Season In Review: Ryan Anderson
Ryan Anderson came to the Hornets via a sign-and-trade with the Orlando Magic last offseason. Fans familiar with Anderson’s game knew two things: he could nail 3 pointers and grab offensive rebounds. Anderson is a true stretch 4. He has the size to match up with most NBA 4s and is well-known for his ability to space the floor. His offensive rebounding has taken a hit this season, but his 3 point shooting was still sharp this season, and he added some new wrinkles to his game.
Ryan Anderson’s efficiency took a hit this season, as his PER and TS% decreased, while his TOV% increased. However, his increased usage is an appropriate indicator of why his efficiency fell, as he took on a big role in the offense. Anderson was tasked with creating his shot more this season, and after having just 28 isolation opportunities in his 2011-12 Orlando season, Anderson registered 136 this season. Anderson was actually efficient in isolation situations, but he is so incredibly efficient playing off of the ball that his increased opportunities in isolation played a part in his overall efficiency drop.
It is also fair to wonder whether Anderson’s increased offensive burden took its toll on him as the season progressed. This chart below shows a moving average of his points per game average throughout the season. There are other factors that play into this, such as Eric Gordon’s return and other players getting hurt or healthy, but Anderson did appear to be wearing down towards the end of the season, and this chart supports that notion.
This is not to say that Anderson is unable to shoulder this heavy of an offensive load, but to reinforce the idea that he had never carried that much of an offense before, and it had an effect on him as the season progressed.
Anderson’s rebounding rate dipped on the offensive end after experiencing a career-high rate in 2011-12. Part of this could be attributed to the difference in offensive styles. Orlando employed a well-spread offense that shot a bunch of 3 pointers and used Dwight Howard in the post, and Anderson was very good at sneaking his way to the backside of the rim and collecting rebounds. The 2012-2013 Hornets did not spread the floor as well, and that shows in Anderson’s statistics. I also imagine that part of the dip in his rebounding rate is a regression to the norm, as the 13% from 2011-12 was considerably higher than his previous years.
Ryan Anderson’s offensive game took a step forward in variety this season. Previously, he had received almost all of his shooting attempts at the rim or from 3 point land. This year, he expanded his game as he assumed more offensive responsibility. The Hornets spend a lot of time in the “Horns” set, and Anderson did some of his isolation work from this set by catching the ball, facing up, and deciding whether or not he had enough space to pull up for a jumper. He has no reservations in shooting from anywhere on the court.
Anderson also developed a sequence of moves to use when he receives the ball in the flow of the offense. Many times, he would catch the ball for a 3 pointer and a defender would over-rotate, allowing him to pump fake and create a dribble-drive scenario. If Anderson is able to get the defender on his hip, he often takes it all the way to the rim, where he typically utilizes pump fakes to draw fouls or get his defender out of position. If the defender manages to stay in front of him, Anderson likes to create contact with his right shoulder, after which he will draw back and shoot a step-back jumper. He also likes to spin off of left-handed dribble drives and finish with his right hand. Anderson is frequently used in the pick and pop game, and once the defenders have switched, the Pelicans will sometimes throw him the ball so he can exploit the mismatch. He is capable of facing up and shooting over his smaller defender or taking him to the post and scoring there.
Anderson was brought into New Orleans for his ability to generate points, especially from 3 point land, but as I mentioned above, he is expanding his offensive game and finding new ways to score. Although he is best used spacing the floor and working off of teammates, he is capable of creating his own shot in a pinch. He is not prone to taking dumb shots, and if he receives the ball in a non-threat position, he almost always looks to find a capable ball-handler to initiate another offensive set.
Anderson is a smart player who is always looking to rotate to the proper shooting spots. He makes himself available to his teammates, moving at a controlled pace and maintaining proper balance to ready himself to shoot. Some players who aren’t the primary focus of offensive sets take plays off and float around the perimeter, but Anderson doesn’t.
Low Turnover Rate
Anderson turns the ball over at one of the lowest rates in the NBA. This feat is particularly impressive considering his company, as many players with low turnover rates are minor pieces in their offenses. Conversely, Anderson is a vital cog in the Hornets offense. This can be partially attributed to Anderson’s affinity for jump shots, but it is also a product of his basketball intelligence and his understanding of his strengths and weaknesses. Anderson rarely attempts to do things that are outside of his abilities and plays the game under control. His ability to play low-mistake basketball is a wonderful attribute for a complementary player.
3 point shooting
Anderson is a phenomenal 3 point shooter. His 3 point percentage is high, but it becomes particularly impressive because he is taking so many 3s. Typically, volume 3 point shooters are unable to remain efficient from distance, but Anderson made an impressive 38.2% of his 3 pointers this season. Good 3 point shooting is a necessity in today’s NBA, as it allows a team to spread the floor and increase the distance that the opposing team must cover. Anderson’s height amplifies this effect, as his high release point and quick release limit the amount of time and space his defender can give him.
Free Throw Shooting
There is something to be said for a player who a coach can leave on the floor in pivotal moments of the game. Weak free-throw shooters are targets for the “Hack-a-Shaq” strategy, in which an opposing team intentionally fouls a weak free throw shooter. Anderson has shot a career 85% from the stripe, which is impressive for any player, much less a big.
Anderson comes to work every night, and even if his shot isn’t falling, he is always trying to find a way to contribute. He shows hard in pick and roll defense, boxes out, shares the ball, sets screens, and is willing to sacrifice his body to draw charges.
Anderson registered a subpar 15.9% defensive rebound rate, which is roughly 2.5% lower than the league average for 4s (18.4%). This is not particularly surprising, as Anderson is often less athletic or smaller than the opponent he is guarding. This rebound rate places him in the company of many “tweener” forwards. His shortcomings in this area are surely not due to a lack of hustle, as Anderson is a considerably hard worker on defense and on the boards.
Anderson’s lack of length and athleticism factor in on his defensive rotations. Although he is certainly not the defensive sieve that some critics paint him as, Anderson is unable to challenge most shots. Shot-blocking is not a necessity for good individual defense, but Anderson’s lack of ability in this area limits how much he can help erase other teammates’ defensive mistakes.
Fit with Anthony Davis
Davis is the future of this franchise, and in my Anderson research, I stumbled upon a remarkable statistic. Davis shows a considerable uptick in efficiency when Anderson is on the floor, boasting an awesome 63.5 TS% and getting 69.6% of his field goal attempts at the rim. Anderson’s spacing helps prevent help on Davis and the ball-handler on the pick and roll, which gives Davis an easier path to the rim. There are other issues that would need to be worked out for this frontcourt to work, such as rebounding and post defense against bulky opponents, but an offensive unit with Davis and Anderson in the frontcourt could be lethal.
You would be hard-pressed to find other high-level players on non-rookie contracts as valuable as Anderson. Although he doesn’t appear to be a player who will ever be consistently appearing in All-Star games (he may make a few in his career), he is a very valuable asset on the court and is playing on a reasonable contract. Because of his value, the Pelicans have more flexibility to add higher-priced players (than they would if he were paid more) or to package him in a trade (Nooooooo!!!!) if a star gets placed on the trading block. I am a huge Anderson fan and would be very sad to see him go.
Anderson is not a number one option on a championship team, which means that he will likely be deferring to someone else in crunch time if the Pelicans are going to make a serious run at an NBA Title in the future. It is desirable for guys who are not #1 options to have the willingness to let someone else take the big shots, but also the willingness to take big shots themselves if that’s what a situation dictates. As I stated earlier, he is never afraid to shoot, but he is also not a prima-donna who is going to complain every time something doesn’t go his way. This is an ideal mental balance for a complementary player.
Is he better as a starter?
A player’s perception of his role can affect the way he plays. Anderson spent most of the season coming off of the bench as a sixth man. He did receive starter’s minutes, as he averaged 30.9 minutes per game, which was more than any other player on the squad (besides Greivis Vasquez), but he admitted that it was tough to come off of the bench at first. Anderson’s hottest stretch of the season came when he was starting, as he shot an absurd 46.4% from 3 while scoring 19.7 points per game. Was it coincidence that his best shooting stretch came while he was starting? This is something that would be hard to prove given the relatively small sample size, but is something worth watching in future Pelican years.
Anderson was the most consistent Hornet of the 2012-13 season, and his ability to space the floor at the 4 is a very valuable asset for the Pelicans moving forward. He has the right attitude, a good contract, a great skill set, and has shown that he has room for improvement as well. Dell Demps found a gem in Anderson, and hopefully, he will remain a Pelican for years to come.
Check out the entire Season in Review series here at Hornets247.com