Just a week and a half after a big hire and a week and a half before the NBA Draft, the focus of Utah Jazz fans has been on the recently signed coach Quin Snyder and the possibilities surrounding their early lotto pick. With that in mind, the continuously rebuilding Utah Jazz also have another opportunity to add to their young core with the 23rd pick.
Earlier this spring I took a glance at Clemson wing K.J McDaniels, one of the potential options for the team’s late-1st round pick. I noted that McDaniels was able to be extremely effective because of his long, lanky frame and his impact on both ends of the court. That description applies similarly to our next prospect.
Today, we move across the country from Clemson to the California coast for an up close look at UCLA guard Kyle Anderson. Previously a supporting player around teammate Shabazz Muhammad, who came to the NBA last year, Anderson stepped into the limelight this year and was able to elevate his game in a more defined and important role in the Bruins’ rotation.
When you first examine Anderson’s stat-line, you can definitely see that he’s a complete 180 turn from the other draft eligible forwards. As a 6’8″ forward with an extremely solid 7’2″ wingspan, Anderson acted as UCLA’s de facto point guard despite his small-forward-type frame. Anderson’s height gives him an advantage as he utilizes his natural traits to tower over the opposing defenses, making plays and reads that a normal point guard couldn’t.
Besides his work as UCLA’s main distributor, Anderson is able to use his size advantage to improve his own offensive efficiency. While he didn’t test off the charts as the most explosive or athletic forward, he’s still able to work his way from the perimeter to the rim. The 6’8 forward is also able to utilize his 7’2″ wingspan as a tool in his solid post-up game.
While he has an extremely slow, quirky release that really isn’t the most appealing sight to behold, his shot is still effective. Despite a limited amount of attempts from beyond the arc (1.9 three point attempts per 40 minutes), Anderson connected on an extremely efficient 39%, a major improvement from his freshman year when shot 21% on 1.5 attempts per 40.
Anderson’s size is an advantage on the defensive end, too, where his long arms can disrupt passing lanes and swarm ball-handlers. Among eligible players in this year’s draft class, Anderson sits in the top 10 in steals with around 1.8 steals per game.
With that in mind, Anderson’s lack of athleticism and quickness definitely hinders his potential as a perimeter defender. While his size may be enough to keep him stationed in front of a handful of smaller guards or forwards, he does have a bevy of issues guarding on the perimeter. That lack of quickness has definitely hurt him, as Anderson really struggles to get in that ideal position to keep his opponent from penetrating to the rim.
While his wingspan has helped elevate his post-up game on the offensive end, defending the post is another issue. Anderson has had his troubles on the defensive end – despite his wiry frame, he still struggles to hold his own against stronger, more athletic forwards.
As Anderson prepares to transition to the NBA, a question for the Jazz at #23 will be about his possible fit inside Quin Snyder’s system. Like I’ve previously mentioned, Anderson’s main job during his stint with UCLA was as their main distributor despite his prototypical small forward build. While Anderson will still be extremely unique when he’s in the NBA, his overall offensive game may present a short-term obstacle.
Even though Anderson became more efficient as an perimeter shooter during his sophomore season, he may have some difficulties at the next level because of his slow and quirky release. His extremely high release point combined with his wingspan could make his shot nearly unblockable, but it could present some challenges. With that in mind, the former Bruin is able to penetrate to the paint despite not being the quickest or most athletic player. Anderson is crafty at slithering his way through the opposition to get to the rim or the charity stripe.
With the Jazz duo of Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams heading into free agency, there could be potential openings at Utah’s small forward position. While Anderson is a pretty raw prospect and not without his flaws, he could potentially fill a crucial role for Utah. Because of his unique skill-set, Anderson can certainly help as a main distributor on the team’s 2nd unit. By being aligned with young, up-and-coming bigs like Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert, he could show his ability to work the ball inside when he’s not creating some potential mismatches with his own size and length.
However, Anderson would probably have to start out his Jazz career as the second or third scoring option of a bench unit behind potential subs like Alec Burks, Kanter or whoever else winds up coming off the bench based on the Jazz’s offseason moves. Meanwhile, Anderson’s defensive issues could be mitigated to some degree by playing alongside a more established defender like Burks, who has become a solid defensive backcourt presence. Besides Derrick Favors and potentially Rudy Gobert, the Jazz currently don’t have a dominant front-court defensive presence, which might lead to potential issues if Anderson isn’t able to control his end of the perimeter.
While Anderson’s flaws are evident, he can still make an impact on the future of the Jazz organization, thanks largely to his unique ability to be an elite distributor for his size. Despite his lack of athleticism or quickness compared to the other forward prospects in this year’s draft, Anderson was still able to produce on a consistent basis at UCLA. While he may initally struggle at the pro level, being surrounded by the Jazz’s other talented youngsters could help lighten the load for the up-and-coming Anderson.