Ryan Anderson, one of the league's most prolific shooters, will have a chance to re-define his role with the Hornets
That Ryan Anderson, 4 years removed from being drafted 21st back in 2008, is now counted on to become a leader and a voice in the locker room is surprising. The pace at which Ryan Anderson's career has moved is exhilarating. He started as a late 1st round pick for NJ, eventually winning the starting PF towards the end of the season. He was then included as an add-on for the Vince Carter trade where he (again) eventually won the starting PF spot. 4 years after being drafted, his veteran roles on the Hornets says as much about Anderson's career achievement as it is does about the team's youth.
Ryan Anderson as a Hornet
In Ryan Anderson's short tenure as a Hornet, he's already been studied in multiple facets; in some respects, doing it again seems redundant. He's been analyzed in the following ways:
- Advanced metrics - both box score estimates and play-by-play analysis - absolutely love him as an offensive player. He understands that there are 3 efficient ways to get a score: 3 PT line, a score inside and from the FT line. Ryan Anderson does all these things well, except scoring inside where he's average.
- His on/off court ratings are impressive. His defensive on/off court ratings are about average, but his on/off court offensive ratings are excellent.
- He plays really well with or without Dwight Howard. His efficiency goes down a little bit, but he increases his rebounds.
- He's maintained his solid production even as his minutes increased. So it's highly probable that he'll maintain his production.
And so today, I'll be focusing on a different aspect of Anderson and his new team - how Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis fit together.
Greivis Vasquez and Eric Gordon are tremendous pick and roll players. Gordon has been incredible as a P&R ballhandler (14th in 2011, 1st in 2012) and Greivis Vasquez is decent (64th in 2012). Those numbers came while playing with bigs who weren't great at the P&R (except Jason Smith). In the P&R, Ryan Anderson provides more options. Additionally, he'll be playing with Anthony Davis, who's going to be a good target for both Gordon and Vasquez. If you watched the Olympics, you'll know that Anthony Davis is an incredible target on dives to the rim.
The good thing is that under Coach Monty, the Hornets' most used plays have been spot-ups and P&Rs. Just by adding Ryan Anderson, the team's offense will be better than 26th and 19th in the league (as in 2012 and 2011). I feel confident in saying that Ryan Anderson will make our team much, much better offensively.
Ryan Anderson as a defender
I'd be negligent to not mention Ryan Anderson as a defender. Let's face it - Anderson isn't really a great jumper nor is he extremely quick. He also isn't strong. Do those things make him a poor defender?
To be honest, I've never believed he was a bad defender. I've just felt like he didn't contribute anything to defense. He was in a sense "replaceable" on defense. In all his 4 years, his teams were either a little bit worse, or a little bit better with him on the court. His team was 0.5 points/100 possession better with him in 2011/12, 0.7 points/100 possession better with him on the court in 2010/11, and 0.9 points/100 possession worse with him on the court in 2009/10 and 3.1 points/100 possession better back in 2008/09. Even if we take 2008/09 as a fluke, he's still very much "average". His allowed PER at power forward from 2011/12 to 2008/09: 14.1, 16.2, 17.1, 15.6. As a C, those numbers go 15.7, 12.1, (not enough data), 16.9.
So put him in a strong defensive system (like Stan Van Gundy's) and he's going to be right around average (marginally worse or better). Luckily, Monty Williams is a defensive coach that understands defensive principles really well. So Anderson will probably be a good enough defender that he won't be a liability even though he's not the most physically gifted fellow. One thing he knows how to do is play within the team. And on defense, that is the most important thing. Playing with Anthony Davis (who will approximate Howard's role on the Magic) helps a lot.
Is Ryan Anderson really a star?
I've talked about his defense and his offense, but the question still remains -- is Anderson a star player?
By most metrics, he is. He compares favorably to Dirk Nowitzki, according to Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus. He understands efficiency, and he understands how to help an offense. As mentioned earlier, he takes only two types of shots - threes and attempts at the rim. When he gets to the free throw line, he shoots really well (87.7%).
But Anderson has struggled in the playoffs. Why? Because his offensive weapon - volume 3 PT shooting - is a risky strategy. Though a three pointer rewards a team with an additional point, it's a harder shot to make. Ryan Anderson can't truly be considered a star until he can create shots for himself.
He's done a good job in isolation, scoring 1.08 points/possession in 2010/11 and 1.04 in 2011/12. Both are solid isolation numbers. but he hasn't used enough net isolation possessions. He also needs to do a better job in postup situations. Those two areas are critical for Anderson "creating his own shot."
Luckily, Monty Williams will give him every chance to do so. Somebody has to create shots for the Hornets. Last year, it was Chris Kaman, Carl Landry and Greivis Vasquez. In 2012/13, Eric Gordon and Anderson (who are both more efficient than Kaman and Landry) will take over shot creation duties.
Anderson has the work ethic and the basketball acumen to reach this goal; once he does, he'll be one of the best offensive players in the league. He's a relentless worker and a smart player, and it's highly probable that he'll develop into at least an above average creator for the team. I truly believe that.
Lastly, since Anderson is a below the rim player, he's never experienced any major injury, which is important since the team's best creator is injury-prone.
Anderson is probably the 2nd best acquisition the Hornets made this summer. He and Anthony Davis will re-define what "bigs" do in the NBA. Davis will dominate the paint while Anderson will funnel them to him in an organized manner (and not forcing Davis out of position and into fouls). On offense, they'll be a dynamic duo whoever they pair with Gordon or Vasquez.
He will be a beacon of hope for Hornets fans if Gordon is again hurt or once Anthony Davis or Austin Rivers hit the rookie wall. He will be a veteran presence that will guide a young team forward to a bright future. And he will be a player that fans can connect with; he's professional, he's funny, he does his job well and he's hardworking. Let's be thankful the Hornets acquired Ryan Anderson this summer.