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I’m met with an interesting dilemma regarding Ryan Anderson. He is better across the board in offensive statistics than Brandon Bass, who shares his position. But pound for pound Bass is a better defender than Anderson. So how can you maximize Anderson’s game without making him a starter or changing Van Gundy’s schemes?
Please note, I’m not really sure, but I was willing to give this a look considering all of us at Magic Basketball had Anderson pegged as “the most intriguing player on the Magic roster” in last week’s 5-on-5 roundtable discussion at ESPN.com.
The first thing I had to do was take a look at this whole “Bass vs. Anderson” thing. By using the eye test, it was obvious that Bass had defensive strengths that Anderson lacked, but that Anderson was more of an all-around good scorer and contributor on the offensive end. Stats basically confirmed that.
Last season Anderson had a better True Shooting percentage and a better effective field goal percentage. He also rebounded better and had a better Offensive Rating. And generally speaking, Anderson was a better player overall than Bass.
With this in mind, I start wondering, is he this good regardless of his role on a team, or did Stan Van Gundy stick him in the perfect place already to maximize his game? In a player profile on this very site last year, Anderson was given a B+ rating, but called “a role player and nothing more” for the time being.
Now you see where this is heading. Could Anderson be more than just a role player? Is that what makes him so intriguing?
Note: Van Gundy made it clear last year that he likes Bass as a starter because he thinks he has a better approach to the game as a starter. He was questioned about the Anderson/Bass situation, and basically made it clear that he liked Bass’ intangibles more than Anderson’s. Can’t argue with SVG, and can’t argue with that.
Digressing here a bit, we take it to the numbers. Anderson averaged roughly 22 minutes per game last year, so I looked at every game where he played more than 22 minutes (40 games). In those games, Anderson seemed to spike offensively when he played closer to 30 minutes per game. Granted, this doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out. When you’re on the court longer, you will score more and rebound more. However, a case could be made that if you got this guy a few more minutes every game, you’d get more efficient production.
After all, we’re talking about a guy with a PER close to 20, making him the 36th most efficient player in the entire league last year. That’s a far cry from the guy who is averaging more minutes than him (Brandon Bass), who was ranked 97th overall.
I cannot conclude, though, that more playing time is necessarily the way to get the most out of Anderson. The sample size is just too small. Furthermore I cannot say for sure that making Anderson a starter is wise, especially considering SVG’s comments about Bass’ approach.
The only argument that I can make for Anderson over Bass is that when Bass’ minutes climb, his production does not climb at the same rate as Anderson’s (their numbers per 36 minutes flesh that out). His points go up a bit, but his rebounds plateau where Anderson gives you more beefy double-double type numbers. Probably the best example of this is when Anderson logged 34 minutes against Chicago in April. He ended the game with 28 points and 10 rebounds. While he might not be able to put up numbers like these every night, there has to be an instinct within the coaching staff to keep him on the floor to let his game develop.
As both Eddy Rivera and John Hollinger pointed out in separate player profiles, Anderson basically lacks speed laterally, strength in the post, and overall man-to-man defensive ability, thus rendering him “sub-par” on the defensive end. I get this, but I’m not willing to say that Bass is much better. Similarly, Hollinger himself called Bass average at best on the defensive end, citing limited mobility and poor awareness on the help side.
My point is simply this, the main argument for Bass as a starter who gets a bigger piece of the playing time pie is that he gives you more defensively. My feeling is that Anderson gives you more offensively, and the small-ish discrepancy between Anderson and Bass on the defensive side is not enough to justify putting playing time limitations on Anderson. There, I said it. Anderson should play more than Bass (at least), if not 28-32 minutes per game.
Here’s a strange bit of silver lining in all of this. I of course started looking at units that included both Anderson and Bass. The democratic part of me wanted to say, “fine, we’ll get the best of both worlds.” Of course these units meant Dwight was on the bench, which is something that Magic fans might have to start getting used to. At any rate, there were 5-man units, such as the one including Nelson, J-Rich, Turkoglu, Anderson and Bass, that had some sincerely solid plus/minus numbers. So maybe we’ll find that if Dwight ends up in L.A. the Magic have a whole new bag of lineup tricks up their sleeves.
Ok, maybe that is just depressing.
Here is how I’ll conclude. I don’t know the inner-workings and the intangibles that Van Gundy sees on this team. I’m also not an NBA coach. I just look at the numbers, watch the games, and create theories that may or may not be solid. I started working on an Anderson piece last year and shelved it once I read SVG’s comments about Bass being his starter. But now, after finding out that the majority of Magic writers find Anderson intriguing, and after digging through his stats, I can’t help but be convinced that he is more than a role player, and at least deserves the necessary minutes per game to prove this.