NBA Draft Expert's Notebook: Projecting NBA Road Ahead for UCLA's Kyle Anderson

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterJanuary 30, 2014

UCLA's Kyle Anderson (5) celebrates after scoring while being fouled by Southern California's Roschon Prince (not shown) as Southern Cal's Byron Wesley, right, looks on during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, in Los Angeles. UCLA won 107-73. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

Is this guy unique or what?

Kyle Anderson has to be considered one of the tougher prospects to peg with one of the more debated NBA outlooks. You either love him for what he has or you're turned off by what he doesn't. 

He's blowing up in his sophomore year at UCLA, emerging as your best nightly bet for a triple-double.

Credit that to the mismatch he presents as a 6'9'' starting point guard. And it's no gimmick—it's his true position, and he's pretty darn good at it. 

Anderson ran the point in high school, where he was a national standout and a McDonald's All-American. 

But despite his success and natural feel for the position, recruiting services all ranked him as a small forward. 

That's because of one glaring flaw in his makeup that's kept scouts from comfortably settling in. 

Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

Anderson is slow. They call him "Slow-Mo." And slow is concerning, especially when you consider the speed at which the point guard position, or any position, is traditionally played at in the NBA.

UCLA played him at the wing in his first year, alongside veteran point guard Larry Drew II, who was getting 35 minutes a game.

Anderson wasn't overly impressive. He clearly lacked the quickness and scoring repertoire to really generate much offense on his own. And without a threatening outside stroke, he was essentially more of a passing specialist than a scorer or playmaker. 

At this time last year, Anderson wasn't mentioned much in the NBA discussion. 

But with Drew II graduating last season, UCLA would eventually turn the ball over to Anderson, who's now running with his opportunity as the team's primary ball-handler. 

Take a look at the numbers he's putting up now compared to what he put up as a freshman:

Averages, Shooting percentages
FG percentagePointsReboundsAssists3PT percentage

It's hard to ignore numbers like these—especially when they're coming from a 6'9'' natural point guard against quality competition. 

Anderson went for 15 points, 10 boards and seven assists against Duke on December 19, and he finished with 16, 11 and six against Arizona on January 9. 

He really has sensational vision and passing instincts, to go with a tight handle and command of the ball. Anderson has a good feel for facilitating in the half court, whether he's running the pick-and-pop, driving-and-dishing or just making the simple pass that finds the open man. 

(via ESPN)

He operates at his own pace out there, and he sees the court exceptionally well. 

Even though it sometimes looks like he's got cinder blocks tied to his feet, Anderson's hesitation dribble is timely enough to keep defenders on his hip.

And with his height, he's able to easily see and play over the defense.

He's even improved dramatically as a shooter—after making only eight three-pointers his entire freshman year, Anderson has now hit 18 through 20 games. He's also been sharp in the mid-range, which is fairly significant given he doesn't get to the rack all that often.

But regardless of the strides he's made or the strengths he's developed, the question is whether they translate without the speed or athleticism to go with it. 

The argument against Anderson actually starts at the defensive end. With below-average lateral quickness, he won't be guarding opposing point guards, that's for sure. And without much strength, athleticism or explosiveness, he'd likely have a target on his head as a wing defender. 

There really isn't a defensive position that can hide his weaknesses. Anderson might be versatile on offense, but he's a tweener on defense. 

Offensively, you have to wonder whether his lack of breakdown burst will prevent him from creating or getting to his spots, both as a point guard or a small forward. And though his jumper has improved, it's still no sure thing. He's making less than one three-pointer a game, and he doesn't have the most confident release. 

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 22:  Kyle Anderson #5 of the UCLA Bruins shoots against the Morehead State Eagles at Pauley Pavilion on November 22, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.   UCLA won 81-70.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Anderson is like that favorite shirt you have, only there's a stain by the collar that could ruin its swagger. If nobody notices, you're money. But if it gets exposed, you probably wish you'd worn something else. 

That stain is Anderson's underwhelming athletic ability and poor foot speed. Will it offset his offensive versatility? Or is this a flaw he'll be able to get away with?

It's a question scouts and general managers will be asking themselves from now until June 26. 

If you ask me, I just don't see how he makes it as an NBA small forward. He doesn't have the game built for that position. I'm either taking him as a point guard or I'm passing for someone else. 

Anderson has that rare gift of basketball vision and passing instincts. And it seems like a crime to play him at small forward, where he won't be able to maximize that talent. But given his weaknesses, it's just tough to project whether they'll keep him playing the position he's been comfortable in since high school. 

I wouldn't reach too high on Anderson, but the risk should be worth the reward somewhere later in Round 1. Consider him one of the ultimate boom-or-bust prospects in this year's field. 

Scout's Take 

"I honestly don't see him lasting more than a few years in the league, though I've talked to other scouts that really like him," one scout told me. "I just think his offense will take a step back once he gets to the NBA, and his inability to defend is really going to hurt him."

As I mentioned earlier, you either love this kid or you have no interest at all. The ones that love him are fascinated by his size and versatile offensive game. The ones that don't—they fear his defensive outlook and that his offensive game won't translate. 

"He’s a guy with a unique and intriguing skill set," one scout told Bleacher Report's Jason King. "The problem is this: How many NBA players do you know who are slow, which he is, other than standalone, knock-down shooters, which he isn’t?"

2014 NBA Draft Big Board
1Joel EmbiidKansasCFreshman
2Jabari ParkerDukeSF/PFFreshman
3Andrew WigginsKansasSFFreshman
4Dante ExumAustraliaPG/SG1995
5Marcus SmartOklahoma StatePG/SGSophomore
6Noah VonlehIndianaPF/CFreshman
7Julius RandleKentuckyPFFreshman
8Zach LaVineUCLAPG/SGFreshman
9Gary HarrisMichigan StateSGSophomore
10Doug McDermottCreightonSFSenior
11Rodney HoodDukeSFSophomore
12Tyler EnnisSyracusePGFreshman
13James YoungKentuckySFFreshman
14Dario SaricCroatiaSF/PF1994
15Jerami GrantSyracuseSF/PFSophomore
16Nik StauskasMichiganSGSophomore
17P.J. HairstonTexas LegendsSGJunior
18Willie Cauley-SteinKentuckyCSophomore
19Aaron GordonArizonaSF/PFFreshman
20Adreian PayneMichigan StatePFSenior
21Nick JohnsonArizonaPG/SGJunior
22Vasilije MicicSerbiaPG1994
23Glenn Robinson IIIMichiganSFSophomore
24Montrezl HarrellLouisvillePFSophomore
25Wayne SeldenKansasSGFreshman
26T.J. WarrenNorth Carolina StateSFSophomore
27Kyle AndersonUCLAPG/SFSophomore
28Sam DekkerWisconsinSFSophomore
29C.J. WilcoxWashingtonSGSenior
30James Michael McAdooNorth CarolinaPFJunior
Bleacher Report

Heatin' Up

Andrew Wiggins, Kansas, 6'8'', SF, Freshman

Wiggins has now gone for career highs in back-to-back games, after scoring 27 against TCU and 29 against Iowa State. 

Confidence and rhythm clearly play a major role in Wiggins' game—one made jumper usually leads to another. And before you know it, he's making plays all over the floor. 

He's getting to the line, converting from outside and ultimately asserting himself offensively, something he struggled to do earlier in the year.

The key for Wiggins is sustaining his hot play. Because at the end of the day, if there's one thing keeping him from No. 1 on the board, it's offensive inconsistency. 

LAWRENCE, KS - JANUARY 20:  Andrew Wiggins #22 of the Kansas Jayhawks takes a free throw against the Baylor Bears in the first half at Allen Fieldhouse on January  20, 2014 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Nick Johnson, Arizona, 6'3'', PG/SG, Junior

Johnson has been the engine that's making the No. 1 team in the country go. Not only is this kid one heck of a player, but the intangibles he brings to the table just can't go understated. 

Against Stanford, Johnson stepped up and nailed the go-ahead three-pointer with less than a minute on the clock. He's the type of kid who isn't afraid to put a team on his back, which only enhances the appeal surrounding his skill set and supreme athleticism. 

He's averaging 16.7 points and 2.5 assists on a terrific 49.4 percent shooting. With world-class athleticism, a 38.7 percent three-point stroke and dynamic playmaking ability, I can live with the risk that's attached to 6'3'' shoot-first combo guards. 

We've recently moved him into the first round of our latest 2014 NBA mock draft.

Coolin' Off

Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, 6'4'', PG/SG, Sophomore

It's not going to affect his bulletproof draft stock, but Marcus Smart hasn't been on his A-game lately. He's made just 10-of-39 shots over his last three games, two of which resulted in losses. 

Smart even lost his cool at one point against West Virginia when he decided to blast a mean karate kick at an empty chair on the bench. 

Smart's shooting consistency also continues to suffer, but it's ultimately the intangibles he offers as a leader and competitor that will allow general managers to overlook his statistical blemishes.

Sam Dekker, Wisconsin, 6'8'', SF, Sophomore

Dekker didn't look very sharp in a brutal loss to Northwestern, finishing just two-of-nine from the floor. He shot three-of-nine the previous game, and he's now made just two of his last 16 three-point attempts.

Though considered an excellent athlete and skill player, he's only shooting 30.1 percent from downtown, and he's not much of a one-on-one threat. If Dekker declares, I'd let someone else reach on him.  

Update Overseas

Vasilije Micic, Mega Vizura, 6'5'', PG, 1994

Micic is expected to be a potential first-round candidate this June, as he's having a terrific season abroad for Mega Vizura. He's recently coming off one of his better games of the year, going for 18 points and seven assists in a 16-point win over Zadar.

Micic is a crafty pass-first point guard—he's currently ranked No. 3 in the Adriatic League in assists.

Though not the quickest or most explosive player, it's his size and feel for the position that should help neutralize his athletic limitations. He's our No. 4 point guard on the 2014 draft board. 

Clint Capela, Chalon, 6'9'', PF/C, 1994

The big man from Switzerland has been making waves overseas—through 10 Eurocup games, he's averaging 11.2 points on a ridiculous 71.8 percent shooting. He actually just played his best game in France, where he made all seven of his shots for a season-high 18 points, to go along with nine boards in a win over Strasbourg. 

Capela is a physically overwhelming athlete who does just about all of his damage on the inside. NBA teams looking for interior presence and a long-term international project will have Capela highlighted on their draft boards.

Fourth-Quarter Thoughts

  • P.J. Hairston has been going off in the D-League—after dropping 40 in his second game, Hairston answered with 45 more in his fifth game, finishing 16-of-16 from the line and 5-of-10 from downtown. At 6'6'', he's physical, athletic and can really shoot the rock. If Hairston checks out during pre-draft interviews, he's got the talent to sneak into the back end of the lottery.
  • Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis continues to power the Orange through conference play. After taking over down the stretch against Pittsburgh and igniting a second-half run against Miami, Ennis went for 18 points, five boards and four assists in a hard-fought win at Wake Forest. He's running the offense, attacking for points and shooting 40 percent from downtown. We've recently moved Ennis up into our 2014 lottery.
  • Julius Randle was shut down by LSU, finishing just 3-of-11 from the floor for six points and five boards. Defenses have started adjusting to Randle's physical, bullying style of play. And Randle has struggled to counter. With short arms and minimal spring as a stand-still jumper, Randle has trouble scoring against length. And he only has eight steals and 16 blocks total on the year. Without the ability to impact games defensively, and some question as to how his offense will translate, he's taken a slide down our big board, right behind Indiana's Noah Vonleh
  • Chris Walker has finally been cleared (first reported by ESPN's Jeff Goodman) for his first action of the year, with his debut expected to come Tuesday night against Missouri. Walker is a freak athlete at 6'10'', which is what ultimately drives his upside as an NBA prospect. We'll find out soon enough if he has the game to match it. He's got a month to flash first-round promise before deciding whether to return or declare. 


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