We continue checking out NBA prospects from the UCLA basketball squad. We’ve already broken down shizz with Shabazz Muhammad and Josh Smith, so we continue with someone who’s not in any 2013 NBA mock drafts in Kyle Anderson.
He isn’t in any NBA mock drafts for a reason, and it has nothing to do with the amount that Anderson was coveted as a high school basketball player. The dude was a 5-star prospect in 2012 and was a top-five player in the 2012 college basketball recruiting class according to ESPNU, Scout and Rivals.
But he’s unconventional as hell, at any level, including college. Dude’s 6’8”, but he’s not athletic. He’s got a 7’2” wingspan, but he plays the wing. He plays the wing, but doesn’t shoot consistently from the three.
What Anderson possesses — primarily — is court-vision, and a basketball IQ that scouts have said is unrivaled by any other high school recruit. He’s versatile as hell — he can attack the basket with his sweet handles and can shoot from the mid-range very effectively — and is smart. The dude’s considered a point guard at 6’8” and he’s best when he is handling the ball and creating plays for his teammates.
The college level, though, and any college team, can adapt to unconventional games. Anderson — with his lack of athleticism, and his preference to play the point — can have as good of a season as one can hope (which includes a ton of assists, especially in comparison to the amount of points he puts up) and still be drafted late in the first round.
Because Kyle Anderson isn’t speedy or explosive, something that’s a requirement for your average, serviceable NBA wing. He plays well below the rim and doesn’t shoot well from beyond the three, again, requirements for your average wing.
Because your average NBA wing isn’t creating plays for others and the average NBA wing doesn’t usually dominate the ball unless he’s a good wing (then he’ll dominate to score aggressively, something Anderson doesn’t do).
So the NBA comparisons we’ll use? Lamar Odom, current L.A. Clipper and best-known for his time with the L.A. Lakers. Much like Odom, Anderson plays a point forward role and is a match-up nightmare for larger forwards — too slow to keep up with Odom and his awesome ball-handling skills — and guards — which are too short to stop him.
Of course, there’s one lofty comparison that some might consider but will never make explicitly: Magic Johnson.
The similarities on a superficial level are uncanny: Magic was a 6’9” point guard who didn’t have elite athleticism but whose main strength was versatility and court-vision. Of course, point guards taller than 6’5” are an anomaly both then and now, so Kyle Anderson has the odds stacked against him.
The type of season Anderson has will determine if he’ll follow the path of the average one-and-done that top-tier recruits take. If Anderson proves he has potential to live up to the Magic Johnson comparison — NBA teams love drafting high based on potential — then he’ll be a late lottery pick at best. If, however, he needs time to adjust? If he struggles early on, and even if he picks it up late, and figures out how to run Ben Howland’s half-court offense (which he should be able to run) at the tail-end of the season? He’ll be a Bruin in 2014.
Anderson is unconventional and that’s why his future beyond college is so uncertain.
But it’s bright as hell, if he works, we’re sure. And we’re excited to see how his style — so gosh damned unique as it is — plays out at every level.