At the start of free agency, the Minnesota Timberwolves signed eight-year veteran Kyle Anderson. The accomplished winger has played in the NBA for eight years, the first four with the San Antonio Spurs and then four with the Memphis Grizzlies. His teams have made the playoffs in six of those eight years. Anderson is a tough competitor who can play almost any role on the pitch. He can be a two-way wing, a defensive stopper you can use against the opponent’s best player, and a secondary distributor. Anderson can even act as a backup point guard. While Anderson’s role has varied greatly throughout his career, one thing has remained constant: he has one of the best nicknames in the league. Slow Mo is one of the most entertaining and unique players to watch.
In an interview with ESPN before San Antonio called him up, Anderson opened up about the origin of his nickname. When he played at an AAU tournament, Anderson said his team “had played this Houston team, and all these Texas people said I had such a great game, but they didn’t really know my name, so they called me.” just ‘Slow’ Mo’ because they said it looked like I was playing in slow motion. I like the nickname and it stuck with me.”
When you watch Anderson play, you’ll immediately notice this slow-motion phenomenon. While most NBA players zoom up and down at speeds approaching that of an Olympic sprinter, Kyle moves very methodically and patiently. We’ve grown accustomed to watching players use their athleticism to dominate in the modern NBA. As such, watching Slow Mo steal a simple transition bucket for the first time is almost confusing, despite all defenders quickly catching up to him.
However, when you watch Anderson make the same move a few times, you begin to realize that it’s all part of the brilliance of his game. Slow Mo is great at confusing defenders with his moves and often seems to get them to guard him the way he wants. On his signature “slow breaks,” Anderson often adjusts the angle of his drive onto the court to keep defenders right behind him, so they don’t have a clear angle to block or challenge his shot without fouling. By the time the defender figures out how to reset and get around him, Anderson is already on the edge of his shot motion or ball dipping.
Although he was never the fastest at the gym, he has been a great basketball player since childhood. Kyle’s father said in the ESPN article referenced above that “Kyle has been involved with basketball since birth and started playing the day he started running, which was three days before his first birthday, and since his first basketball camp at the age of 3 years. he played for three or four years. People think it’s crazy, but it’s reality.”
Along with Anderson’s natural gifts, his vast experience in the game explains part of why he is such a smart and intelligent player. The more experience you have in an area, the more you understand how best to excel given your strengths, and that seems to be part of the reason his unorthodox playstyle works so well in the NBA. Slow Mo learned from an early age to use finesse and skill to stand out from the crowd, which often shows when he scores in paint.
Anderson is a master of the pump fake, and he can often trick players into jumping in the post so he can make contact and create and-1 chances. He’s also able to use his mid-pump fake to trick players into jumping past him, sometimes multiple times, and then use the extra space he’s created to jump empty or get closer to the edge for a floater. Anderson also has excellent touch near the edge. It imparts some extremely funky spins to its swimmers, bouncing them off the glass and slamming into the hoop at the perfect angle.
Anderson is also a very skilled ball handler for his 6ft 9in height. While he’s not often given the ball to set up plays, he’s a very capable pick-and-role player with great view of the court in drive-and-kick situations. Anderson is also adept at finding his tall peers in the paint, which should benefit Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert by helping them get easy buckets.
Wolves needed complementary playmaking and ball handling skills last season. The starters occasionally got stuck in the mud of the “My turn, your turn” attack, and Jordan McLaughlin was the only real distributor they had off the bench to shake things up. Now they have a 3/4 in slow mo that can add playmakers to any rotation. Slow Mo played most of his basketball career as a point guard before joining the NBA.
Anderson is also an incredibly accomplished defender. He knows how to use his long 7ft 2.5in wingspan to pull off miraculous poke-away steals from unsuspecting guards and wings. Anderson is often able to start his quick break by knocking the ball out of the dribbler’s hand and then going around the opposite side to snag the ball from behind his back. Not only does it look super cool, as you’ll see in the following set of highlights, but it seems to maximize the chance that he’ll be able to get the poke off by dropping it in a location where only he can get it .
Anderson’s intelligent playstyle allows his slow-motion stop-and-start game to thrive in the NBA. It’s always fun to watch people with unique skills play in the NBA, and Slow Mo is perhaps one of the most unique players in the league. Not only will he significantly improve the Timberwolves roster, but he will delight fans throughout the season.