After losing most of 2013-14 to injury, this season was supposed to be an excellent return for Ryan Anderson. The addition of Omer Asik would slide Anderson into the sixth man position, allowing him to share the floor with one of the best rim protectors in Asik and the other minutes with one of the best players in the league in Anthony Davis. It was a perfect set up for a man who was coming off a gruesome injury in a collision with Gerald Wallace last January.
Then, the season started. Anderson didn’t have the season we expected. He played admirably, but ultimately missed time with injury and worse, missed a ton of jumpers. Now, as he enters the final season on his current contract, the Pelicans have a decision to make on Anderson as they enter another era of Pelicans basketball.
As I alluded to, Anderson didn’t have the best of offensive seasons, finishing with a handful of career lows. His 15.6 PER was his lowest total since his rookie season six years ago. His 52.4 true shooting mark was the lowest of his career, 13.7 points per game was his fourth lowest total and lowest since the 2010-11 season. However, it was Anderson’s three point shooting that fell off a cliff.
Before his injury last year, Anderson was on the verge of a career season from beyond the arc, shooting 40.9 percent on 7.5 attempts before succumbing to injury. This year, he shot 34.0 percent from three. There were moments where Anderson looked like the lights were going to turn on, a couple open threes here or there, but it never happened.
There were some small things of intrigue offensively. As a cutter, Anderson finished with a 1.45 PPP, per NBA.com’s play type. He only did it with 3.9 percent frequency, but finished with 66.7 percent shooting on them. In transition, he was also an effective option, finishing with a 1.30 PPP, shooting 47.3 from the floor in transition plays. Both being off the ball, plays could be valuable as the Pelicans move to a more vibrant, accelerated offense.
And if the playoffs showed us anything, it’s that Anderson is best when playing next to Davis. For the season, the combination of Davis and Anderson showed promise, posting a 112.7 offensive efficiency and a 106.7 defensive efficiency. The defense could still use some work, but the combination of Anderson from beyond the arc and Davis from anywhere a step inside the arc could make for a dangerous combination under the watchful eye of Coach Gentry. Especially if Anderson were to reclaim his shot.
Defensively, Anderson was Anderson. The Pelicans were generally seven points better with Anderson off the floor. He didn’t hurt the Pelicans for much of the Golden State series, but when Golden State wanted to attack, they usually put Anderson in the pick and roll. Forcing Anderson to step out to guard a shooter, whether it was Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson. There were some moments where he was bad, really bad, but he wasn’t brutal.
On isolation plays, Anderson allowed just 0.73 PPP, doing a good job on one-on-one plays contesting shots and not allowing too many easy looks. On post-ups, Anderson allowed opponents a 48.1 FG%, showing that he has some capability of stopping more bruising post players. Next to Omer Asik, though, the value is slightly limited, as evidenced by the 112.9 defensive rating when the two take the court.
Overall, Anderson is put in a tough spot for the Pelicans as an expiring contract. Even with the poor shooting season and relative injuries, Anderson is still valuable as a floor spacer and he’s still just 27 years old. If the Pelicans wanted to make a remodel to the roster, I think Anderson is the piece to do it. He’s someone that could be worth a valuable draft pick, could be worth a nice asset to get you a future first rounder, the possibilities are endless. If he were to be traded, I continue to find someone like a Detroit being interested in him, as a fit next to Drummond, and also reuniting Anderson with Stan Van Gundy.
On the other side, the Pelicans could decide to keep him and ride out one more year. With Alvin Gentry in place, I can see Anderson in the same role, or, in a starting role next to Davis if Asik were to depart. Doesn’t make them bigger, but rather, more agile offensively with the hope that Anderson can space the floor more like he did in the previous five seasons than he did last year.
It'll be curious to see if Dell Demps decides to keep or move Ryan Anderson.