No one seems to know exactly where Kyle Anderson will fit best in the NBA, which might be seen as a negative in some circles, but that versatility was enough to pique the interest of the San Antonio Spurs.
Gregg Popovich and his staff selected the UCLA sophomore with the 30th pick in the first round of Thursday's 2014 NBA draft, ending months of speculation surrounding arguably the most unique—and difficult to peg—prospect in this year's class.
The 20-year-old floor general enjoyed a dominant individual season in 2013-14, averaging 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 1.8 steals and 0.8 blocks per game. He shot 48 percent from the field, 48.3 percent from beyond the arc and finished with a sparkling true-shooting percentage of 55.2, per sports-reference.com.
According to bbstate.com (subscription needed), the All-Pac-12 First-Teamer finished in the top 15 in the conference in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, assist-to-turnover ratio, rebounding percentage, assist percentage and steal percentage—a remarkable testament to his rare all-around talent.
You just don't often find players with Anderson's makeup—a 6'8.5" ball-handler with length (7'2.75" wingspan, per draftexpress.com), elite passing ability and production to back it up.
Although he mostly ran the show at UCLA, he could conceivably play four different positions. Is he a point guard? Is he a stretch 4? Is he better suited on the wing?
As The Sacramento Bee's Jason Jones noted, he's willing to adapt:
A lack of foot speed and athleticism for the man aptly nicknamed "Slo-Mo" after his deliberate pace soured many scouts and pundits leading up to the draft, but Anderson doesn't see that as a problem at the next level.
"People who really know basketball know that being athletic is not everything you need," he told the Chicago Tribune's Rich Mayor. "(They) see I can play, and that's really what matters at the next level."
Added Anderson, who pairs a crafty "old-man's game" with arguably the best vision and passing skills in this draft to great success, to Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times: "My slow, methodical game wasn't going to work at the college level. (Yet) I pretty much do whatever I want on the court this season."
While Anderson's speed, especially on the defensive end, may be a concern, it likely comes down to how Popovich uses him. He has drawn a lot of comparisons to Boris Diaw, and everyone saw just how valuable the Frenchman was in the San Antonio Spurs' everyone-can-pass system.
There's a pretty high floor here. The worst-case scenario is Anderson becomes a role player—a key cog on a good team who can see over the defense, distribute and initiate offense from anywhere on the court and knock down open threes.
The best-case scenario, though, is Anderson's unique combination of frame and skill set causing major problems for defenders, earning Slo-Mo the distinction as a dangerous playmaker who fills up the box score.
The defending champs continue plugging away with high-IQ athletes who they groom into superstars. Anderson could very well be the latest in a long line of players to reach their potential in the Spurs' system.
Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker won't be around forever, but Anderson, Leonard and the future of the Spurs looks far from bleak.