Kyle Anderson is the leading candidate to snag the spot Marco Belinelli vacated in the San Antonio Spurs rotation, but Gregg Popovich must be prepared to adjust the lineup if the second-year player struggles during the 2015-16 season.
Anderson seems to be the ideal choice to replace Belinelli, considering the Spurs spent their 2014 first-round pick on the UCLA product. However, even after a year of seasoning, it’s unclear if Anderson is ready for a full-time spot.
Yes, he was named the 2015 NBA Summer League MVP after racking up 21.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.9 blocks per game in Las Vegas. Anderson was the key to San Antonio ultimately winning the tournament, but the competition was largely players who will never be a fixture on an NBA roster.
The 6’9″, 230-pound athlete displays a pass-first offensive mindset, but Manu Ginobili is the primary ball-handler of the second unit. Anderson doesn’t have the shooting range to play 2-guard or small forward and isn’t physical enough to contribute as a stretch 4.
Additionally, there’s no denying Anderson struggled defensively last season.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, Anderson managed an ugly 107 defensive rating in 26 appearances with the Austin Spurs of the D-League. Perhaps the soon-to-be 22-year-old has improved his skills on that end throughout the offseason, but there’s no way Anderson is suddenly even an average defender.
San Antonio must figure out ways to hide Anderson. The Spurs successfully did with Belinelli, but the Italian atoned for his shortcomings on the offensive end, and Anderson might not be capable of that quite yet.
With that being said, Anderson recognized during Summer League that his role will be much different when he joins the big club. Following a 21-point performance, per Steve Carp of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Anderson said:
"It’s nice, but that’s not what they’re going to ask me to do once the season starts. I’m trying to get my shots in the context of our offense and not force anything. I don’t want to pick up any bad habits here."
Nevertheless, there’s a difference between occupying a role that doesn’t require scoring and failing to provide a scoring threat. San Antonio doesn’t need Anderson to score double digits, but he can’t be a non-factor, either.
Popovich will likely be patient with Anderson. The Spurs have so much talent on the roster that “Slo-Mo” can struggle early on and keep his spot in the second unit.
But if Anderson cannot break out of a slump, Popovich needs to consider dropping from the 10-man rotation to a nine-man lineup that focuses on a mixture of Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Tony Parker, Ginobili and Mills in the backcourt.