PHOENIX — It sounds like the NBA squad that selects Kyle Anderson just might be able to do what UCLA Bruins coach Steve Alford did when he took over the basketball program last season. Anderson, a 6-foot-9 point-forward, played point guard for the Bruins in 2013-14 en route to averaging 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game.
The player nicknamed Slo Mo lacks the foot speed of most players his own size, let alone NBA-level point guards. A team that picks him in the 2014 NBA Draft faces unique challenges, but there’s a lot he can give after considering what playing him might take from a team.
The Phoenix Suns worked Anderson out as a point guard on Monday, matching him up against California’s Justin Cobbs, an NBA-level athlete. Those two were joined by UCLA big man Travis Wear, Oregon forward Mike Moser, Syracuse’s C.J. Fair and Ohio State swingman LaQuinton Ross.
“It’s a huge advantage if you can be 6’9 and make great passes,” said Suns coach Jeff Hornacek after watching Anderson work out. “What we wanted to see was the speed of him getting up and down the court. Can he play the 1? If he has a little quick guy that guards him, can he get it up the court? We saw some of that today. He knows how to hesitate and use head-fakes and that kind of stuff to get the ball up the court. He’s an intriguing player because of that size.”
In college, Anderson started as the Bruins’ point guard and forced opponents to put their own points on him defensively. There was no other option with two big men, and swingmen Jordan Adams and Norman Powell able to abuse point guards as well.
When the Bruins beat the Arizona Wildcats in the Pac-12 Championship game in March, Arizona coach Sean Miller couldn’t shake what he’d just watched.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a player have 15 defensive rebounds, five assists, one turnover and be a point guard,” Miller said after the game.
So Anderson abused point guards in the post in college, something that matchup-wise may or may not be available as an option in the NBA.
Some mock drafts have Phoenix taking him 14th, 18th or 27th. While Anderson’s plodding may remind some as harmful to the up-tempo offense, Suns general manager Ryan McDonough sees it another way.
“He plays a little slower,” McDonough said, “but you know, not everybody is going to lead the break. And one of his skills he showed here today is just getting the rebound, an outlet pass and hitting ahead on the break, have the wings run under it in transition.”
Anderson’s rebounding totals may have been skewed considering he was playing against point guards who either didn’t box out at all or couldn’t box out. But he does have a good feel and a motor to hit the boards, and that will help ignite fastbreaks for a team like the Suns.
Anderson is long but not athletic, and the team that thinks about selecting him will first have to determine which positions Anderson can guard, then determine if they can cross-match or mask any deficiencies on that end of the court.
“Defensively I think he’s better off guarding the wing guys early in his career,” said McDonough. “He does have the length and intelligence to kind of back off a measure guys and contest shots with the length on the perimeter.”
What helped Anderson improve his draft stock as his sophomore year at UCLA grew old was his jumper, which looked solid on Monday and came with a high release point, McDonough said. Though Anderson only took 1.6 three-point shots per game in college, he showed dramatic improvement in 2013-14 by hitting 48 percent of those attempts, which was up from 21 percent his freshman season.
A lot of where Anderson lands depends on fit.
Pegging him into a role is difficult, but with the right teammates around him acting as stop-gaps to the point-forward’s weaknesses, Slo Mo will likely hear his name called somewhere in the first round on June 26.
“I think he’s a basketball player,” McDonough said. “He’s extremely skilled at that size. He’s very long. He has a unique passing ability and feel for the game that sets him apart.”
Making the guards look bad
Travis Wear, an athletic big man from UCLA, and Mike Moser, a combo forward from Oregon, were the two big men — at least relative to their workout partners — taking part in the Suns’ first workout this week.
Oddly enough, that duo went 1-2 in the conditioning test at the end of the workout.
“Mike was one guy, I don’t think he took a drink the whole workout,” Hornacek said. “Every time I said, ‘You guys go get a drink,’ Mike was at the free throw or something. He’s the one guy we had so far (in the workouts) who actually pressed when we did 3-on-3, picked up the guy fullcourt.”
A fair assessment
Syracuse forward C.J. Fair is not projected to go in many mock drafts but could slip into the second round.
“From the college 3 especially he’s solid,” McDonough said of Fair’s jumper. “Syracuse made a living on that mid-range. In the NBA it’ll be interesting to see, he might be able to play some stretch 4 and some 3 as well.”