Let’s Talk About Ryno

Published: January 20, 2015

Ryan Anderson has been a fan favorite since the day he got here, and was even considered by some to be the team’s second best player before going down with a catastrophic injury last season. He was viewed as a devastating offensive weapon who not only could fill up the stat sheet, but he was also capable of opening up the floor so others could get theirs. And while nobody ever accused him of being a good defender, he was always viewed as a high effort guy who at least made the opposition work a little bit to score.

But all that seems like a distant memory, because as we sit here at the halfway point, Ryan Anderson is the guy fans seemingly feel the most frustrated with this season. And it is understandable because there is a clear correlation between ‘Ryan Anderson bad games’ and ‘Pelicans losses’. In losses, Anderson is shooting just 36% overall, and just 27% from three. He went 3-8 (with 0 threes) in a 5-point loss at Dallas. Just 5-16 in a six-point loss against Golden State, that was even closer than the final score made it seem. Then, 7-18 in that devastating loss in San Antonio, 2-8 in a four point loss in Charlotte, and 8-36 in that three game nightmare against Boston, Philadelphia, and New York.

If Anderson had just played average in those games, many of them would have been wins. And that is just on the offensive side of the ball. As this outstanding piece by Vantage Sports illustrated, Anderson might be the worst defensive big man in the NBA this season. His foot speed was never great, but it is even worse this year and he seems to shy away from contact more than usual when protected the rim. So, on nights when his shot is not falling, he is a huge net negative that is hard to overcome.

As our own Graham McQueen wrote a couple of weeks ago, Anderson’s offensive game has changed a little bit this season. He is creating his own offense at a much higher rate than in years past and is taking more shots in the “dumb zone” than ever before. Monty has paired Anderson with different guards to try and help him get rolling, but there isn’t enough ball movement or player movement to get Anderson free often enough. And on top of that, when he does get free, it doesn’t end as well as it should. So far this season, Anderson is shooting just 34% on open or wide open threes according to NBA.com. Last year, that number was 41.5%. If he just kept that same rate, he would have hit 19 more threes this season and his numbers across the board would look similar to his career stats. Oh, and the Pelicans would probably have a few more wins too.

The really odd thing, however, is that whatever seems to be bothering him does not effect him at home. In fact, if you just looked at Anderson’s home splits, he is having a career year. Ryan Anderson’s true shooting percentage at home this season is .615, which easily eclipses his career high of .591. His 44% three-point shooting would be a career high as well, as would his 22.9 points per 36 minute average he is posting at home. Quite simply, Ryan Anderson is playing like an All-Star player offensively at home and like a D-League castoff on the road.

Which Is The Real Ryno?

All that leads us to this question, and it is one you have to answer before determining your next step with him as a player. It seems like a handful of possibilities exist.

1.) The performances at home are a fluke

2.) The performances on the road are a fluke

3.) Both are mere coincidence and they will come back to the middle by the end of the season

4.) This is who Ryno will be for the rest of his career moving forward

If you believe the answer is #1, you try and trade him today before other teams notice the pattern. If it is #2, you ride this thing out until he snaps out of it and when he does, you have your devastating weapon back and better than ever. #3 would be satisfactory because it would mean less ups, but also less downs. And #4 would require you to alter your game plans depending on the city you are in that night.

So, what is the answer; Who is the real Ryan Anderson? Call me an optimist, but if I had to guess, I would lean towards #2. When you really look at all his splits, one other thing jumps out to you – his performance in the second night of a back to back. In those games, Anderson is shooting his lowest percentages from the field (36.8%), from three (26.8%), and from the free throw line (81%). This would lead me to believe that he simply is not in game shape yet, and his legs are a little heavy. The eye test will tell you the same thing, as we have seen more flat jumpers from Ryno than ever before – and a flat jump shot is a result of not getting that push you need from your base.

The home/road thing makes some sense too, as there are an infinite number of variables that can contribute to extra fatigue on the road – from less than ideal sleeping conditions to air travel to out-of-town diet, time zone change, and more. While it is just a theory, doesn’t it make more sense than the alternative? What theory could be posed explaining why ‘Road Ryan Anderson’ is the norm and ‘Home Ryan Anderson’ is a fluke? We have never seen a difference in splits like this for Anderson before, so it is not just the fact that he is used to one rim and not the other. In fact, he was much better on the road last season than he was at home, posting better numbers in every category except for FT percentage.

So, What Should the Pelicans Do With Ryno?

Again, it depends on what your theory is on what exactly is going on here. We all have to remember that Anderson’s career almost ended that night in Boston a little over a year ago. And he didn’t touch the court for nearly seven months after that. It shouldn’t be a surprise if he is not in peak physical shape yet, and if you believe that his lack of conditioning is the reason why he is struggling on the road, then you just have to wait it out. Sometimes a guy doesn’t come back fully until his second year after a major injury, and if that is the case then the numbers say to expect 17 more terrible game from Anderson this season. But the good news is that there is 24 more at home, and if he continues to play the way he has there this season, the Pelicans will be incredibly tough to beat in those contests.

But perhaps some don’t agree that the fix will be that simple and/or they still don’t think he will be a net positive if his defense remains this abysmal. If that is the case, then it makes sense for the Pelicans to look to move him if they can secure some future flexibility, a small forward, and/or some draft picks. Long term, it seems hard to imagine the Pelicans spending 45-50 million dollars per season on the AD/Anderson/Asik trio, and if the Pelicans are thinking about re-signing Anderson after his contract ends next season, that is exactly what they will have to do. So, you could see the logic in parting with Anderson now if a good enough offer is made.

With trades, you can’t possibly know the future at the time that you make them. You simply have to project what is most likely to happen. When gauging what the return would be for Anderson, the Pelicans would have to try and project what he will be moving forward, and while it is tempting to look at his recent struggles and assume that this will be the norm, it is hard for me to trust a 24 game sample size coming off a major injury than the nearly 400 other career games that we have to look at. Now, if he was terrible both at home and on the road and after a few days rest in addition to no days rest, then I might be concerned for his long-term well-being. But he has not only been passable, he has been great in home games and in games with adequate rest.

So, put the pitchforks down for a bit and relax. Anderson has struggled in specific situations this season, and understandably so. But he has also shown flashes of greatness that lead you to believe there are better days ahead. The Pelicans play nearly 60% of their games at home over the second half of the season and there is a huge week long break in February. The data says to expect a much better 2nd half of the season for Anderson, and more importantly, a lot more Pelicans wins.


  1. Pingback: Today's Best NBA Reporting and Analysis

  2. Pingback: Advanced AFL Statistics | MADNESS OF SPORT

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.