Kyle Anderson is a sneaky candidate for Sixth Man of the Year
With the start of the NBA preseason just weeks away, many NBA fans and members of the media are taking this time to discuss potential team rotations and speculate on how players will be able to do well in their assumed roles. . Many pundits are talking about how the Minnesota Timberwolves roster will mesh this coming season after their big offseason.
As their most notable offseason move traded for Rudy Gobert, Wolves also rounded out their roster. By adding guards Austin Rivers and Bryn Forbes, Wolves solidified some of their depth, as well as adding CJ Elleby and Eric Paschall. These players could make key contributions this season. Still, signing Kyle Anderson was perhaps Wolves’ most intriguing and perhaps impactful move, aside from the addition of Gobert. Anderson signed a two-year deal with Wolves this offseason, and he has the potential to become a sixth Man of the Year candidate.
As a 6’9″ forward, Anderson showed his abilities with the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies. He doesn’t just play on the wings and off the ball. He also takes the ball to the ground and acts as the main distributor. Over his last five seasons, Anderson averaged nearly 3 assists per game and only about 1 turnover per game, an efficient assist-to-turnover ratio.
Anderson will play alongside great attacking talent in Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns, and one of the rim’s most effective scorers in Gobert. Therefore, it will have high-quality options for settling outside and inside the paint. Even on second unit, Anderson has good three-point shooters in Rivers and Forbes to distribute the ball. It also has an inside/outside option in Naz Reid to perform pick-and-roll action with.
Suppose Chris Finch allows Anderson to serve as the primary facilitator coming off the bench, dividing his playing minutes with the first and second units. In this case, Anderson could average 4-5 assists per game. This would arguably make him one of the most effective and notable assistants in the league.
Anderson has been a strong rebounder, averaging more than 5 rebounds per game in four of his last five seasons. Anderson has also been an effective defensive player, recently averaging more than one steal per game. He can swing on the perimeter with his length and agility. There’s no reason to think those skills and numbers will diminish for Anderson at Minnesota. This could be the foundation of his case as the Sixth Man of the Year contender this season.
Of the last five Sixth Man of the Year winners, the average rebound and assist per game has been around 4.3 and 3.9, respectively. Therefore, Anderson’s numbers could match those of some of the award’s most recent winners.
His defensive, rebounding and assisting abilities could all make a compelling case for Anderson’s nomination for Sixth Man of the Year. However, some things will likely need to improve for Anderson to be a definite contender in this year’s awards chase.
One is its rating numbers.
Anderson has shot a decent field goal percentage so far in his career (47.6%). However, his points-per-game averages haven’t been too high relatively. Over his last four seasons at Memphis, Anderson averaged about 8.5 points per game. That’s not bad for a roleplayer’s standards, but Sixth Man of the Year usually goes to players with higher scoring averages than that.
Over the past ten seasons, the Sixth Man of the Year has averaged nearly 16.5 points per game. Some winners only average around 15 points per game, like Lou Williams and Jamal Crawford in the mid-2010s, but the Sixth Man of the Year often averages slightly higher. However, with this Wolves team, Anderson has the potential to achieve higher average scores. He will likely get some open looks due to the high defensive focus on Ant and KAT. He’ll also have chances on the offensive glass or in transition with one of the league’s best counterattacking teams.
The Minnesota team’s success will also factor into Anderson’s nomination for Sixth Man of the Year. Many pundits are speculating that Wolves will be one of the best teams in the West this coming season. However, they haven’t finished in the top 4 of the Western standings since 2004.
Of the last 12 Sixth Man of the Year winners, ten were from teams that were the fourth seed or higher in their respective conference. There were a few outliers. However, most winners come from teams that performed well and were among the best in their conference. Wolves will likely need to finish near the top of the West for Anderson to have any chance of becoming a legitimate Sixth Man of the Year contender.
As we wait to see how this Wolves side will come together, there’s reason to believe Anderson will have an important role. If Anderson increases his tally and Wolves live up to 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.
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