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Rob Hennigan’s decision not to match the Hornets’ four-year, $34 million offer sheet for Ryan Anderson in July during the offseason was a polarizing one.
On the one hand, Anderson was the reigning Most Improved Player and had proven himself a more-than-reliable floor-spacing big, and a contract in the neighborhood of $8.5 million per year seemed perfectly reasonable for him.
On the flipside, even though the blockbuster trade wouldn’t happen for another month, everyone knew Dwight Howard was as good as gone, and it was hard to fault Hennigan’s decision not to re-sign expensive role players when the Magic weren’t going to contend for another few years.
Plus, the Magic were able to snare the much less expensive Gustavo Ayon in the Anderson sign-and-trade. The Mexican big man impressed in his first year with the Hornets, as both Magic Basketball’s Noam Schiller and Eddy Rivera wrote at the time. If the Magic had to lose a player as good as Anderson, they at least didn’t let him go for nothing and got a cheap prospect out of the deal.
Fast forward to two months into the season and it’s starting to look like the deal was a misstep, but hardly a franchise-killing one.
The Magic have a roster full of rookies and unproven players and several of them — including Andrew Nicholson, Nikola Vucevic, Maurice Harkless, and DeQuan Jones — have performed well above expectations. Ayon cannot be counted among that group. He’s playing fewer minutes per game on a similarly thin, lottery-bound roster to the one he was on in New Orleans last season. While his rebounding has slightly improved per 36 minutes, he’s regressed a smidge both offensively and defensively.
Anderson, meanwhile, has absolutely proven himself to be the real deal since joining the Hornets. His 20.0 Player Efficiency Rating is a hair above his career PER (18.6). He’s shooting 41 percent from beyond the arc, the highest clip of his career, and he’s doing it with a career-high 7.8 attempts per game. His rebounding has taken a slight dip from where it was last year, but he’s still been pulling down a perfectly respectable 7.6 boards per 36 minutes.