Thursday, August 21, 2014

Unfettered Optimism: From BoBo to SloMo

Look, let's be honest, if you're nickname in college is "Slo-Mo", which is universally short for "slow motion" I'm not entirely positive that it's a compliment. I know this is supposed to be one of my super optimistic, "Spurs are going to be awesome" posts, but I want to get out of the way first, that I have many rather significant reservations about this year's draft pick Kyle Anderson. I don't deny that he perhaps has the unique skill-set that the Spurs may be looking for, that is, a big man who can sort of play like a point guard, and thus many pundits have been hailing the Spurs' draft pick as the second coming of Boris Diaw. Now, I'll be the first to admit, that there are times when I get overly optimistic, and while Boris Diaw 2.0 isn't exactly some claim to superstardom, I want everyone to just slow down for a second. I know the Spurs just obliterated the Heat in the Finals, and I know that the Spurs have a strong history of finding diamonds in the rough of the late first-round of the draft (i.e. Tony Parker, George Hill, Luis Scola, Leandro Barbosa, etc...), but let's take a step back and take a look at what we have here before we start handing out any accolades.

I don't know if there's a big difference between someone who used to be athletic and isn't quite as athletic anymore as opposed to someone who wasn't ever really athletic to begin with. Before we start drawing the Boris Diaw comparisons, the one thing that I have to point out is that despite his girth, Diaw is actually a quite athletic player. He has a quick first step and explodes to the basket faster than many people anticipate. After reviewing some footage of Kyle Anderson, I'm not convinced he can beat anybody off the dribble. He's not really explosive, at all. He literally looks like he's moving slower than everyone else. When he has that sort of trouble in the NCAA I have hard time believing he'll do any better in the NBA. Frankly, he makes Matt Bonner look fast.

That being said, this is a post about unfettered optimism. First things first, I'm confident that Pop will find a way to make the most of him and coupled with the other coaches and player development personnel, the Spurs are the team that will be able to get the most out of Kyle Anderson, whatever that may end up being. Anderson's biggest asset is quite simply his basketball IQ and instincts, which is something you can't really teach a player, so that's a relatively big asset for him. The question is now how he fills into that with his game at the NBA level.

Anderson is listed at 6-8 at 230 lbs, which, on the onset draws somewhat favorable comparisons to Boris Diaw, who is listed at 6-8, 235 lbs. While the weight is similar, Diaw just seems much more solid and immovable in the post whereas Anderson seems just kind of skinny, but I could just be misjudging Anderson's size. I think if Anderson builds some strength he will be a solid high post passer and initiator. While there may be some call for him to put the ball on the floor, I feel like he's not fast enough for that to be extraordinarily useful, granted if it's another big PF that's guarding him that may not be a huge issue, but I think the first thing that Anderson should develop to make him quite dangerous is simply a post-up game. The most dangerous thing about Diaw is really not that he's good at anything in particular, but he's good enough at enough different things that he can capitalize on any situation. If a bigger, slower defender is on him, Diaw doesn't hesitate to put the ball on the floor, if there's a smaller defender, Diaw quickly sticks out his butt and tries to get good post position to back his man down.

I think Anderson can be effective, but I believe there are two places that he needs to start. The first for me is simply strength. Even for his size, watching some tape of him, I feel like Anderson gets pushed around a bit. If he builds some upper body strength, it will improve both his rebounding, and his ability to get into good offensive position (as that is quite important in the Spurs' offense). Since the Spurs are quite content to use every weapon in their arsenal, you'll often see a pick-and-pop with Diaw setting the pick, flaring out for a three then attacking off the dribble on an over-aggressive closeout. This creates all sorts of problems for the defense and I believe that Anderson can fill a similar role, albeit perhaps not quite as effectively as Diaw. While he may not have the dribbles Diaw does, Anderson does boast a 7-2 wingspan, which, coupled with improved upper body strength, I think can help him become a more effective rebounder than Diaw. Additionally, I have the utmost confidence in Chip Engelland, the Spurs' shooting coach in making Anderson something of a threat from three-point and mid-range.

Ultimately, I believe that Anderson has the potential to be something of a gap filler. He's not going to be quite as versatile as Boris Diaw, who can guard SFs like LeBron for short stints, but if he builds some strength, improves his rebounding and jump shot, I think he would be able to guard larger players fairly effectively (as Diaw often does) and gives Pop a highly versatile lineup option of pairing both Anderson and Diaw together. At the very least it gives Tim Duncan some more rest, but frankly, if Anderson pans out, I can see a lineup of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, Boris Diaw, and Kyle Anderson doing some crazy things that keep us talking about the Spurs.

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