Kyle Anderson Intrigues With Size, Skill Set

Ryan Wolf/
by Matt Petersen

When the phrases “6-foot-9” and “point guard” are used in the same sentence, it’s hard not to picture an iconic NBA point guard who reigned some 30 years ago.

Magic Johnson’s dominance due to his height and court vision inspired NBA scouts’ version of man hunts for the next uber-tall playmaker, with Penny Hardaway (6-7) coming the closest to fitting the bill.

UCLA’s Kyle Anderson is not that Magic or even Penny at this point, but he is a 6-foot-9 point guard. At least, that’s what his bio says and what his 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game indicate.

So does his college résumé translate to the “one spot” in the pros?

“That’s a good question,” said Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough. “I think he’s a basketball player. He’s extremely skilled at that size. He’s very long. He has a unique passing ability and feel for the game that sets him apart. He also rebounds very well, especially for a perimeter guy.”

Anderson’s size and skill set are also reminiscent of a former Suns center, 1976 Rookie of the Year and All-Star Alvan Adams. He was undersized for his position at the same 6-9 mark, but the Suns then operated through his playmaking from the high post. They are/were both above-average rebounders and could score – especially from mid-range – when called upon.

The comparisons are obviously not that simple. Adams and Johnson were both can't-miss, top-five picks, while Anderson figures to fall somewhere in the middle of the first round. The Suns boast a pair of picks in that range, one of which they could use on Anderson to further emphasize their “position-less” brand of basketball.

Of course, further questions would need answering before Phoenix makes the call.

“What we wanted to see is the speed of him getting up and down the court,” said Head Coach Jeff Hornacek. “Can he play the one? If he’s going to play the one spot, you have some little quick guy that guards him, can he get up the court? We saw some of that today.”

Then there’s the matter of the other end of the floor.

“Defensively, if he’s playing the one spot, he’s going to get matched up on a small guy a lot,” Hornacek said. “That’s where I thought he was smart in college, watching tape. He lays off, uses his length. Because he is tall and long, you don’t necessarily need to be right up on a guy.”

Pac-12 Influence

Anderson was joined by some familiar faces, including teammate Travis Wear (6-10 PF) as well as former Pac-12 rivals Justin Cobbs (6-3 PG, California) and Mike Moser (6-8 PF, Oregon).

Syracuse’s CJ Fair and Ohio State’s LaQuinton Ross rounded out the group.

“I thought Justin did a nice job of pushing the ball up and down and really going back and forth, hitting guys, bigs running lanes,” Hornacek said. “CJ Fair and LaQuinton Ross have good size for a three. They have kind of a mid-range game, but they showed some things where they shot the ball from the outside.”

While everyone in Arizona is making frequent trips to the nearest water spout, Moser apparently did not need a breather or a drink in what is – according to league reputation – one of the harder pre-draft workouts around.

“I don’t think he took a drink the whole workout,” Hornacek said. “Every time I said ‘guys, go get a drink’, he went to the free throw line or something. You can tell he’s in great shape. He’s active. He was the one guy we’ve had so far that actually pressed the first time we did 3-on-3, picked the guy up full-court.”