As the last pick in the first round of the 2014 NBA draft, Kyle Anderson has odds to beat.
Often, first-round Mr. Irrelevants have steeper hills to climb and more talent limitations to overcome than their lottery-selected classmates.
However, the UCLA point forward is currently standing where many talented San Antonio Spurs players once stood before. Unwanted on draft night, a good number of the team's selections have gone on to make names for themselves, surpassing expectations with each passing year.
Though Anderson did slip on draft night—he was generally expected to be picked in the early 20s—he's in an ideal situation when it comes to beating the odds.
He might not be the next best star, but there are legitimate reasons as to why San Antonio fans are pegging Anderson as the next great Spur.
Anderson established himself as a unique player during his time in UCLA due to his diverse repertoire and varied talents.
As a 6'9" point guard, the sophomore was unlike any other player available in the draft. What he lacks in athleticism, strength and speed, he makes up for with an aptitude for distributing that is rare among other prospects of a similar stature.
He can run an offense with the poise of an NBA point guard, using his exceptional passing ability and first-rate court vision to improve the games of his teammates as well as his own.
From a pure intelligence standpoint, Anderson is one of the brightest members of the 2014 draft class, and his in-game instincts and intangible strengths should help him transition well into the NBA.
As a scorer, Anderson is hardly the prettiest offensive player out there, though he certainly is efficient. While he won't stun a crowd with a breathtaking dunk, he can find his way into the paint with ease, using his 7'2" wingspan to dominate smaller opponents inside. His strength as a passer adds to his status as a dangerous inside player and a dual threat who will keep defenses on their toes.
His shooting has improved through his college career, with his field-goal percentage hovering just under the 50 percent plateau after his sophomore year, while his efficiency from deep clocked in at 48.3 percent during his second season, over double his average from his freshman campaign.
He has the unique skills to make a name for himself on any team, and in San Antonio—a team that values the very characteristics that have helped Anderson's name gain national attention—he'll have the chance to utilize his special tools in an ideal manner.
Simply having the talent and intangibles can only take a player so far.
Every player-team marriage is a two-way street. Just as the player is expected to contribute to the franchise's success, the team is expected to foster the player's growth.
San Antonio, as mentioned earlier, could not be a more perfect fit for Anderson.
Having already brought out the best in Boris Diaw, the team will have the opportunity to do so again with Diaw 2.0.
The Spurs offense is structured around ball movement along the perimeter, driving and dishing. Anderson's passing is top-notch, and his improved shooting ability will put him in a good place to succeed as a role player.
He'll likely receive limited minutes at first, but the team's current weakness in regard to its frontcourt depth should ensure that he has the necessary opportunities to gain experience in his early years.
Should he succeed, he'll likely find himself among a handful of other youngsters who will lead the team into the post-Tim Duncan era.
Overall, though, Anderson landed with the team whose culture values his strengths, as well as the one whose current roster situation will allow him the maximum opportunity to mature as a player while also receiving ample playing time out of the gate.
If nothing else, Kyle Anderson certainly has history on his side.
Being a late draft pick often puts you at a disadvantage when it comes to making a name for yourself, but San Antonio players tend to perform relatively well.
From the future Hall of Famers in Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, to the role players who outplayed their draft status—George Hill, DeJuan Blair, Tiago Splitter and Kawhi Leonard—San Antonio has a penchant for finding needles in haystacks and Anderson may very well be a part of a larger trend.
Whether it's good scouting or simply a culture that brings out the best in players—or, likely, a combination of the two—the Spurs have worked wonders in the past, especially with prospects who excite the fanbase from Day 1.
Anderson will play under the best coaching staff in the league and alongside some of the Association's best mentors. Even having a guy like Boris Diaw, who has defined the latter half of his career as an Anderson-type player, will be instrumental in helping him reach his full potential.
He's not the most exciting prospect, nor is he the most talented. However, even at pick No. 30, there's no denying that he fell into the perfect situation.
There's a reason he slipped in the draft, but there's also a reason the Spurs defied their usual habit of stocking their bundle of foreign talent. Anderson was a no-brainer selection, and it's not too often that a team has the opportunity to work with such a unique player.
As a whole, the Spurs are known for working wonders. They turned an unwanted shooting guard—Danny Green—into one of the best three-and-D players in the league. They transformed a waived big man—Diaw—into one of the most valued performers at his position. They even turned an unknown overseas prospect, whose name was mispronounced on draft night, into an NBA legend.
Now, with a unique skill set and an ideal situation, Kyle Anderson may very well be San Antonio's next great project.
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