The Last Thing This Team Needs is a Ryan Anderson Replacement

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Published: February 14, 2016

When you see the deals that people throw around for Ryan Anderson, there always seems to be a Ryan Anderson-lite coming back to the Pelicans in return. First it was Markieff Morris, then Montiejunas, or Patrick Patterson, or Ersan Ilysova, etc. Why??

The Pelicans play in the Smoothie King Center but they need a ton of Red Bull – you know, because Red Bull gives you wings. What they have now is guys who are best served as small ball power forwards forced to play the 3, because AD and Ryno are eating up all the minutes at power forward. Trade Ryan Anderson for a wing or two, and all of a sudden Dante Cunningham and Luke Babbitt can slide into the backup power forward position where they belong. And unlike Ryan Anderson, the Pelicans have both these guys on contracts for next year at great numbers. New Orleans can bring back both for just $4.2 million combined, likely 1/5th of what Ryan Anderson will get annually.

The Pelicans power forward position is in great hands, even if Anderson leaves, so there is no reason to trade for a poor man’s version of the flamethrower. ¬†There are two poor man versions already on the roster, not to mention that this team is still struggling to find time for Ajinca – who is very good with Anthony Davis next to him at the 4. With Ryan Anderson off the roster, the Pelicans have plenty of bigs to occupy those 96 minutes, but what they don’t have is serviceable wings to stop penetration on defense and knock down open shots on offense.

Luke Babbitt’s highest career PER came in the season where he played primarily power forward. It was also the only season in which he finished with a positive offensive plus-minus. Ryan Anderson went down two years ago and Babbitt stepped into his role and had a similar effect stretching the floor. He was always equally poor defensively, but again, he is doing it at a fraction of the price. Similarly, Dante Cunningham has been forced to play out of position because he is on the same roster as Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis. Cunningham is, in no way shape or form, a small forward in this league. He does a fine job defending some of the bigger small forwards in this league, like Carmelo and Lebron, but those guys are few and far between, and they finish games playing power forward anyway.

It’s no coincidence that all of Cunningham’s best statistical seasons came when he played power forward as well. He got to the line more, he rebounded more, he blocked more shots, and he got more steals as a power forward. His PER was nearly double what it is now and his win shares were nearly triple their current amount. And the league has gotten smaller since the days when he was playing power forward, and yet Cunningham has been forced to go down a position because of Davis and Anderson.

The Pelicans front court is fine, even without Anderson. They have 60 minutes to split up between Asik, Ajinca, Babbitt, and Cunningham, and those guys could be at least a net neutral in that role. Every single move the Pelicans make over the next 12 months should involve a wing player. Literally, every single one. Trade deadline – get a wing or two. Draft? They are going to have 2 or 3 picks – Get 2 or 3 wings. Free Agency? Order up some wings.

The Pelicans have a once in a generation big man and some solid role players around him to fill in the gaps at the 4 and 5 position. What they don’t have is the necessary guards and wing players to fully take advantage of AD’s game and Gentry’s system. Ryan Anderson is a great complimentary piece on offense, and if the Pelicans keep him, then they need to rid themselves of some of the other bigs and replace them with wings. But what they don’t need is another big man to clog up this roster and force Cunningham and Babbitt to shift down to small forward. The backup power forwards are already on the roster.

Go get some Red Bull.

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