Ryan Anderson is a unicorn without a horn. He’s a 6’10” shooter that the NBA is fascinated by simply because he’s a 6’10” shooter. That’s exactly the kind of player teams desperately want to overpay this summer, when everyone will have cap space and need gunners, preferably in the front court. I just don’t fully understand the logic of it when it comes to Anderson. He’s 6’10” but doesn’t offer many of the usual benefits of having a player who’s 6’10”.
Theoretically, having a great shooter with the size of a traditional power forward is so important because that size is supposed to translate to defensive value. But Ryan Anderson isn’t a good defender. He’s not even an acceptable defender. He’s one of the worst defensive players in basketball.
He’s too slow and flat-footed to offer anything as a rim-protector. Opponents are making 57% of their shots at the basket against him, and remember he’s playing most of his minutes with either Anthony Davis or Omer Asik. On his own, he’s blocked only 25 shots all year.
If a 6’10” power forward can’t offer defensive value as a rim-protector, then he’d better be quick enough to chase smaller guys on the perimeter. Per SportVu, Ryan Anderson has the third-slowest average defensive speed on the Pelicans roster, ahead of only Tyreke Evans (whose lack of effort is actually admirable at this point) and Kendrick Perkins (died in the Civil War). He’s slower on defense than Omer Asik. Omer Asik’s appendages are made of dried Play-Doh, that shouldn’t be possible.
This might be rectified if Anderson were a decent rebounder, but he’s 107th in the league in rebounds per 48 minutes. That’s below Kelly Oubre, and you don’t even know who Kelly Oubre is.
So the theoretical value of having a 6’10” shooter is already lost in that he doesn’t actually do anything that 6’10” players usually do. If you’re that desperate to get a shooter to play power forward, why not spend half as much money on someone like Marvin Williams who can at least defend smaller 4’s even if he isn’t as aesthetically appealing? At least then you’re getting something defensively.
Anderson is supposed to make up for all of this by being an otherworldly shooter, but here’s the rub, he’s actually been fairly mediocre over the past two years.
At 35.3% from long range over the past two seasons he’s still above average as a three-point shooter, but certainly not by enough to justify an eight-figure salary. His .491 eFG% over that span wouldn’t crack this year’s top-75. His passing is non-existent. He can’t dribble. He’s a one-dimensional offensive player whose one dimension is rapidly declining.
So I don’t get it. Why is Ryan Anderson going to get $15 million per year this summer? What am I missing? Wouldn’t that money be better spent on a more complete power-forward rotation, something like Williams and Nene? That way, you’d have the benefits of playing a stretch-4 without the risk of getting caught with your pants down in the rare matchup against a traditional power forward who would punish a smaller defender down low. I’m fairly certain they’re going to get less combined per year than Anderson. But no, the hornless unicorn is going to get miserably overpaid this summer and it’s going to make absolutely no sense.