Anderson's size made him an incredible mismatch at the college level, as he was simply bigger, longer and/or more skilled than virtually any player he matched up with all season. He sees over the top of defenses from the perimeter, a huge boon with his tremendous court vision, can take a smaller opponent down to the post, and can shoot over the top of virtually any matchup thanks to his extremely high release point. His unique skill-set changes the other team's game-plan, as he needs to be guarded by a player much taller than your traditional point guard.
What makes Anderson truly special is his prodigious passing ability, which made him one of the most entertaining players to watch in all of college basketball. He led all prospects in our Top-100 rankings in assists at 7.4 per-40 minutes pace adjusted, the highest rate of any player that size in our database since Evan Turner, Luke Walton, and John Salmons. Anderson is a terrific ball-handler who can pass with either hand and shows amazing creativity with the ball in his hands. He is extremely unselfish, making pinpoint passes right into his teammates' shooting pocket, spotting up on the wing or running ahead in transition (see video below). Anderson had the fourth highest Pure Point Rating and fifth highest assist to turnover of any player in our Top-100 prospect rankings, and was a major reason why UCLA had the 13th most efficient offense in all of college basketball this season with him running the show.
Anderson's size, length, anticipation skills and feel for the game really show up with the way he crashes the defensive glass. He pulled down 8.6 defensive rebounds per-40 minutes pace adjusted this season, which is the sixth highest rate of any of the players in our Top-100 prospect rankings. He's got great instincts for pursuing loose balls, which comes in very handy with his ability to ignite fast breaks and make plays for teammates.
Anderson was a much improved shooter in his sophomore season, upping his 3-point percentage from 21% as a freshman to 48% this year. The sample size leaves something to be desired, as he only attempted 58 total threes in 36 games (under one make per game), but the improvement is certainly worth noting. Anderson can get his shot off as noted thanks to his tremendous size and high release point, which is very important considering how long it takes him to get the ball out of his hands. He was very effective in catch and shoot situations this season (21/41, 51%), as he's no longer a guy you can leave wide open, but again the small sample size leaves a lot to be desired.
Anderson actually took twice as many shots off the dribble this season (84) as he did with his feet set, and was nearly just as effective (48%). His release is very deliberate here as well, but the extra fade he adds to it allows him to create the separation he needs to get his shot off.
How effectively Anderson will be able to extend his shooting range to the NBA 3-point line will be one of the biggest keys in his transition to the pro level. His shot looks somewhat flat at times and there are question marks about how his extremely slow release will affect his accuracy playing against bigger, quicker and longer opponents.
Anderson played almost exclusively at point guard this season, which is something any NBA team considering picking him will need to discuss with their coaching staff. Will he be given the freedom to operate with the ball in his hands as much as he did in college? And if not, how will he fare? There's little doubt that Anderson is at his best when playing on the ball, but there are serious question marks about whether he'll be able to do so at the pro level.
Anderson's “slo-mo” nickname wasn't given by accident, as he indeed lacks much in the way of the quickness or explosiveness you typically associate with NBA guards. His first step is average in the half-court, as he relies heavily on his terrific timing, ball-handling and hesitation moves to create an advantage, something that can be negated by better defenders. Will his passing ability be as effective if he's unable to get by opponents at quite the same rate?
He was fairly ineffective in open-court situations at the college level, only getting out 55 times all season as the transition ball-handler, and struggling badly when he did, scoring just 36 points and making 39% of his field goal attempts. His inability to play above the rim consistently hurts him here, as it does in the half-court as well. He made just 48% of his 2-point attempts on the season, which ranks 63rd among the 76 college players currently in our Top-100 rankings.
As good of a passer as Anderson is, he was also one of the most turnover prone players in this draft class at the same time, ranking fifth in our Top-100 in turnover percentage (second among projected first rounders.) He's a little nonchalant with the ball at times, making some careless passes, and his size allows smaller players to get underneath him and take the ball away.
With that said, the biggest questions surrounding Anderson's pro potential revolve around his play on the defensive end, specifically, who he will be able to guard at the NBA level. While Anderson's length and anticipation skills allow him to generate plenty of blocks and steals, his lateral quickness is as poor as any player in this draft class. He's extremely upright in his defensive stance, and he allows opposing players to blow right by him like he's simply invisible at times. Because of his struggles getting low and staying in front of opponents, reaching for steals is usually Anderson's most effective strategy, something NBA teams are certain to go after and try to exploit regularly. In college his coaches would often try to “hide him” by putting him on big men or non-scorers, which might not work quite as well in the more physically gifted and talented NBA.
Anderson is clearly one of the most unique prospects in this draft, a player with incredible gifts, but also some very glaring weaknesses. Ultimately whatever team drafts him will have to be comfortable with what he is and isn't, and be willing to work around his shortcomings.
Some of that will come down to Anderson's willingness to adapt his style of play. He has been told his whole life that he is a point guard and a point guard only, while his family members have been very open publicly about the fact that that's the only position he's capable of playing.
Will a NBA head coach be willing to just hand the reigns of their team over to him and scrap everything else they've been doing to conform to his style of play? Can he be successful otherwise? If he doesn't get handed the keys to his NBA team's offense, will he be willing to adjust his style of play, or will he demand to be traded? That could be heavily dependent on how high he's drafted, even though the last similar case we can recall, Evan Turner, was picked very high and still was forced to change his game.
We've taken a more visual look at his strengths and weaknesses thanks to game film from UCLA in the following video scouting report, courtesy of Mike Schmitz.
All of our video scouting reports this season can be found here.