Timberwolves

Kyle Anderson Does Everything the Wolves Need From A Role Player

Photo Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

After a tough run of 6 losses in a row, the Minnesota Timberwolves have bounced back in a big way and are now on a 4-game win streak. The run has put them firmly back into the hunt for an outright playoff berth in a crunched Western Conference with seeds 5 through 12 all within 3 games of .500. Anthony Edwards has led this encouraging push. He has stepped into a larger role due to a plethora of injuries, done amazing with the increased responsibility, and seemingly established himself as the team’s de facto leader. Taurean Prince‘s return also came at a perfect time when the team needed extra support from their vets. He has brought a much-needed boost in hustle, physical defense, and three-point accuracy.

Kyle Anderson is another veteran who just returned from injury and has been key to Minnesota’s success during their win streak. Anderson has slowly begun to establish himself as one of the most important glue players on the team. His nickname, SloMo, can sometimes feel a little deceptive when you watch him play defense. He can stay in front of some of the hardest-to-guard wings in the league.

He is almost always in the right position to contest a shot and uses his court awareness to quickly recognize when he should leave an assignment to play help defense.

Anderson can also make life miserable for opponents with his nearly 7’3” wingspan. He gets some ridiculous poke-aways from unsuspecting dribblers and grabs balls out of passing lanes that seem open to opponents. Anderson tallied 3 steals in Minnesota’s win over the Denver Nuggets, 4 steals in their most recent game against the Houston Rockets, and averaging 1.2 per game this season.

 

However, it’s not only Anderson’s defense that makes him such an effective player for the Wolves. He also can connect the team on offense. Almost every time Anderson gets the ball off a turnover or in a fast break situation, he is pushing the pace of the team, attempting to get the most out of that fast break.

Whether he’s going coast to coast and using his touch to get a layup around a backpedaling defender or finding a teammate with a head start down the court, Anderson is almost always making the right play. That’s welcome on a roster with so many young players. Anderson can even pull off the Hail Mary pass from one end of the court to the other when one of his teammates burns the entire defense, like Jaylen Nowell did on this play.

In general, good passing and the ability to create shots for teammates have been one of the most important things Anderson has brought to the Wolves this season. While he’s only averaging 3.7 assists per game, Anderson seems to be getting a better feel for his teammates’ tendencies, and his assist numbers have gone up. Anderson is averaging over 5 assists in the last 6 games since coming back from injury. This growth in chemistry has shown the most in his two-man game with Gobert. Not only are they good at operating pick-and-roll together, but Anderson’s ability to get consistently accurate lob passes to Gobert is unmatched by anyone else on the team.

Part of Anderson’s ability to pass so well comes from his experience playing point guard during most of his basketball career before entering the NBA. This point guard experience also shows up in his ability to make quick decisions when he gets the ball on offense and his surprisingly fast pace of play. It would be reasonable to guess that a player nicknamed SloMo would sit somewhere in the bottom half of the league in the PACE stat. However, his nickname is once again deceptive in this situation. Anderson is playing at a PACE of 102.69 this season, which not only puts him above all of the starters on the Wolves but also above 73% of players in the NBA who average at least 15 minutes per game.

I’m pretty convinced that players as multifaceted and veteran savvy as SloMo can fit into almost any team in the NBA. However, Anderson’s PACE fits in perfectly with the core of important role players who defined much of the bench’s run-you-off-the-court identity last year. It also may explain part of why the Wolves front office prioritized signing him in free agency this offseason. This season, four of Minnesota’s most important bench players rank in the top 15 in PACE for players who average at least 15 minutes. Jordan McLaughlin is first (as always) at a blazing 109.03. Prince is 4th but effectively 2nd because the two players above him have only played 4 games each at 106.40. Nowell is 11th at 104.88, and Naz Reid is 15th at 104.75.

Even though this is SloMo’s first year on the team, he has embodied the spirit of what made last year’s bench mob so successful. However, he has brought his own methodical flavor to what it has become this year. That he is shooting a career-high 41.5% from three-point range this year is just the icing on the cake — albeit very tasty icing.

Of course, no proper Kyle Anderson article can be completed without adding at least one sweet signature slow-motion score to highlight the magic and weirdness of his unique offensive game.

Nothing proves you’ve mastered the pump fake better than an entire defense, forgetting that you could still have the ball after a fake on the perimeter and letting you walk straight to the hoop untouched.

Is that even guardable? Can anyone else even do that? The better question may be the one Michael Grady asked on his phenomenal call of the play: “How Sway?” I have no idea, but I know nobody scores with the same style and poise as the one and only SloMo. Anderson does everything the Wolves need from a role player, and his return from injury, along with Prince, established a well-rounded rotation they need to rack up more win streaks and climb out of the play-in tournament.

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