The lazy answer void of nuance in this situation would be, Kyle Anderson. I get it.
In this situation, I want to step a little bit outside of the physical things Anderson brings to the game. Slow-Mo is one of the only players in the league that brings his unique collection of high-level skills (spot-up shooting, IQ, passing, ball-handling, just to name a few), as well the mentality of being a player that doesn’t try to do too much.
But more than that, he was a lifeline in a season that hung on by a thinner thread with each passing month. Head Coach Chris Finch tabbed him as the team’s most important player on multiple occasions. He was also widely thought of as possibly the best free agent signing in franchise history, let alone the fact that he signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves for the mid level exception.
Tim Connelly should make sure Kyle Anderson never wears another team's jersey again in his career.— Canis Hoopus (@canishoopus) March 27, 2023
What a performance:
✅ 12 points
✅ 10 rebounds
✅ 7 assists to 2 turnovers
✅ 5 steals
✅ 1 block
✅ Steal leading to GW 3
Slapping that type of expectation on any new face isn’t fair, but expecting impact is. Thanks to divvying up the team’s mid-level exception, there are a few different players that could make a sizable impact with minutes to give off the bench.
But, who could could be “the one” this year?
My Pick: Shake Milton
A big, skilled guard, my pick of Milton stems from among other things, a couple team-specific reasons:
1) Opportunity — “We see [Shake] as a point guard,” President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly said in a recent interview with Jon Krawczynski and Jim Souhan. The reality is, Milton’s services are needed in the worst way in that very role. Mike Conley, while effective, isn’t getting any younger and will need to play a light minute load to keep his injury-prone self fresh for the full season and possible playoff run. Not only is Conley going to need a legitimate option to fill in for him, but last season taught us Jordan McLaughlin isn’t quite good enough to be a consistent option at backup point guard. We’ve seen that in the first pair of preseason games, as Shake has averaged 8 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.5 blocks and 0.5 steals in 17.5 minutes per game.
2) Fit — Milton finds himself on a second unit (ironically most likely next to Anderson) that is in need of shotmaking badly. Perhaps a reason he was brought in, Milton was statistically the most effective isolation player on the Philadelphia 76ers last season. Granted, he played on the same team as James Harden, and so the volume was slightly less. But in his opportunities, he was effective. The question is, in a presumably increased volume role, does the effectiveness stay in the same neighborhood?
Milton averaged less than a field goal attempt per game, but shot over 50% in iso attempts all season. Finding this next to an improved Nickeil Alexander-Walker, newly-signed and much expected of Naz Reid, as well as a high-flyer like Troy Brown Jr. who has the ability to spot up, could lead to a more fruitful second unit than last season — one that struggled mightily at times to produce offense and get to the heart of defenses.
Shake Milton to the Wolves is one of my favorite under-the-radar signings of this offseason pic.twitter.com/HkYMIigGBt— Brett Usher (@UsherNBA) September 17, 2023
Branching off of isolation effectiveness, it sticks out to me the most in his ability to break people down off the dribble and get to spots around the rim. He has the ability to generate offense, or be another ball handler on the second unity next to Anderson and Alexander-Walker.
There’s opportunities across the board for newcomers to step up. The Taurean Prince role will be a necessary one to fill as well. If the Wolves end up as the possible 50-win team many are hoping for, contributions from the second unit will be absolutely necessary, with Milton being a big part of it.