Kyle Anderson, 6-foot-8 small forward, UCLA
2013-14 stats: 14.6 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 6.5 APG, 73.7 FT%
Uniquely skilled, Anderson combines the court vision, ballhandling ability and instincts of a point guard with the size and speed of a big man. The New Jersey native is one of the most polarizing prospects in the draft, as some observers believe there’s a place for his talents, while others believe his athletic deficiencies could be too much to overcome at the next level. Coming off a strong all-around campaign, Anderson will be heavily scrutinized leading up to the draft.
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Career highlights: As a freshman, the former McDonald’s All-American made an immediate impact, cracking the Bruins’ starting lineup and averaging 9.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game, en route to Pac-12 all-freshman team and second team all-conference honors, with games like 20 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists against Fresno State and 21 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots against Arizona State highlighting his campaign. As a sophomore, Anderson had the ball in his hands more frequently under new UCLA head coach Steve Alford and responded with per-game averages of 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.8 steals, while shooting an improved 48 percent from the floor and 48.3 percent from three-point range, albeit on a small sample size. He was a first team all-league selection and helped UCLA to both the conference tournament title and the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, with his best games including a 13-point, 12-rebound, 11-assist triple-double against Morehead State and a career-high 28-point, seven-rebound, seven-assist effort against Utah.
Strengths: Possessing great feel for the game, Anderson has tremendous playmaking ability for his size, using both his height and court awareness to free up teammates for easy opportunities. A good rebounder for a natural perimeter player, his length and ability to anticipate makes a force on the glass, while his high skill level allows him to score in the post. Although he’s a much-improved outside threat, Anderson excels at beating big men off the dribble and using his under-control style of play to score in transition, particularly after snatching defensive rebounds.
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Weaknesses: Anderson’s nickname isn’t “Slo-Mo” for nothing, as he’s far from an elite-level athlete when it comes to foot speed, not to mention leaping ability. He’s bulked up considerably since his almost frail high-school days, but defending true big men in the post might be as problematic for him as guarding quicker players on the perimeter. His outside marksmanship hasn’t reached the point where he’s a weapon as a spot-up shooter and without the ball in his hands on offense, Anderson’s effectiveness is limited.
Draft projection: A candidate to be selected anywhere from the late teens to the bottom of the first round or even the early second, Anderson is a clear-cut case of a team needing to fall in love with his game. As talented as he is, it’s tough to envision a team handing the reigns to a point forward and with his defensive issues, he could find it hard to get into a rotation early in his career, unless a team has a set plan of how to utilize his skill set in advance and greatly values his ability. That said, assuming he is drafted by a team that understands his pros and cons, Anderson could do well playing alongside a scoring point guard who can play off the ball and athletic defenders capable of covering for him on that end of the floor.