Ryan Anderson and Shooting Risk

Published: January 31, 2015

Last night, Mac sent out 2 tweets explaining how the Pelicans offense goes as their jump shooting goes because they do not go to the line and they do not have post scorers.

A lack of shooting has been a problem for the Pelicans all year.  And while there are ways to run an effective offense without a surplus of shooting (see Memphis), the Pelicans players have been navigating through rush hour traffic in the lane all year. However, at a quick statistical glance, all is well with the Pelicans offense.  According to Nylon Calculus, the Pelicans currently rank 8th in Offensive Efficiency. So to lament anything about the Pelicans offense would seem misguided. But that’s the thing: anyone who has watched the Pelicans offense sputter when defenses clamp down knows there are issues. And by simply selecting a filter on Nylon Calculus, these issues become apparent.

Offenses vs. Top 10 Defenses

*Numbers via Nylon Calculus


























In the Pelicans games against top 10 defenses, their offense is the 12th worst – to be clear, this is not an abysmal number.  But it’s certainly not good, and it’s an indicator that the Pelicans offense still has a long way to go.  The Pelicans offense is predictable, and when it faces good defenses, it typically gets shut down. And spacing is a problem driving those issues.

The Ryno Effect

Last year, Jason Calmes took a look at the Ryno effect, which showed that the other Pelican players’ 3 point attempts did not decrease when he returned to the lineup; rather, Ryno’s 3s were just another layer on top of the 3 point attempts from others. In other words, if the other Pelicans shot 12 3 points per game with Ryno out of the lineup, his 8 or so 3 point attempts per game were simply added on top of that to equal 20 3PA per game. There was no opportunity cost resulting from Ryno’s shots, at least in terms of 3PA, for other players. But here’s the problem: there really aren’t any other options to shoot. Yes, Gordon has been fantastic from beyond the arc since coming back.. but who else is there? Tyreke gets 3s because defenses gift them to him, Jrue isn’t a volume shooter, Babbitt has a slow release and major defensive issues, Cunningham doesn’t shoot 3s, QPon has shot poorly in 3 of his 5 seasons (including this one), and Jimmer is at an unflattering 19% on the year. The cupboard is largely bare, so the offense so heavily depends on Ryno’s shooting. Just how much? Well, as the table below indicates, Ryan Anderson has made a larger percentage of his team’s 3s than any other player in the league.

3 pointers










Why It’s a Problem

Every year, 16 teams make the playoffs, and last year, 13 of the top 16 teams that made the playoffs were top 16 defenses.  Every single one of the top 10 defenses made it and 13 of the top 14 defenses made it.  Sure, it’s great to beat up on bad teams/defenses during the regular season, but in the playoffs, you are going to be facing top defenses every night.  And when shooting is so highly concentrated in one player, a team’s 3 point production tends to be volatile.  Spreading those 3s among several players (assuming you do, in fact, have multiple players capable of shooting these) is essentially diversifying that risk.  The Pelicans do not have that option.

























For those of you who are unfamiliar with statistics, the coefficient of variation formula is simply the standard deviation over the mean.  So in this case, it’s a way to look at the volatility of team 3 point makes game to game relative to each team’s average shooting.  The Pelicans are near the top of that list, meaning that their standard deviation, as it relates to their mean, is very high.

What This Means on the Court

It’s quite simple – Ryan Anderson is such a large part of our 3 point coalition that teams can simply pack the paint (because they aren’t scared of our other shooters) and either have one player stick with Ryno or perform wild closeouts once the ball gets kicked out to him.  They aren’t scared of a Ryno pump fake and drive or just about any offensive action inside the 3 point line.  On a team with multiple shooters, he can make an extra pass to another open shooters. But right now, aside from Gordon, we don’t have other reliable shooters.  It’s why our offense falls apart versus great defenses and it’s why it will continue to fall apart until we find shooters to accompany our other players in the lineup.


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