After spending much of last offseason hearing about how he “didn’t fit” with the new style of play for the Memphis Grizzlies, Kyle Anderson went on to have a career season last year with the Grizzlies. Anderson set career highs in points per game (12.4), assists (3.6), and 3-point attempts per game (3.8). Where Kyle didn’t set a career high, he was typically pretty darn close in areas like rebounds, field goal percentage or steals per game.
It was a breakout season for Anderson, after two seasons in Memphis that were overshadowed by a lingering shoulder injury. Anderson even admitted himself that the Bubble in Orlando in 2020 was really the first time he’d been able to play without the shoulder issues since coming to Memphis.
A healthy Kyle Anderson proved he can do a little bit of everything as a great team player, even if it is at his Slo-Mo pace. Anderson will earn nearly $10 million in the final season of the 4-year deal he signed back in 2018. As an expiring contract, Anderson’s name has been floated around as a possible trade candidate for the Grizzlies who could certainly benefit on selling high off Anderson’s best season as a pro.
While the Grizzlies can likely get a pretty solid deal for Anderson in the trade market, I would actually argue the Grizzlies should hold on to Anderson and sign him to an extension this offseason to lock him in for another 2 or 3 seasons. There are multiple benefits to signing Anderson to an extension this offseason, and I’ll discuss the two biggest benefits below.
(Author’s Note: I’m not going to pretend I can estimate the value of an Anderson extension, so I will be writing under the assumption that if an extension is signed it is a fair deal for both Anderson and the Grizzlies)
The swiss army knife
At 27 years old, Anderson will join Steven Adams as the elder statesmen that figure to be on the Grizzlies opening night roster (sorry, Rajon Rondo!). While the youth movement in Memphis has been fun so far, you need older guys like Anderson in the locker room to help groom Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. into the leaders they can become. Anderson is impactful on the court, but he can also have a major role off the court for the Grizzlies as well. There is certainly a ton of value in that.
Kyle also alters the game in many different ways for the Grizzlies. He’s an excellent defender, both on and off the ball, able to poke the ball away and disrupt passing lanes. His size allows him to guard the 1-4 positions and even some 5’s in certain lineups though that is likely unnecessary with the Grizzlies roster. Offensively, he turned a corner last year showing he can really space the floor well with his shooting. His shot still feels like it takes forever to get off, but with his height and long arms it is still difficult for defenders to get to. He’s also an excellent passer and secondary playmaker alongside Ja Morant.
With Jonas Valanciunas sent off to New Orleans, the Grizzlies are going to need to continue to improve as a team when it comes to rebounding even with Steven Adams in Memphis. Anderson figures to be a key rebounder for this team next season, and theoretically in the future should they sign him to an extension.
Put simply, Kyle Anderson is a swiss army knife of sorts where he can do pretty much anything on the court at at least a decent level. You don’t need to trade guys like that just for the sake of making a trade. That is, unless the right deal comes along...
Better Trade Market
It’s going to be hard to deny that Anderson will likely be subject to trade rumors even after an extension simply because of the value he brings to an NBA roster. As the Grizzlies continue to build into true contenders in the West they should listen to offers on Anderson, but the market figures to be much better next offseason due to such a weak free agency class. Most of the top targets in the 2022 free agent class have already signed extensions with their teams, with guys like James Harden and Kyrie Irving expected to sign their extensions this offseason as well (and also unrealistic targets for Memphis). Signing Anderson to an extension will certainly take them out of max-contract territory next offseason, but it’s not a terrible thing with such a weak class.
Bradley Beal and Zach LaVine are the only two names next offseason that are semi-realistic for the Grizzlies. Beal has a $37 million player option he has a decision to make on after this season, but even if he turns it down he’s shown no inclination to leave Washington despite years of media-driven rumors (and a few weeks of pouting last season). Beal is also eligible to sign a 5-year $235 million deal with the Wizards next summer. LaVine will be an unrestricted free agent, but eligible to sign a massive deal with Chicago once the season is over. It’s also unlikely that Chicago has made all the moves they have made over the last 6 months to let LaVine walk at the end of the season.
With all the big names already off the market, trade activity figures to pick up next offseason as teams retool their rosters to try and win a championship. Having Kyle Anderson on a solid contract extension would help make the Grizzlies players in any trade. He would be a perfect combination of salary matching and talent to send to another team in a trade. Should the Boston Celtics struggles from last season carry over into next year under new coach Ime Udoka, Jaylen Brown could theoretically become available and the Celtics have already been linked to Anderson this offseason.
If health and Rick Carlisle don’t fix the Pacers issues, Malcolm Brogdon could become available and Anderson would be an interesting target for Indiana as part of a trade. There are a handful of other situations out there where the Grizzlies could become players if a team underperforms.
Future moves are purely speculative, as the NBA landscape can change in a flash. Still, signing Anderson to an extension will give the Grizzlies some flexibility while waiting for the big trade to come. Even if the big trade never materializes, or if Anderson isn’t in it, he’s an extremely valuable piece on and off the court for the Grizzlies.