clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Kyle Anderson: Point Guard Ex Machina?

The beloved veteran is playing some of the best basketball of his career in a vital playmaking role for the Timberwolves.

Phoenix Suns v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

I don't know what to tell you. You've read the title. You even clicked the link to get here. I'm sure some of you are immediately regretting it and leaving in a similar fashion to someone after they've been told their Subway footlong is, in fact, not five dollars. Sorry for that.

To the other degenerates like me that are still here, let's start with some life advice. Sometimes you need to go straight into a bad decision, just to come out with scratches and the knowledge that there are some steps too far. Maybe this is that. But, maybe, within my own personal madness, we can find something great.

This is not an argument for making Kyle Anderson a full-time starting point guard. This is a question of survival, of eating up minutes and bandwidth at what has quickly crumbled into a position group with as much depth as a puddle. This is a question of if there is a limit to what the Wolves ask of Slow-Mo.

Houston Rockets v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

It's been a very weird year. Every time the Wolves seem to be picking up momentum, they get their teeth kicked in by the Cade Cunningham-less Detroit Pistons or lose a heartbreaker to the Utah Jazz. And that's just been since the New Year. But, a consistent positive has come in Anderson’s play, and, through his on court play, he has joined the ranks of beloved Wolves forwards like Corey Brewer, JR Rider, and Gorgui Dieng.

But, whereas Brewer, Rider, and Dieng spent most of their times in the tee of the trees as emotional safe havens on bad teams, Anderson came in for a team expected to do big things. And it's part of those expectations, which have sadly been left disappointed, that led to the love for Anderson. It would not be hyperbolic to say that Slow-Mo is the only element of this season that was as good as advertised, if not better, since opening night.

Expected to be a defensively focused wing and occasional initiator off the bench, Anderson has been thrust in and out of lineups, roles, and positions and, as always, he approached it slowly, methodically, and consistently. Despite being played at either forward spot, as well as at small ball 5 (per Cleaning the Glass), Anderson's numbers have stayed impressively level.

When Karl-Anthony Towns and Taurean Prince were lost to injury for weeks and the Wolves had only Anderson and Jaden McDaniels to play at the 4, it was Anderson that stepped up, even through chunks where McDaniels was in foul trouble. When both Jordan McLaughlin and D'Angelo Russell were kept out and Wendell Moore Jr. was seemingly unplayable, banished to Iowa, it was Anderson that took on a larger playmaking role. With the returns of D-Lo and Prince, Anderson should have returned to his expected role. Instead, he has continued to fill in for exactly what he's needed for. Over the last five games, Anderson is averaging 12 points, eight rebounds, and six assists, along with posting his second career triple double in a game against the Jazz (on my birthday, no less).

All that brings us back to what seems to be the only topic I ever discuss: the point guard position. What if, and hear me out here, the veteran point guard who can pass, play make, and defend is already on the roster, just listed at a different position? The Wolves are reportedly "prioritizing another point guard" in trade talks surrounding Russell. With two of the Wolves best trios by net rating featuring Anderson, flanking him with McDaniels and either Anthony Edwards or Rudy Gobert, it's certainly possible that Slow-Mo could step in with the starters as a complementary guard. However, Russell has come on late and should certainly not be moved out of a lineup unnecessarily.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Denver Nuggets Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

Conveniently, Anderson's hot streak has coincided with one from Russell. During the same five game span, Russell is averaging 17 points and five, to go along with 47% percent from 3 with a larger percentage of those coming off ball. Not only can those co-exist, but they can both excel, too. Pushing D-Lo to a more natural off guard role, along with Edwards and some combination of forwards and a big, could be a quick way to not just find a more advantageous role for Russell but also add some flexibility to the Wolves’ weakest position group. It wouldn't even have to be a game wrecking positive for it to be an overwhelming success.

Even if D-Lo is not a member of this team beyond the February 9 trade deadline, Anderson could provide the spark for the Wolves’ identity going forward. A lineup of Anderson, Edwards, McDaniels, Prince and Gobert is Minnesota’s best performing lineup that has played more than 10 minutes outside of garbage time. With the team being almost irrevocably invested in playing big in the front-court with KAT and Gobert, why not go all in on the experience? Why not get insane with a Toronto Raptors-esque rotation of all 6-foot-6 and over players with versatile skillets?

Anderson could be the key that unlocks that identity for the Timberwolves, an identity that fits the talent on this roster far better than his initial role as back up power forward when he signed months ago. Putting your most consistent player in a position he hasn’t played full-time in the NBA may be a disaster that gets abandoned, or it could accentuate every strength this team has shown so far. On a team stuck in a tidal wave of variance, barely hanging on to a play in spot, the Wolves need to risk something to get some reward, and if that risk isn't coming in the trade market, it might as well come from the man who we know we can depend on every night.