One of the biggest enigmas in the 2014 draft, Kyle Anderson is the 6’9″ power forward who wants to be a point guard. The UCLA sophomore has generated a lot of positive and negative buzz because although he’s devoid of any athleticism and can’t guard a street lamp, he possesses a unique floor vision and passing ability for a player his size. Couple that with an above average dribble skills and you have a player unlike any other. In fact, only three players come to mind when you combine passing and ball handling ability with a larger frame: The Great Magic Johnson, LeBron James and recent NBA champ Boris Diaw.
OK, OK I know I’ve gone off the rails a little, trust me I’m not saying Anderson’s going to run the point like Magic or dominate like LeBron. He probably won’t ever be an all star or even the best player on his team. But in the right system and position, he could be incredibly valuable, like one ex-Bobcat bust who just played a significant role in getting the Spurs their latest title. Like Diaw, Anderson played mostly point guard at a younger (and shorter) age. But a growth spurt allowed him to transition to forward. Also, like Diaw, Anderson already possesses a nice stroke and mid range game, helping him to average almost 15 points a game off of 48% shooting for the Bruins last season. What Anderson does even better than Diaw at this point in his early career is shoot the three ball. His 48% three point shooting last season on 28 of 58 shots was a remarkable improvement from his awful freshman year averages of 21% on just 8 of 38 three’s. From that stat alone it’s clear that Anderson has some room wiggle room for growth along with the confidence to get better.
In a recent post by SI’s Seth Davis, several anonymous NBA scouts noted that Anderson may have the highest basketball I.Q. in the entire draft and an “elite” passing ability. They also noted how bad a defender he is, but c’mon lets not beat a dead horse here. Lets look at what the kid could bring to the table for, oh….maybe the Charlotte Hornets.
It just so happens that the Hornets feature a player in their starting line up much like Anderson who recently opted out of his contract: Josh McRoberts. Not hating on McRoberts, I really like his game and enjoyed every minute of watching him play (when he wasn’t chucking) but lets think about this. McRoberts opting out means that he’ll probably ask for at least $5 million in the 2014-15 season. But if the Hornets let him walk and draft Anderson, they’ll only have to pay $997,300 in his first season, saving about $4 million. Considering MJ’s aspirations to land another high quality player (a la Al Jefferson) in free agency, every penny saved helps.
Whats more, although he will have a big learning curve, Anderson has a much higher ceiling than the 27 year old McRoberts and maybe a better fit for what the Hornets are trying to do with the “point-forward” like postion he plays. Heck, Anderson is probably already a better passer than McRoberts (avg. 6.5 assists per game last season at UCLA) and a better three point shooter. Everyone who watched the Hornets last season knows that one of the biggest weaknesses of the team was three point shooting (23rd in the NBA at 35.1%) and the tendency for defenses to crash the Jefferson post party when three’s weren’t draining. Well, Anderson and whomever the Hornets take with the 9th pick (please be Nik Stauskas; that’s another post for another time) would go along way towards breaking up that flash mob down low.
So when you’re watching the draft this Thursday night and the Hornets are on the clock at 24, maybe instead of the obvious prayers for P.J. Hairston or T.J. Warrern, try showing some Carolina love to the big guy out west…because he maybe the right player in the right system who like Boris Diaw helps make the Hornets into a playoff contender.