Ryan Anderson: anything but a throw-in


Who is Ryan Anderson? That’s the question most Magic fans are asking almost 24 hours after the team acquired Vince Carter in a blockbuster deal that sent shock waves through the city. Orlando fans know what they’re getting in Carter – and it’s safe to say that opinions are varied – but most of the Magic faithful can’t believe the team gave up promising rookie Courtney Lee. Well, I’ve got news for you. If the Nets hadn’t taken Anderson one spot ahead of Lee in the 2008 NBA Draft, Anderson would have been Orlando’s selection. “Adding another young piece in Ryan Anderson, that was huge for us to be able to cross that barrier,” Magic General Manager Otis Smith said about giving up Lee. “Those guys went 21 and 22 right in front and behind of each other and we liked him in that draft as well and we were just able to pick him up a year later.” As a notorious Pac-10 homer and native of the West Coast, I’ve seen plenty of Anderson and I can tell you that he’s more than just a throw-in to make this deal work. “Giving up a young Courtney Lee only made sense for us because we were getting back a young Ryan Anderson who we think also has some promising future in this league,” Smith said. At 6-foot-10, Anderson is an immediate upgrade at backup power forward over Tony Battie. His numbers as a rookie (7.4 points per game, 4.7 rebounds per game) nearly eclipse Battie’s career numbers (6.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg). Lee was a solid defender and will probably develop into a nice player, but his skills are duplicated by Carter and Mickael Pietrus. Anderson will add a scoring punch to Magic bench as a big man that can shoot, rebound and occasionally block shots. A look at Anderson’s stats from his sophomore season at Cal in 2007-08 really tell the story. During the season Anderson led the Pac-10 in scoring, putting up 21.1 ppg while averaging 9.9 rpg. Some of the other top players in the conference during the 2007-08 season? O.J. Mayo, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez and Jerryd Bayless. All players that went in the top 11 picks of last year’s draft. Anderson can also step out and shoot the three, hitting 69-of-189 (36.5 percent) as a rookie. His numbers from beyond-the-arc as a power forward nearly equal that of Lee (82-of-203, 40.4 percent), a shooting guard. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said Anderson’s importance to the deal shouldn’t be overlooked. “I think another part of this deal with Ryan Anderson was crucial.” Van Gundy said Thursday. “…When Rashard came out of the game and we went to the bench, we really had to play a different way because we then could not spread the floor out. And when we tried to move Rashard back to the three, you couldn’t stretch the floor with your four, so he couldn’t get any room and now you get another guy that can really stretch the floor, and I think it gives us even more flexibility to both swing Rashard back to the three or when Rashard is back on the bench getting a rest, which he didn’t get much of, we can play the same way.” While it’s sad to see Lee go, Magic fans should praise the team’s management for being aggressive and trying to capitalize on the championship window while it’s open. We all remembered what happened in the mid-90’s, and in the current state of the NBA I think the Magic front office is smart to strike while the iron is hot.