With the start of the NBA preseason a couple of weeks away, many fans and NBA media members are taking this time to discuss potential team rotations and speculate on how players will be able to succeed in their assumed roles. Many pundits are talking about how the Minnesota Timberwolves roster will mesh this upcoming season after their big offseason.
While their most notable offseason move was trading for Rudy Gobert, the Wolves also rounded out their roster. In adding guards Austin Rivers and Bryn Forbes, the Wolves solidified some of their depth, as well as by adding CJ Elleby and Eric Paschall. These players could make key contributions this season. Still, signing Kyle Anderson was perhaps the most intriguing and possibly most impactful move the Wolves made, aside from adding Gobert. Anderson signed a two-year contract with the Wolves this offseason, and he has the potential to become a sixth man of the year candidate.
As a 6’9″ point forward, Anderson has showcased his ability with the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies. He not only plays on the wings and off the ball. He also brings the ball up the floor and acts as a primary distributor. In his last five seasons, Anderson has averaged close to 3 assists per game and only around 1 turnover per game, an efficient assist-to-turnover ratio.
Anderson will play alongside some great offensive talents in Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns, and one of the most efficient scorers at the rim in Gobert. Therefore, he will have high-quality options to set up outside and inside the paint. Even on the second unit, Anderson has good three-point shooters in Rivers and Forbes to distribute the ball to. He also has an inside/outside option in Naz Reid to run some pick-and-roll action with.
Suppose Chris Finch allows Anderson to serve as a primary facilitator coming off the bench, dividing his minutes playing with the first and second units. In that case, Anderson could average 4-5 assists per game. That would arguably make him one of the more effective and notable assist men off the bench in the league.
Anderson has been a decent rebounder, averaging over 5 rebounds per game in four of his last five seasons. Anderson has also been an effective defensive player, recently averaging over 1 steal per game. He can switch on the perimeter with his length and agility. There is no reason to think these skills and numbers will decline for Anderson in Minnesota. That could be the foundation for his case as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate this season.
Of the last five Sixth Man of the Year winners, the rebounding and assist average per game has been roughly 4.3 and 3.9, respectively. Therefore, Anderson’s numbers could fall right in line with those of some of the more recent winners of the award.
His defense, rebounding, and assist capabilities could all make a compelling case for Anderson’s Sixth Man of the Year candidacy. However, a few things will likely have to improve for Anderson to undoubtedly be a contender in this year’s award race.
One is his scoring numbers.
Anderson has shot a decent field goal percentage thus far in his career (47.6 percent). However, his points per game averages have not been too high relatively. During his last four seasons in Memphis, Anderson has averaged around 8.5 points per game. That’s not bad for a role player’s standards, but the Sixth Man of the Year usually goes to players with higher scoring averages than that.
Over the last ten seasons, the Sixth Man of the Year has averaged close to 16.5 points per game. Some winners have averaged only around 15 points per game, such as Lou Williams and Jamal Crawford in the mid-2010s, but the Sixth Man of the Year often has a slightly higher scoring average. However, with this Wolves team, there is potential for Anderson to average higher scoring numbers. He will likely get open looks due to the high defensive attention on Ant and KAT. He’ll also get chances on the offensive glass or in transition with one of the better fast-break teams in the league.
Minnesota’s team success will also factor into Anderson’s Sixth Man of the Year candidacy. Many experts are speculating that the Wolves will be one of the better teams in the West this upcoming season. However, they have not finished in the top 4 in the West standings since 2004.
Of the last 12 Sixth Man of the Year winners, ten were on teams that were the fourth seed or higher in their respective conference. There have been a few outliers. However, most of the winners come from teams that performed well and were among the top of their conference. The Wolves will likely have to finish towards the top of the West for Anderson to have a shot of becoming a legit Sixth Man of the Year candidate.
As we wait and see how this Wolves team will all come together, there is reason to believe that Anderson will have a significant role. If Anderson increases his scoring and the Wolves meet people’s expectations for this season, it could potentially open the door for him to become one of the premier sixth men in the league.