In his fourth season with the San Antonio Spurs, forward Kyle Anderson was asked to take on a more prominent role with the absence of Kawhi Leonard.
Two San Antonio Spurs players stood to gain the most from the nagging quadriceps injury that sidelined Kawhi Leonard for all but nine games this past season: LaMarcus Aldridge and Kyle Anderson. Aldridge seized the opportunity to be the Spurs’ cowbell throughout the season and put up some of the best numbers of his career and as a Spur. Anderson, on the other hand, made modest statistical improvements but his overall performance left a lot to be desired from the former UCLA Bruin.
At 6’9”, Anderson has exciting potential on both ends of the court. On the defensive end, Anderson’s length and active hands make him a menace for bigs he’s tasked with guarding. On the offensive side of the ball, despite Anderson’s moniker as “Slow Mo”, he has the handles of a guard that allow him to get to the rim off the dribble with relative ease.
With the influx of minutes available at the small forward position due to the Leonard injury, and a later aliment that sidelined Rudy Gay, Anderson posted career-highs in a number of categories. Anderson averaged 7.9 points per game, more than doubling his scoring output from the previous season, on 52.7 percent shooting from the field. Slow Mo also contributed 5.4 rebounds a game and chipped in 2.7 assists per contest.
While the 2015 Las Vegas Summer League MVP has made some measurable strides during his time in the Alamo City, Anderson’s Achilles heel remains his shooting. Despite his ability to get to the basket as a slasher, his lack of a consistent three-point shot, or even a mid-range jump shot, makes him two-dimensional on offense, especially in half-court sets.
Anderson ranked seventh on the team in scoring, accruing a season total of 585 points. For perspective, Anderson only scored nine more points than 40-year-old Manu Ginobili (576), who played in nine fewer games (65) and 679 fewer minutes than Anderson.
Despite his offensive deficiencies, Anderson was a valuable contributor in several other areas. Anderson ranked fourth on the team in total rebounds (396), total assists (202) and total blocks (60). Further, Anderson led the team in steals (115), ranking 18th in the NBA in that category.
While he has had offensive flurries in the past, most of his offense created comes around the rim as a cutter, within the paint or in transition. Anderson demonstrated his arsenal of abilities against the Golden State Warriors on February 10, 2018, when he registered one of the top performances of his young career. Anderson accounted for 20 points, six rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks against the defending world champions.
With his rebounding ability and passing prowess, Anderson has the potential upside of a Julius Randle-type player. While Anderson doesn’t possess nearly the same level of athleticism, he has the requisite skill set that lends itself to a similar style of play, characterized by impacting the game on both sides of the court.
However, such ascension from a reserve to a key rotational contributor will be predicated on his commitment to improving his shooting stroke. While Anderson may never become a spot-up shooter, improving his shot will keep defenders honest and open up new ways for him to impact the game on offense.
It will be interesting to see what steps Anderson will take during the off-season to re-vamp and re-tool his game as he heads into his pivotal fifth season as a pro. With Leonard’s future in San Antonio still up in the air, Anderson could be asked to shoulder more responsibility for seasons to come.