Ryan Anderson won the league’s Most Improved Player at the absolute right time for his career. Anderson became a go-to scoring option for the Magic last season in averaging 16.1 points per game, 7.7 rebounds per game and 39.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc. He had 20 or more points 21 times this season and proved himself to be much more than just a spot-up 3-point shooter with his surprisingly high offensive rebounding numbers.
Anderson made both Rashard Lewis and Brandon Bass expendable in the matter of two seasons with the Magic.
Unfortunately, for the Magic, that revelation came at an absolutely horrible time for the franchise. The Dwight Howard uncertainty and a (sudden) reluctance to commit long term to any player led to the Magic allowing Anderson’s contract to lapse without exercising a team option for 2012-13 or offering an extension.
On July 1, Anderson will become a restricted free agent and, thanks to his cap hold, priority number one as the Magic try to maneuver themselves into their next phase.
There probably could not be more uncertainty with Anderson with the general manager that acquired him and the head coach that gave him a chance gone from the franchise. There is no telling what philosophy a new coach or a new GM will bring and whether Anderson’s role as a stretch-4 in a shot-heavy offense will be as accepted.
Anderson will not have much say in the matter as a restricted free agent. If the Magic want him back, it is their option to match any offer he might receive. There are no indications at this point where the Magic might go in this respect. If the price is reasonable though, you have to imagine the Magic will match and not let Anderson walk.
That leads to the next question: who will want Ryan Anderson?
Everyone will — who doesn’t need a stretch-4 these days, and few are as good as Anderson in the league right now. More specifically, Philadelphia has emerged as a potential team interested in Anderson, according to Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News:
“The team also needs to decide whether it will amnesty the contract of Elton Brand, who is scheduled to make $18.16 million next season. The team would pay Brand that money, but it would come off their salary cap. Doing this seems to be a no-brainer, if the new ownership group is OK with writing that check. If they do amnesty Brand, and can’t sign Williams and/or Hawes, that would free some money, perhaps allowing the team to go after a coveted free agent (maybe Orlando’s Ryan Anderson, a restricted free agent).”
To be sure, this will not be the only time Anderson’s name will be mentioned. Considering the 76ers were 25th in the league in 3-point attempts — although they were eighth in 3-point field goal percentage — adding another shooter to space the floor and give young guards like Evan Turner, Lou Williams and Jrue Holiday room to work might be a good idea.
Like Cooney says, Brand getting the amnesty seems like a pretty safe bet (why would he walk away from the final year of his contract where he will make $18.2 million?). Regardless, the 76ers have $32.4 million committed for next season, giving them roughly $25 million to play around with this summer.
A healthy chunk of that will likely go to Lou Williams, who is going to test free agency but says he wants to remain in Philadelphia. Another chunk will likely go to free agent center Spencer Hawes. Even if that eats up $15 million of that cap room, the 76ers should still have enough to sign Anderson. That all assumes the Sixers amnesty Brand, of course.
Really, the question for the Magic is how much are they willing to pay for Anderson?
He should get more than the mid-level exception and is likely looking at a three-year deal. I would suspect it will be somewhere in the $20-30 million range — the volatility being a question of whether he is a system player or not. Perhaps it will be structured like J.J. Redick’s deal and a team will frontload it to try and make the Magic a bit squeamish about spending so much money.
More teams will surely emerge as Anderson, no matter the system, is a very valuable commodity.
And they will have to decide what to do with him first before making many other moves. The Magic will have a $5.6 million cap hold for Anderson, according to ShamSports, hampering their ability to make trades and sign free agents in the meantime.
No one said the new general manager for the Magic was going to have much time to wait on things. He might be finding a new coach and dealing with free agency and Dwight Howard offers all at the same time.