Kyle ‘Slo-Mo’ Anderson led the San Antonio Spurs to a Summer League championship with averages of 21 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.9 assists, winning the MVP of the Summer League along the way. Will his breakout performance allow more meaningful minutes in the upcoming season?
The short answer is no, but Anderson will show once again why the Spurs have one of the best talent development programs in the league.
With a franchise that is consistently in the playoffs, it is not often lottery picks end up in the hands of the San Antonio Spurs. Many teams would package away low end draft picks with an end-of-the-bench talent and some money to try and acquire a productive veteran, but the Spurs like to do their homework and draft players who are perfect for the system they have cultivated.
Signed to a three-year contract, Kyle Anderson was drafted after two productive years at UCLA. The 30th overall pick in the 2014 draft spent more time in the D-League than he did in the NBA his rookie season, but it was all part of the big picture.
Anderson wasn’t drafted to be a franchise-saving player, he was drafted to play his game and thrive in the San Antonio system. He wasn’t discarded off into the D-League because the Spurs couldn’t find minutes for him; Anderson was taught the fundamentals of the system and was sent off to master them in game action that just couldn’t be afforded to him in the competitive Western Conference.
Averaging 40 minutes per game in the D-League allowed Anderson to really develop and become the player Popovich envisioned for him; the crafty, tall, small forward that relied on fundamentals to get to his spots while making plays and opening up passing lanes for the team. Does that sound familiar?
It should, since the Spurs have a player that currently eats up a lot of minutes at the forward position that plays in the same style. Relying more on his skills than athleticism, Boris Diaw (in his 14th year in the NBA) is one of the most productive members of the Spurs. Diaw can knock down open shots, but his biggest asset is his ability to pass and his ability to create. Showing on multiple occasions how important a playmaking small forward is, Diaw is invaluable to the Spurs scheme.
Popovich assigned and recalled Anderson from the D-League eight times during Anderson’s rookie season, to check on the progress of his rookie and to see how well his skills would translate in the NBA. Anderson played 33 games his rookie season, and while he only averaged 10 minutes per game, those minutes provided the organization with priceless information on how the Anderson project was coming along.
Take his rookie averages and extrapolate them out to per 36 minutes, and you get: 7.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.5 steals a game. Now let’s take a look at the aforementioned Diaw’s 2014-15 stats: 8.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 0.4 steals. Eerily similar.
To be honest, trying to extrapolate rebounds and steals are tough to be accurate with such little data.
In the short term, Anderson is going to have trouble finding playing time. The Spurs have geared up for a final couple playoff runs in the Duncan Era, and just looking at the players the Spurs have signed this summer is enough to make them favorites to come out of the West this upcoming season.
This doesn’t matter much to the overall Anderson Project; both parties are in it for the long haul, and the big picture of continued success and tradition is a compelling one for Anderson to bide his time and continue his education from perhaps the greatest power forward of all time.
Anderson is only 21 years old, and the opportunity he has to be in an organization that is invested and cares about his development is rare. Couple that with the opportunity to learn from all time greats in Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich, that is well worth the admission of waiting a couple of years for big minutes in the NBA.
As with everything Kyle Anderson, things come at their own pace. Slow or not, the results will show.