Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images
|2010-2011 regular season||Ryan Anderson|
If someone asked you who the second-best player for the Orlando Magic was this season, you’d have to think about the question. Right?
In theory, it should be Jameer Nelson.
Nelson’s career year in 2009, in conjunction with his performance in the 2010 NBA Playoffs, reveals someone that is an All-Star caliber point guard when he’s on top of his game. Of course, “when he’s on top of his game” is a phrase which implies that Nelson isn’t always on top of his game, and thus it makes it tricky to label him the second-best player for the Magic because consistency comes into question and great players are usually consistent. That’s partly why they’re great.
So if Nelson isn’t the “Robin” to Dwight Howard‘s “Batman,” a terrible analogy and cliche but let’s go with it for a few seconds, then who is?
It’s certainly not Hedo Turkoglu or Jason Richardson.
The mere fact that Brandon Bass‘ name gets mentioned really shows the dearth of talent on Orlando’s roster.
Surprisingly enough, more so to those that don’t follow the Magic on a daily basis, the answer to the opening question is probably Ryan Anderson. It might seem silly to suggest that after Howard, Anderson was the second-best player for Orlando this year, but it gets less sillier to think about when looking at the numbers.
|adj. +/-||net +/-||stat. +/-||PER||WARP||Win Shares/48|
At the very least, if people want to argue the definition of “best” or this and that, there’s no arguing the fact that Anderson was the second-most productive player in head coach Stan Van Gundy‘s rotation. When Anderson played, he produced, and there’s nothing more to it than that.
Anderson represents the remnants of the Magic at their peak in 2009 and 2010, when they surged into the NBA’s elite thanks in large part to a 4-out/1-in offensive philosophy that befuddled most teams in the league. Like Rashard Lewis, Anderson is a stretch four that creates matchup problems because of his ability to spread the floor and shoot threes with proficiency. At its essence, that’s what makes a stretch four a stretch four — three-point shooting ability. And because Anderson is a good three-point shooter, it makes him an extremely efficient player on offense and that’s a skill that’s always valuable in the NBA.
In fact, on the offensive side of the ball, Anderson is a player that the analytics community raves about.
Well, on offense, the three most efficient shots on the court are the layup/dunk, free-throw, and three-pointer. Long two’s from 16-23 feet are frowned upon, though it’s understood that if you shoot them efficiently enough (someone like Dirk Nowitzki immediately comes to mind), then it’s okay. If you look at Anderson’s shot distribution this season, and pretty much for his career, you’ll notice that he gets a majority of his points in the aforementioned three most efficient ways.
From a productivity standpoint, it’s hard not to like Anderson.
Anderson’s True Shooting percentage flirted around 60 percent for the season, which is excellent for a perimeter-shooting big man. Anderson was also an above-average rebounder among power forwards, with his specialty coming more so on offensive rebounds. More importantly, Anderson rarely turned the ball over, with a turnover rate of 7.8 percent, which aided in his efficiency because he wasn’t wasting many possessions offensively. That was the good.
But Anderson isn’t without his flaws.
Defense can be a bugaboo for Anderson at times, more so on the individual level rather than with team concepts. When Anderson is checking a player one-on-one, he still can get overpowered on the low block. Strength should be on Anderson’s checklist of things to improve during the offseason, though he does make up for his weakness sometimes with his ability to draw charges. Anderson can get beat off the dribble too many times as well, given that he’s lacking for athleticism and lateral quickness in that regard. Likewise, Anderson usually does the job defending pick and rolls, in terms of showing properly, but every so often he’ll blow coverages and he’ll earn an earful from Howard because of it. All of this isn’t meant to imply that Anderson is a liability on defense, per se, but there are natural limitations that need to be taken into account when evaluating what he can and can not do.
Overall, given that Orlando is in need of change almost everywhere on the roster, is starting Anderson a viable option? No, it’s not.
Anderson is more of a starting-caliber player than Bass. But it’s no coincidence that the Magic were a better team defensively when Bass was on the floor as opposed to Anderson. Bass is a better defender, even though it’s pretty safe to say that Anderson is the better player overall.
If Anderson can improve defensively and add a little more variety to his offensive repertoire, more so with his low-post game than anything else, than it’s a possibility he could start alongside Howard in the frontcourt.
But for now, Anderson is a reliable role player and nothing more.