Has Ryan Anderson Changed his Game?

Published: February 12, 2013

Anderson was supposed to suffer without Dwight Howard.  Is he?

When the Hornets signed Ryan Anderson this summer, the prevalent narrative in the media was that Ryan Anderson was not going to be able to maintain his production without big, powerful, super-Dwight in the paint to generate open shots.  The season is more than half over, so I pulled a grab bag of data to evaluate Ryan Anderson and see if he’s really as reliant on a paint presence as advertised.

Raw Data

From just raw numbers, we can see that Anderson appears not to have suffered much from the transfer to the Hornets.  17-7-1 on 44-40-88 shooting isn’t much different from 16-8-1 on 44-39-88 shooting.  When you shift to advanced stats, the similarities persist.  True shooting%, Assist%, Turnover rates, eFG% – all of those numbers are within a percent of last year’s production.  Only his offensive rebound rate (down 5%) shows much in the way of change.

So has Ryan Anderson been forced to play a different game?  The overall numbers suggest not really.  The usage numbers, however, suggest something entirely different.

Usage and Shot Locations

Last year, 35% of Anderson’s shots came within 8 feet of the rim.  56% of his shots came from three point range.  That left a bare 9% of his shots being taken from the “dumb zone” – the mid-range shot, which is the least efficient shot in the game.  That marriage of shot selection and skill made me giddy.

Sadly, this year Anderson has not been able to match those numbers.  54% of his shots still come from deep, but only 23% are taken within 8 feet of the basket.  That means he’s now taking nearly a quarter of his shots from the dumb zone.  So why is this happening?

The answer is he’s being forced to create more.  The rate at which he’s assisted has declined by 5% at the rim and from deep, and in the mid-range area, he’s being assisted on only about 40% of his shots.  For those of you unfamiliar with assist rates – the most iso-focused big men generally are still assisted on more than half their shots.  David West posted assist rates of about 60%.  So Anderson is being forced to go off the dribble and generate shots he didn’t have to last year.  That still begs the question.  Why?

The answer is that he’s nearly the only threat of his type the Hornets have and his role has increased.  Last year in Orlando he took 23% of available shots while on the floor and 33.3% of the three pointers taken, as players like Redick, Jason Richardson, Jameer Nelson, all got their fair share of three-point looks and shots.  Anderson account for only 23% of Orlando’s points while on the floor.

While on the floor with the Hornets, Anderson is taking 27% of the team’s field goal attempts, 50.6% of the teams threes and accounting for 28% of the teams point output.  All three of those are tops on the team, so defenses know he is the both primary option on the floor and that they don’t really need to guard anyone else on the perimeter.

That’s usually a recipe for disaster, but so far Anderson’s True Shooting percentage has barely budged, thanks to him nailing his long two pointers 51% of the time. For guys with more than 100 attempts, that puts him third in the league.  There are few players in the league who could be pushed away from bread-and-butter three pointers and layups and finish above 50% of the time.

Ryan Anderson appears to be one of those guys.   Perhaps the Howard-Anderson partnership in Orlando was more of a two-way street than advertised.


Team Contribution Stat 1:  At this pace, Ryan Anderson is expected to hit 249 threes.  The ENTIRE Hornets squad last year hit 259.

Team Contribution Stat 2:  Anthony Davis accounts for 28% of the team’s steals when he’s on the floor and 51.8% of the teams blocks.

WTF Stat 1:  Robin Lopez accounts for 42.1% of the Hornets offensive rebounds when he’s on the floor – and 17.7% of their defensive rebounds.  Since there are five guys on the court, if everyone did their share, he should get 20%.  That discrepancy is hard to wrap my head around.

WTF Stat 2: Eric Gordon accounts for 35.4% of fouls drawn and 45% of the Hornets’ free throws when on the court . . . and 32% of the turnovers.

WTF Stat 3: Eric “Only Extremes” Gordon accounts for 5.7% of his team’s rebounds.  Wow.


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