Ryan Anderson: Overpaid and Underappreciated

By Kyle Chilek on November 11, 2017

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When the news broke in last July that the Rockets had signed free agent Ryan Anderson to a four year $80 Million dollar deal, the fan base's reaction was a collective groan. Coming off of a season to forget with tons of cap space, fans wanted a star to pair up with franchise face, James Harden. However, that proved to be unrealistic, ending up with what many called one of the worst off-season's in the league.


Much to everyone's surprise, the Rockets, due in part to Ryan Anderson's play, won 55 games and grabbed the third seed in the West the very next season. Despite individual and team success, many still struggle to separate Ryan Anderson the player from Ryan Anderson the contract.

Throughout the off-season, rumors swirled in regards to Anderson's future amid the Rockets' pursuit of Carmelo Anthony. The common theme throughout all these rumors was clear: no one was going to take Anderson's contract without compensation. Zach Lowe reported on his podcast that other front office members were demanding two first round picks in order to be landing spots for Anderson's final $60 million dollars over three years, showing the contract's value in trade.

Due to all this noise about how challenging it is for the Rockets to get off of Anderson's contract, many have forgotten that behind the bloated contract is a helpful and valuable NBA player.

While negative two picks may be Anderson's value to other teams, the Rockets' may value him more than any other NBA team. For a team that wants to spread the floor at all times and run endless pick and roll, Anderson is the perfect offensive fit. He has the ability to spot up well behind the line and providing a deadly pick and pop presence.

Anderson isn't just a shooter, he's one of the most prolific shooting bigs the league has ever seen. Last season, Anderson was the only player listed at 6'10, or higher to shoot 40% or more on at least 5 attempts per game and is just the 6th to do so in NBA history. Raise the three point attempts per game threshold to at least 7 per game, and last season was the first time any player listed at 6'10 or taller shot 40% from three.

Anderson is also more than just a stand-still shooter, as he scored 1.12 ppp as the big in a pick and roll last season (popping for three on nearly all of those possessions), with an eFG of 57.8%. Having this threat drifting away from the ball after setting a pick, the defense has to make an impossible decision: hedge Harden to stop the drive, or give up an open three to one of the league's best shooters.

Everyone knows about Anderson's shooting prowess however, and he is thus labelled as a one trick pony who does nothing but shoot. That hasn't been the case this season.

Despite shooting worse than you'd expect from three (just 36%) he is a part of four of the Rockets' six best lineup combinations (minimum 15 minutes played) and the team is 1.3 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the floor. This shows that even when he isn't hitting shots, he's still helpful to the Rockets.

Part of the reason Anderson has remained effective is that he has added something to his game no one saw coming: isolation defense. While his help defense is still lacking, when the Rockets go their switch everything scheme, Anderson is no longer a liability. Once the Rockets go to their switching scheme, isolation players' eyes light up when they see Anderson guarding them, but so far this season, they've been shut down.

Anderson has defended 43 isolations (more than any other player this season), as teams hunt to get him on their best player, but has allowed just 24 total points and 23.7% shooting. Those numbers have Ryan allowing just .56 points per possession on isolation, putting him in the top 10% of isolation defenders this season. Here is a possession where All Star point guard, Kyle Lowry, gets Anderson switched onto him and attempts to take advantage:



Another underrated part of Ryan Anderson's game is his ability to create decent shots for himself late in the clock. While he isn't a ball handler, he is effective in these situations because he has the one of the best Dirk fadeaway jumpers in the league. While in Houston, Ryan Anderson is shooting 47% on two point shots outside of the paint, excluding catch and shoot possessions. His ability to turn around and shoot over smaller defenders to create a basket provides a solid backup plan when the offense is out of time on the shot clock, as well as provide creation on the second units.



While his contract will never be an attractive trade piece for the other teams in the association, the Rockets are perfectly happy to keep him aboard with all he brings. Even though he doesn't provide $20 million a year worth of value to the Rockets, he is a solid starter for them, and those aren't cheap. As he continues his solid play, many should begin to see the good NBA player, who has been overshadowed by a bad contract.

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