.

Doug McDermott. AKA Dougie McBuckets. Indiana’s Kyle Anderson in terms of fit.

Make him Dougie McGrizzly.

Anderson and a future 2nd round pick (or even two) for McDermott makes sense for both sides. Dougie is an excellent three point shooter (44.5% conversion - 5th in the NBA - on 265 attempts) and while he isn’t a stud defensively by any stretch, he can slide in to those stretch four minutes that Anderson once inhabited. Kyle, meanwhile, can serve as a point forward for the Pacers and create for the Lambs, Oladipos, and Warrens of the world - players whose offensive skill sets are more vast than McDermott’s.

Memphis loses out on Kyle’s versatility and ball skills, but they gain an elite shooter. They lose draft picks, but not the Utah or Golden State prized possessions. Between Melton, Winslow, Morant, and Jones, the Grizzlies have ball handlers to spare. They could use shooting. McDermott provides that - and his contract expires in 2021, meaning even more money freed up for that strong free agent class if the Grizzlies want to try to be players in the market when Gorgui Dieng’s deal and Justise Winslow’s team option come up. If not, McDermott’s game won’t break the bank to re-sign, and he has an elite skill that for 16-20 minutes of game could help Memphis a good bit.

Kyle Anderson is a victim of circumstance. The folks that signed him are either gone completely or in reduced roles. It is a whole new world in Memphis, and Kyle’s place in it is uncertain at best and quickly evaporating at worst. The reality of the situation is that Anderson, while still a solid NBA player, now holds more value playing elsewhere in the league that he does in Memphis.

The question is - where...and when?

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