A Little Bit About Ryan Anderson

Published: June 20, 2015


The Playoffs, game 3, the first playoff game in New Orleans since the team rebranded. The Pelicans blow a huge lead in the fourth enroute to an OT loss. I throw a chair. While incredibly disappointing in the result, the game itself was fantastic, they left everything out on the court against the league’s best team. One of the main reasons that game was so close was the hot shooting of Ryan Anderson, who knocked down shot, after shot, after shot. It was a Ryan Anderson fans had not seen in about a year and a half. After missing most of last season and struggling most of this season people forget what he can do, and how important he was and is to this Pelicans team. Yes his defense leaves a lot to be desired, yes his rebounding has gone down every year he has been in New Orleans, but that isn’t who Anderson is. He is the Flamethrower.

Here are some stats on Anderson from 2010 through 2014 (4 seasons):

[table id=71 /]

That’s 4 seasons with an offensive rating of 120. For reference, Kevin Durant’s average offensive rating over the last 4 seasons is 120. Anderson was the league’s MIP in 2011-12, making the most 3 pointers in the league. That’s not such a small deal looking at some other MIP winners spanning back to 2000 – Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic, Paul George, Kevin Love, Danny Granger, Hedo Turkoglu, Monta Ellis, Boris Diaw, Zach Randolph, Gilbert Arenas, Jermaine O’Neal, Tracey McGrady, and Jalen Rose – he’s in good company.

He made the 2nd most 3’s behind now MVP Stephen Curry in 2012-13, and 2013-14 he was enroute to his best season as a pro: in 22 games he was averaging a career high 19.8 points a game in a career high 36 minutes a game, shooting a career high 40.9% from 3 on a career high 7.5 attempts a game…with an offensive rating of 120. In those 22 games, Anderson sat at 5th in the league in 3’s made behind Damien Lillard, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Wesley Matthews (and he was making them at a better clip than both the splash brothers). He is a great shooter, and watching him get hot made watching those rebuilding years bearable. Unfortunately for the Pels, a bizarre neck injury and a tragic off the court incident derailed his rapid assent up the NBA ladder.

He had a very down year in 2014-15, his worst year shooting the ball since his rookie season. As McNamara pointed out in his article, Anderson was just as good as he always was at home, his road performances were just abysmal:

[table id=72 /]

Apart from the 6th game of the season where Anderson had 32 points and shot 8 of 12 from deep at Cleveland, no other road game stands out where he shot particularly well from deep with the exception of 3 or 4 games where he went 2 of 5. So who is he? Home Ryno, Road Ryno, Old Ryno, or new inconsistent Ryno? Many will say he never showed any signs of breaking out of his slump, every night was a different Anderson, but lets check the facts and go through the season to see if this is really the case.

November his numbers weren’t good, December wasn’t much better, and January his numbers didn’t look much better either, but he did shoot 39.5% from deep for the whole month, a sign of hope? Let’s look at the games.

A string of 7 games (6 at home, 1 away, the last two games being that amazing OKC double header) toward the end of January and the beginning of February was the only sign that Anderson was working through the slump. Anderson averaged 17.6pts in 29 minutes, shooting 43.7% from the field and 43.6% from deep in those 7 games while the team won 5 of 7, beating Dallas, Philly, LAC, Atlanta, and OKC. Yes it was mostly at home but it was Anderson’s best streak the entire season and it was against quality opponents. Specifically I want to talk about the Clippers game on the 30th of January.

Anderson went 3-10 the previous game against Philly and started this game 0-6, including two air ball 3’s, another missed open 3, a missed layup, and a blocked turnaround all in the 1st quarter. He made 6 of his next 11 and ended the game 5-11 from deep as the Pels went on to win the game 108-103 without Davis. He finished with 24 points and 9 rebounds. This is how it works, shooters have to shoot themselves out of slumps, and Anderson is never afraid to pull the trigger.

We’ll never know if this was truly him breaking out or not because the 8th game was that terrible blow out loss to Chicago where both he and Davis got injured. He would go on to miss 20 of the next 22 games. The last glimpse we would get of good Ryan would be that unbelievable game 3 performance months later, but that Clippers win showed just how much he means to this team, being able to step in for Davis and provide that offense.

But why the road issues? According to NBA Tracking data, Anderson actually got more open looks on the road than at home: in 28 home games, 60.5% of his shots were with a defender more than 4 feet away compared to 64.5% in 33 road games. That would seem like it would help, but this season Anderson shot horribly when open:

[table id=73 /]

This may sound ridiculous, but that is encouraging to me. All this leads me to believe it is more of a mental, confidence thing than anything else; every shooter has droughts and anyone who has ever had a neck injury knows how something like that can affect you. And as to whether he can return to form, well just see for yourself:

10/14, 2/3 from 3, 26 points, +15. With a new system and a full offseason to work on that shot and get his confidence back I have no doubt the flamethrower can return, full force. There is only one thing that he needs to give this team: spacing.

Gettin that jumper back. Feels good to be back home and in the gym. I’m making a commitment this summer to be the best mentally, physically, and spiritually I can be #justlikeridingabike #24hour

A photo posted by Ryan Anderson (@rjanderson33) on


Specifically, I can imagine a couple of ways Gentry can help get the flamethrower firing on all cylinders. Take a look at his assisted vs unassisted numbers:

assisted vs unassistedA Career low of his shots were assisted this past season (61.5% compared to his career average of 69.7%). The Pels relied on throwing the ball to Anderson and hoping for him to create something far too much. He has a couple moves to his arsenal—a couple of herky-jerk post moves and his turnaround isn’t that bad, but he is best when he can exploit mismatches and benefit from others creating in the space he provides. At times he tried too hard to get it going instead of playing within the offense. Sure a heat check now and then is fine but relying on Anderson to hit one-legged fades for an offensive spark is unrealistic and not beneficial to either him or the team.

A faster paced offense with more ball movement will undoubtedly benefit Anderson more than Monty Williams’ offense did. When stretch-big Channing Frye was added to Gentry’s offense in Phoenix in ’09-’10, he propelled them to the 4th best offense in NBA history. He was a Sun for 5 years, missing one full season. His first season the team’s offense was 1st in the league, the next year they lost Stoudemire but were still 9th, the next year 9th again, then 29th in ’12-’13, then back up to 8th in ’13-’14. Can you guess which year he missed? He left for Orlando this year and the Suns offense dropped down to 16th. Anderson is a better stretch 4 than Frye in my honest opinion, I think he can play a similar role to Frye seeing as both’s best aspect is providing space. Don’t think space is that important? Just ask someone who can appreciate a good space-creator, like Goran Dragic:

Last year (’12-’13) he [Frye] had some heart problems and couldn’t play with us, so when I played pick-and-roll I didn’t have that space guy. This year, when we play pick-and-roll, Channing stretches the floor so I have room to operate; I can get inside the paint and make other plays for him and everybody else. He just gives us that spacing, and especially for me and Eric [Bledsoe], he makes things much easier because nobody can rotate from him

Anderson shoots a little worse career percentage from behind the arc (37.9 vs 38.6) but that might have a little to do with the fact that he attempts 3’s at a much higher rate (52.5 vs 35.6). He is every bit as dangerous of a stretch 4 as Frye so I have no doubt that Gentry can find a way to use him to the team’s advantage.

The last thing I will say about Anderson is even when he was off, the team was still better with him than without. The offense was still an above league average offense with him shooting miserably on the road. Davis is better with him on the floor, and the team is better with both. A small ball lineup with Davis at the 5 and Anderson the 4 still has the possibility at being untouchable offensively. He will continue to be invaluable to this teams offense, I’ll bet anything on that. He is true professional, a irreplaceable locker room guy, and he’s a fan favorite for a reason, just look at that smile!

Here’s to seeing the return of the Flamethrower, I can’t wait for next year.


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