Ryan Anderson: Hurtful or Helpful?

Published: April 7, 2015

Ryan Anderson is a double edged sword for the New Orleans Pelicans. One of the most beloved players by both the fans and players alike, he has a very discernible and in demand skill. But he’s also been hurting the Pelicans on defense this season. Let’s break it down some, and see what the Pelicans should do going forward.

Three Point Shooting

Oh, you’re not surprised when I say Ryan Anderson is a deep-threat and court-spacer? Okay, but how about I tell you why his three-point shooting is different than Eric Gordon or any other Pelican.

By being a stretch forward, Ryan Anderson frequently draws bigman defenders who aren’t used to stepping out a defending the three-point line. Power Forwards and Centers feel more comfortable down low where their height, both on offense and defense, becomes a huge advantage. Take a look at the wide open attempt below.

Boogie Cousins doesn’t even move out to the three-point line to contest the shot. It’s just not what he normally does. This creates a strong synergy Anthony Davis (in the gif above Cousins looks like he wants to cover Davis even though there is already another help defender down low). Anderson either pulls a defender out of the paint with the threat of an open three-pointer, opening the lane for Davis, or the defense sags off and gives him a wide open attempt. It seems like a win-win.

The Defense

There is no way to sugarcoat it: Ryan Anderson has been bad on defense this year. While not known as a defensive stopper by any stretch, the Pelicans defense has struggled with Anderson in the lineup. Anderson’s DRtg is clocking in at a woeful 108.9, 4.3 worse than the Pelicans team average. Only Jeff Withey, in his very limited sample size, has a worse rating on the team. The Pelicans 6th most used lineup, and the first one featuring Anderson, of Anderson/Davis/Evans/Gordon/Holiday has a DRtg of 116. The 7th most used lineup of Anderson/Asik/Cunningham/Evans/Gordon comes in even worse at 121.3.

More than that, Anderson even fails the eye test. He was abused constantly by Chris Kaman Saturday night against the Blazers. Kaman, with Anderson defending him often, put up a 170 offensive rating. That’s insane. And a big knock on Anderson. Anderson did make 2 threes that game, but those were the only points he scored, and it wasn’t until the 4th quarter that he got rid of the zero on the stat sheet.

Going Forward

I don’t want to downplay Anderson’s significance; however his value mainly comes from his three-point shooting. But that shooting can be replaced, and at a cheaper value than Anderson’s contract (See a guy like Anthony Morrow). Potentially that production can be filled internally; as we’ve seen this year the Pelicans have gotten more three-point production from other players. Quincy Pondexter has the third highest 3P% on the team. Gordon has been making over two per game while shooting 45%. Even Evans is making more than he ever has. Additionally, Anderson is a bit of a boom or bust player at times. In only 18 of the 55 games he has played this year has he made more than 2 three-pointers.

And then there is the defense. While great defensive players aren’t just readily available, an improvement could be made by simply removing a bad one. And it’s possible to argue that part of the Pelicans improved DRtg post All-Star Break is due to Anderson being out.

As the Pelicans wind down their season I’m starting to jump aboard the train that the Pelicans should keep pretty much everything intact, pray for some good injury luck next year, and see what this group is capable of. But if teams call Dell Demps about Ryan Anderson, the Pelicans GM should definitely answer his phone.


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