When the good people of Minnesota were settling into their cabins for a Fourth of July weekend on the lake, Tim Connelly and the Timberwolves were preparing an earth-shattering trade that will redefine the franchise for years to come. The Rudy Gobert trade is the biggest win-now swing in Minnesota Timberwolves history. It’s all fans have been talking about for a week. But lost in the hullabaloo around Gobert was the smaller, but not insignificant, signing of Kyle Anderson. The Gobert trade grabbed the headlines and the backlash. But stealing Anderson from the Memphis Grizzlies to bolster a roster that lost three key players in Minnesota’s playoff run last year for 2-years, $18 million is one of the shrewdest moves so far in free agency.
When Wolves ownership hired Connelly as their next President of Basketball Operations, they wanted him to infuse the young team with the hope that they could turn things around. He was the first splash the Timberwolves made in the offseason. Then he made one of his own by trading a king’s ransom for one of the best defensive players in basketball history. But it’s his work on the margins turned the Denver Nuggets into a perennial playoff contender in his nine years in the Mile High City. It will be those same types of margin calls that will transform Minnesota into a mid-market contender.
Slo-Mo slots beautifully in Minnesota’s frontcourt alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and Gobert. He’s a rich man’s Taurean Prince, minus the three-point shot, and a slow man’s Jaden McDaniels. Anderson is a slow-motion Swiss Army Knife who raises the floor of any roster he’s part of. He can unlock potential in this team and help the Wolves make the second serious post-season run in 33 years. Anderson is also a proven winner who has only missed the playoffs twice since the San Antonio Spurs selected him 30th overall eight years ago. Anderson’s role on the Timberwolves will be minuscule compared to the high-flying Frenchman. Gobert will be catching lops from D’Angelo Russell and swatting shots in the paint. Still, Anderson will be the glue that keeps this team together.
Gobert rightfully gets all the accolades for being the defensive Godzilla that he is. The French Rejection has been named Defensive Player of the Year three times and is a six-time running All-Defensive First Team selection. He will go down with the likes of Hakeem Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutombo, and Ben Wallace as one of the greatest defensive centers of all time. However, Anderson is no slouch on the defensive end. At 6’9”, 230-pounds, Anderson is a versatile forward who is, despite his nickname, is quick enough to hang on the perimeter. He’s also big enough to play a small-ball five for stretches when KAT and Gobert are off the floor. The Wolves will need that versatility after they sent defensive aces Patrick Beverley and Jarred Vanderbilt to Utah.
The Timberwolves played pretty good defense last season, finishing 13th in defensive rating, but there are always areas to improve. The downfall of Minnesota’s playoff dreams had something to do with Brandon Clarke grabbing every rebound in sight. The Wolves were 21st in rebound rate and 28th in defensive rebound rate. While Gobert should gobble up most of those rebounds, Anderson will help the Wolves beef up their frontline. He’s not known as an elite rebounder, but Anderson’s rebound rate of 11.5 was bested only by Towns, Vanderbilt, and Greg Monroe in Minnesota last season.
Anderson’s versatility on defense pairs nicely with his fundamental-based offensive game. He almost always makes the right play. Anderson averaged mild numbers with 7.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.1 steals per game last season. Still, he contributes across the board whenever he’s on the floor. Anderson’s 2.6 assist to turnover ratio was third on the Grizzlies and will slot in the middle of the pack in Minnesota.
The only thing Anderson can’t do well is shoot. To be fair, that’s a pretty significant skill to be missing from his repertoire. Anderson is a career 33.4 percent three-point shooter and struggled mightily from the free-throw line last season, making less than 64 percent of his free throws. Anderson’s inability to stretch the floor makes the Gobert trade a little more awkward. However, the Timberwolves gave $224 million to one of the greatest shooting big-men of all time. Therefore, floor spacing shouldn’t be a huge issue as long as Towns doesn’t get the yips.
The Rudy Gobert trade will be the reason the Wolves win a championship in the next few seasons — or hand-deliver the Jazz several valuable first-round picks between now and 2029. But adding Anderson helps round out a championship-level roster. His numbers won’t wow the casuals, and his highlights are stuck in first gear. Still, Kyle Anderson is one of the best under-the-radar free agency signings of 2022.