Ryan Anderson was a mystery when he came over with Vince Carter in the first of a bunch of major moves that remade a roster that went to the 2009 NBA Finals. The trade that sent Courtney Lee and two others to New Jersey was dubbed the Vince Carter trade and no one would have blamed you if you thought Ryan Anderson was just a throw in. He proved pretty quickly in Orlando he was not that.
When he was struggling to crack Orlando’s rotation this year, giving way to a much-improved Brandon Bass and then suffering through the stomach virus and a mid-foot sprain. Rock bottom started in the home loss to Utah where Anderson played one minute and thirty seconds and was pulled after some poor defensive rotations.
His free fall continued once the illness struck and he sprained his foot. He played in only seven games from Nov. 10 to Dec. 25. He rejoined the rotation after battling that foot sprain on Dec. 23 against the Spurs.
It is easy to pigeon-hole Anderson as just another stretch-4. His 3-point shooting might make you think that. He does a lot more and is a lot more adept.
Since the trades, Anderson has filled that role of big guy who can shoot 3-pointers. It was the role Rashard Lewis filled in his four seasons in Orlando. The two should not be confused though.
When the Magic acquired Anderson they knew he could do a lot more than just shoot 3-pointers. He had a more refined post game than most would give him credit for and was a decent rebounder. He may not look like the rugged power forwards that used to patrol the paint in the NBA, but he does a good job.
“I think that I’m going to need to bring something when my shots aren’t falling,” Anderson said back in early January. “Rebounding is something I can definitely do out there. Energy, getting steals. I’m really just trying to focus on the defensive end. The offense will come.”
He said that back when he was in a horrible shooting slump and still working his way back from that foot injury. It did not help that he would soon cut his finger on the rim after a dunk.
The bad luck though, seems to have run out. Anderson might be one of the team’s most dependable options off its shortened bench.
Anderson is averaging 15.6 points per game in the last nine games while shooting 44.6 percent from long range. More impressively, he is averaging 3.0 offensive rebounds per game and 7.2 rebounds per game, including two double doubles in that stretch. In the last nine games, Anderson has an effective field goal percentage of 61.8 percent and he has shot better than 50 percent from the floor in six of those nine games.
It would be difficult, especially this year, to see Rashard Lewis go through a similar stretch while he was with the Magic.
Anderson has made the most of his minutes since the trades that is for sure. He fits in very nicely with the second unit and even with the starters. When Orlando was struggling last week and there was talk of change in the starting lineup, Anderson would have been the most likely candidate to enter the lineup. He was just flat out producing and there was no way around.
Stan Van Gundy was even kicking himself for not getting Anderson into the game at the end of the loss to Boston.
It does not appear a change to the lineup is going to come and Anderson is going to continue coming off the bench. That might be what is best for the time being. He still has a lot to improve on the defensive end, but his confidence likely has not been higher since coming to the NBA.
For the first time all year, his role is completely defined and he is producing. And no one can think of him as the throw in or the replacement they once did.