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Is Wolves Forward Kyle Anderson Too Valuable to Move at the Trade Deadline?

The versatile forward has been a trade talk topic amongst Timberwolves fans. While there is an argument to be made about sending him elsewhere, should the Wolves do it?

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Memphis Grizzlies
Timberwolves forward-guard Kyle Anderson showing emotion after a made basket in the second half against the Memphis Grizzlies on Dec 8, 2023 at FedExForum
Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Timberwolves sit atop the Western Conference with an 19-5 record, which includes wins over the other top three teams behind them in the standings — the Denver Nuggets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks.

Things are euphoric in Downtown Minneapolis after the Minnesota Twins won both a playoff game and series after going through a dreadful 18-game winless drought, and now the Wolves are off to the best start in franchise history. But that hasn’t stopped fans from wanting more.

I am not in any position to stand on a soapbox and tell people to not voice their opinions and enjoy the ride for what it is considering the harrowing past the Wolves have endured over the years. But to see the complete heel turn on Kyle Anderson from being stamped as “one of the best free agent signings in franchise history” to being the person to trade away to better the roster has caught my eye.

There are some arguments I understand as to why trading away Anderson makes sense.

The first one is purely from a business standpoint. Anderson is on an expiring deal. Letting the beloved veteran walk away without getting anything in return — not to mention the challenge of also needing to find a cheaper replacement either internally or externally — would be a tough pill to swallow.

Anderson fits the roster construction nicely as a versatile 6-foot-9 forward that is not only capable of playing and defending at four positions, but also playing alongside either Rudy Gobert or Karl-Anthony Towns. Beyond that, he’s an egoless player who doesn’t need shots to be effective and is willing to do the dirty work on both ends of the floor. Given the team’s financial crunch, staring the down the barrel of a $35 million-plus tax bill next season, navigating the situation won’t be easy.

The argument from a fan’s perspective is one I resonate with well. Anderson has been a poor shooter this season, to the point of it being problematic. Last year, Slow-Mo shot 41% from deep on 1.5 attempts per game. While this was on low volume, he was a threat from outside which made defenses have to come out and respect him and allowed for better floor spacing. This year he is shooting an abysmal 10.5% from beyond the arc on less than one attempt per game. This is the worst mark of Anderson’s career, and it’s not even close. His next lowest year was 26.5% back in the 2018-2019 season as a member of the Memphis Grizzlies.

So, why has Anderson had such a dramatic fall off? Is the eye injury he suffered last year in the Wolves’ first-round playoff loss still affecting his vision and leading to depth perception issues? Maybe, but we don’t have any official report on that, so it’s purely speculation. I do see why it makes sense though for that theory to have a little bit of weight seeing as Anderson has never shot this poorly. If Slow-Mo is going to continue to be a zero from the 3-point line, I understand why fans would accept the trade-off of replacing Anderson with some bench shooting to help with floor spacing — something he, nor Shake Milton or Nickeil Alexander-Walker, can consistently provide off the bench.

I also understand fans’ desire to upgrade the backup guard play when Conley goes to the bench. The current depth as it stands is passable, though not ideal. The backups to Conley are Shake Milton, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Jordan McLaughlin, Daishen Nix and Wendell Moore Jr. While all of those guys can handle the ball, they don’t even come close to fulfilling the role Conley does of running the offense (not to mention Mike’s dependability as a catch-and-shoot threat). Additionally, I firmly believe none of them can unlock Gobert offensively like Conley has this year. If the Wolves were to make a trade, who do they go for? I’ve seen ideas casually floated, from Washington Wizards floor general and former Wolf Tyus Jones, to Monte Morris from the Detroit Pistons. But I don’t see them moving the roster far enough forward where it makes sense to move off of Anderson.

Given his defensive versatility and everything he brings offensively beyond his shooting, keeping Anderson is the best move the Wolves can make. Losing his skill set as a secondary playmaker and a proven clutch time operator would be detrimental come playoff time. When defenses throw the kitchen sink, which will include zones, Anderson is the best available hub Head Coach Chris Finch can run the offense through to defeat the coverage.

Getting him the ball in the middle of the floor and letting him see the court in front of him has paid dividends to this team’s success on the offensive end, and I truly don’t believe the Wolves are finding this skill set in a trade or on the buyout market.

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Anderson is also a serviceable defender averaging almost one block and one steal per game. He’s posting a 103.9 defensive rating, which is better than Jaden McDaniels’ mark of 109.5. I understand it’s not really a fair or accurate comparison considering Anderson isn’t checking the opposing team’s best perimeter threat every night like McDaniels is, but it does hold value that he is an important defender. Potentially replacing Slow-Mo’s rotation minutes with an offensive-minded backup guard hurts this team’s defense; the bench’s offensive output at the guard spot shouldn’t be that much of an issue to the point of shipping Anderson out, especially when you consider that Anthony Edwards, Towns, Conley, McDaniels, and Gobert are going to play heavy minutes down the stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs.

When you take Anderson’s passing ability, especially in the middle of zone defenses, coupled with his more than capable versatile defense, the Wolves need to keep Anderson if they want to achieve their goal of making a deep playoff run and winning a championship.