Welcome to the 2017-18 season player reviews, where we will be rehashing the performance of all 15 Spurs from this season (excluding two-way players Darrun Hilliard and Matt Costello) and looking towards the future. If you’ve missed any, you can click here to catch up.
2017-18 stats: 7.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.6 steals
2017-18 salary: $2.15 million
Contract: restricted free agent
It took four patient seasons for Anderson find a permanent role on the Spurs, and it was an even bigger one than likely anyone had in mind coming into the season. Starting 67 games in place of Kawhi Leonard, Slow Mo put up career-highs across the board and was one of the Spurs’ most steady and important players all season. Advanced stats loved him, and not by accident. He led the team in box plus/minus (excluding Leonard), and was second on the team in win shares (third in WS per 48 minutes, so that’s not a fluke just based on playing time) and “value over replacement player.”
He’s a solid, versatile player who can arguably play three or four positions. He has the length and shooting touch inside 16 feet to be a power forward, the ability to drive and kick from the arc to be a wing, and the handles of a guard. Even with a slow release and foot speed, he can pump-fake players into oblivion or just let them completely mistime his moves to either draw a foul or fly by and leave him wide open.
On defense, he has the wingspan and instincts to guard both out on the wing and down low without fouling, fooling opponents who think they can just fly right by or over him into a false sense of security. This kind of versatility is highly coveted in a player, but something is still holding Anderson back, and it shouldn’t be a mystery to anyone about what that is.
While it seems to be mostly confidence-based, Anderson remains hesitant to let it fly from beyond the arc no matter how open he is. 0.8 three-point attempts per game is hardly acceptable for a small forward, which is where he spent 63% of his playing time this season. Again, that was not the original plan, and he filled in admirably for Leonard and did everything else well, but his inability/unwillingness to shoot made life a lot harder for the players around him on offense. Although he can share some of that blame with Dejounte Murray’s lack of an offensive game and not being placed in an ideal line-up for his skill set, Anderson should still be further along in that regard.
As he currently is, power forward remains his strongest position. Backing up LaMarcus Aldridge might be his future calling card, and that’s not a bad thing considering he shot 54.3% inside 16 feet this season. Sans his one weakness, Anderson had a solid season and has earned a permanent role in the NBA, maybe even as a starter in the right situation. However, his entire potential won’t be unlocked until he develops a three-point shot, or at least the confidence to shoot them when open to keep defenses honest. Fixing that should be his top priority this summer.
As a former first-round draft pick coming off his fourth-year team option, Anderson will be a restricted free agent if the Spurs choose to extend his rookie-scale qualifying offer, which should be worth about $3.23 million (a 50% raise over his fourth year). If they take that route, the Spurs will likely be willing to match other offers as long as they don’t get too absurd. It wouldn’t even be surprising if they offered him a reasonable multi-year deal to set their own market value for him.
With a player like Anderson, who does more of the little stuff without the flashy stats, the offers likely won’t get too high. He may never be the Boris Diaw reincarnation everyone dreamed he could be when he was drafted, but he still brings his own unique skill set to a Spurs club that values his type of attitude and unselfishness. As much as he improved this season, Slow Mo has plenty more to unlock. Now that he is exiting his rookie deal and entering his prime, it’s time to prove what type of player he truly can be.
Feb. 10 vs. Warriors: 20 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks
Final Grade: B
Up next: Pau Gasol