Ousted forward revitalizing his stock in the Western Conference Finals

May 28, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) exchanges words with Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kyle Anderson (1)
May 28, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) exchanges words with Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kyle Anderson (1) / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off back-to-back poor series, Minnesota Timberwolves' Kyle Anderson has found his niche in the Western Conference Finals. In Game 4, Anderson only scored two points. However, he made life difficult for Dallas Mavericks' superstar Luka Doncic.

Anderson defended the similarly-sized Doncic extremely well in Game 4—as he has this entire series. In four games, Doncic has gone 3-of-10 from the field when defended by the Minnesota forward. Anderson has forced three turnovers and blocked one of Doncic's shot attempts.

Despite limited shotmaking, the 30-year-old wing positively affected Minnesota's first win of the series on offense. He dished out four assists and set numerous screens, leading to open shots. In the second part of the clip below, Anderson noticeably sets Karl-Anthony Towns up in the corner for an open 3-pointer to extend the lead to five points with just over five minutes remaining.

The veteran's size, playmaking, and savviness have been important for the Wolves thus far. Prior to the Western Conference Finals, Anderson's role appeared to be shrinking. "Slo-Mo" only averaged 10.0 minutes per game against Phoenix and 12.6 against Denver.

He failed to make a difference in both of the series mentioned above. Against both the Suns and the Nuggets, Anderson averaged a measly 2.7 points per game. Against Dallas, he's averaging 7.5 points while knocking down 59.1 percent of his field goal attempts.

Anderson's numbers aren't earth-shattering, but he's seemingly resurrected his value over the past seven days. The veteran forward holds the third-best net rating amongst all Wolves in the Western Conference Finals. In fact, Minnesota is more than seven points worse without Anderson on the court.

It's been a long time coming for the 6-foot-9 forward, as he's endured an up-and-down season. In his first year in Minnesota, the UCLA product averaged 9.4 points, 5.3 boards, and 4.9 assists per game. His averages were even similar in the Timberwolves' abbreviated playoff run.

Anderson's numbers decreased across the board this season, his 3-point shot abandoned him, and his rotation spot appeared on thin ice. Now, with the season on the line, Chris Finch and Micah Nori are relying on the veteran wing to provide 20-plus solid minutes.

What makes Anderson most valuable is his defensive versatility. Mavericks' Doncic is unlike most players in the NBA. He's 6-foot-7, 230 pounds with incredible offensive instincts and an uncanny ability to break down defenses.

Anderson is one of the few good matchups for Doncic. He can match the Dallas star's size, speed, and strength. Doncic isn't one to use his athleticism to beat defenders. Similar to Doncic, Anderson is neither a fast, nor athletic player. He can instead use his savviness and size to defend the MVP finalist.

With Anderson back in the lineup, Jaden McDaniels and Anthony Edwards can shift their focuses elsewhere. McDaniels has primarily defended Doncic, but Minnesota can also use the All-NBA Defensive second-teamer to guard Kyrie Irving. In doing so, Edwards is spared an exhausting defensive assignment.

After receiving his fair share of flak throughout the regular season and into the playoffs—the once-forgotten forward has provided Minnesota with a spark when it matters most. As the Timberwolves continue to hold on, look for Anderson to play a huge part in the Wolves' potential comeback.