The Spurs are on the precipice of a new era. Already, we've seen reports of one departure [editorial on that, by the way: Buh-bye] and the odds are pretty good that we'll have more significant ones in the near future, with Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili both facing decisions about whether to return for one more season or to hang 'em up.
Since it seems unlikely that the Spurs will sign a couple of 40-year-olds to replace their legends, it's fair to assume that they're about to get younger. They won't be rebuilding by any means --no team with Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Tony Parker would be, obviously-- but they'll probably be relying on less experienced guys next year.
So what better time to take stock of the youngsters (or relative youngsters since we're talking about the Spurs here) already on hand? I wrote a story on the strengths and weaknesses to Kyle Anderson and Jonathon Simmons' games in midseason and now I'll update their scouting reports with a full season's worth of evidence to look back on. JRW will offer you with a scouting report on Boban Marjanovic that will get 10x more pageviews because, you know, BOBAN.
Overview: Anderson's numbers weren't overwhelming by any means, but he showed improvement practically across the board, raising his field goal percentage from 34.8 to 46.8, his three-point percentage from 27.3 to 32.4 and his free-throw percentage from 64.3 to 74.7. His assist rate rose and he got to the free-throw line more often. He increased his PER from 8.2 to 12.9, his Win Shares from 0.3 to 3.5 and his Win Shares/48 Minutes from 0.44 to 1.33. The simplest way to put it, he developed from someone who didn't look like an NBA player his rookie season to a playable rotation piece his sophomore campaign.
Pros: Though he's known for being more of a passer, the strongest part of Anderson's offensive game is actually his mid-range shot. He hit a cool 50.0 percent from 10-16 feet (tied for the team lead) and a strong 45.2 on long twos (16-22 feet). He excelled at using his change-of-pace dribble --going from slow to less slow-- to buy himself room and he also has a terrific pump-fake in his quiver, which he uses to get to the line when he's in trouble. Another strength of Anderson's game is his unpredictability, in that he's uniquely balanced in his shot selection from various ranges, shooting at least 20 percent of his attempts in each of the four zones (0-3 feet, 3-10 feet, 10-16 and 16-22) and 12.5 percent of them from downtown. Though his lack of explosiveness is well-known, Anderson still converted 61 percent of his shots from in close, which is decent. When it comes to play-making, Slo-Mo didn't run many pick-and-rolls, but he showed enough court awareness to hit people on the move after drawing defenders. He can make a variety of passes and is usually pretty good about keeping the chain moving, and has enough court-vision to pick up "hockey assists."
Surprisingly, given his general lack of athleticism, the best part of Anderson's game has been his defense. Even though he got yanked from games several times in the first half of the season for defensive lapses, all the advanced metrics love him on that end of the court. Both ESPN's Real-Adjusted Plus-Minus and Basketball-Reference.com essentially have all of Anderson's value coming from defense. Though Anderson occasionally showed lapses in focus, especially in sideline out-of-bounds plays, he was generally solid in half-court and transition, surprising opponents with his length and quick hands. People assume that because his legs are slow and he's got a glacial release on his jumper that his reflexes will be slow defensively too, but Anderson's flashed the ability to be like a coiled python in the open court, getting a bunch of steals in that fashion. His size has also been helpful on the glass, where he was quite impressive as a defensive rebounder, particularly in traffic.
Cons: The biggest drawback from Anderson's game is his maddening refusal to shoot. Not since Dennis Rodman have the Spurs employed a forward who turned down shots so often, and he was certifiable. Anderson averaged 8.5 attempts per-36 minutes, which ranked dead last among the 17 fellows who suited up for the Spurs last year, fewer than Boris Diaw, Andre Miller or Matt Bonner. His three-point percentage wasn't good, but far too often we saw Anderson pass up open threes without having a Plan B. He'd either dribble into a contested two or pass it off to a covered teammate and bog up the offense. He got the hook a few times for doing that, too. Being physically slow is one thing, but making slow decisions is inexcusable and he definitely needs to get better there. Not only was Anderson passive as a shooter, but at times he looked lethargic in going after loose balls, including in Game 2 against the Thunder. He's not talented enough to coast, ever, but I'm not sure anyone can be coached to play hard. His rebounding instincts don't seem to translate on the offensive glass, where he's been one of the weakest rebounders on the team.
What to expect going forward: I still feel that Anderson's skill-set is more suited to being a fifth starter on a very good team than a reserve, and that makes him an ill fit on the Spurs since they're set at small-forward. I would suggest that PATFO explore trade options for someone who fits their roster better, but I can't imagine that Anderson's value is all that high. He needs to keep working to quicken his shot release and to improve his stroke from outside. I imagine the coaching staff will also stress off-season work on pick-and-roll and to use him in a bigger play-making capacity next season. There's room for improvement too in his post-up game, but I'd just as soon junk it altogether. The Spurs post-up too much as it is. That Anderson got noticeably better in several areas between season one and season two is a point in his favor, and shows that he has the right work ethic and attitude, but at the same time, players normally show their most progress between their first and second seasons. It remains to be seen if he can take another leap forward in year three.