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Ryan Anderson, Needing To Be More Than Shooting


Looking at the Magic’s stat page, Ryan Anderson‘s name undoubtedly pops off the page. Surprisingly, Anderson’s name is at the very very top as the team’s leading scorer. Anderson is scoring 19.2 points per game and has score better than 20 points in four of the team’s five games. His three straight 20-point games against New Jersey, Charlotte and Toronto marked only the second time in his career that he had back-to-back 20-point games.

Anderson appears to have found something that has really clicked for him offensively. After years being the primary backup at power forward first behind Rashard Lewis and then behind Brandon Bass. Anderson was good, but mostly known for his shooting.

That has been what has carried over to his new role as the team’s starter this year. Anderson has been shooting the ball confidently at 61.9 percent effective field goal percentage and leads the league with 22 3-point makes on a league-high 50 attempts.

Chris Duhon was even joking after Sunday’s win against Toronto that Anderson was in line to be the starting power forward at the All-Star Game — ballot is released tomorrow… so vote away.

Anderson has been in a nice groove shooting wise and, most importantly considering his role on the team, is hitting open shots when he gets the ball. Anderson is not a player who creates much off the dribble so it is no surprise to learn that, according to HoopData, Anderson is assisted on 80.5 percent of his shots. It is what you would expect from someone who has made his career in four years on being a spot-up shooter for the most part.

The scoring was something we knew would come with Anderson. His versatility as a stretch-4 and a still slightly underrated rebounder were why the Magic insisted on his inclusion in the Vince Carter deal three years ago.

Still, despite the early success from Anderson this year, there is still a lot more Stan Van Gundy wants to see from Ryan Anderson. And a lot more to improve upon for the 23-year-old fourht-year forward.

“I think he’s capable of a lot more,” Stan Van Gundy said after Anderson’s 22-point, 3-rebound performance against New Jersey last week. “I thought he came into camp in the right frame of mind. I still think he’s in the right frame of mind. But he’s got to get more done. Nobody with his ability should be out there with three rebounds on a night like tonight.

“And He can still do even more. I think the sky is the limit for him. I’m saying it as a positive, I think he’s a hell of a player. But he can do more on the defensive end. He can do more on the boards. And he’s got to make sure that he challenges himself to do that.”

Certainly Anderson has made some large strides on the floor and is continuing to improve. He is still very very young and still developing his game. Van Gundy believes Anderson has a lot more in him.

Anderson is a better offensive rebounder than most give him credit for. He has always been more than just a shooter. After all, Anderson led the Pac-10 in scoring and rebounding his sophomore year before declaring for the Draft.

Last year he posted a 10.8 percent offensive rebound rate and a career-best 14.5 percent total rebound rate. Those numbers have dipped in the early part of this season to 8.7 offensive rebound rate and 11.8 total rebound rate. The higher focus on his offense has led to some decrease in his play elsewhere on the court.

It is hard to judge his individual defense. But that is clearly still a work in progress. Andrea Bargnani scored at will against him in the post, revealing one of the weaknesses in Anderson’s game that still needs some improving. But that game — especially the first half — was a lesson in staying disciplined and not biting on pump fakes.

Defense has been something Anderson has continued to work on and improve. And is something that will be key for Anderson to continue his growth.

“They definitely stress that with me a lot,” Anderson said after Sunday’s win over Toronto on the coach’s focus on his defense. “For me, I know I can get a lot better on the defensive end. The thing is that night in and night out, these are NBA players. They are going to score. I just need to do as much as I can and come out on the defensive end and focus on what I have to do to get stops and understand that there are guys like Dirk Nowitzki that no one in the world can guard and just do my part and get better.”

Anderson said he has not come in with the mentality to be the team’s leading scorer. His mentality has been to do whatever the team needs him to do — whether it is making open shots or trying to get more on the offensive glass. Anderson 8.3 3-pointers per game this season, up from 5.3 last year. More importantly though, and a sign of some of the diversity in his game, he is averaging 4.2 attempts per game at the rim according to HoopData. That is up from 2.1 per game last year.

Anderson is trying to show that he is not only a great shooter, but can do more. That has been the trick for Anderson’s step forward in the early part of this season.

And those contributions will be important, especially as the games and days start piling up quickly.

“He’s playing with a lot of confidence and that’s great,” Dwight Howard said. “He’s shooting the ball well. The one thing that we’ve been telling him is to keep having confidence in his shot. Him and J.J. [Redick] are going to be big later on in the season for us. A lot of teams are going to key in on me and Turk and they’re going to make sure they keep the ball out of our hands as much as possible. So Ryan and J.J. will ahve to be ready at all times. So far, they’ve been playing great. They’ve just got to be consistent.”

Still, there is a lot of work to do for Anderson to be the player Van Gundy envisions him to be and to be the consistent power forward that is more than a spot-up shooter and dead-eye marksman from beyond the arc. If Anderson can make that leap defensively and show that consistency, it makes Anderson a much more valuable and stronger player.

This is a much more aggressive and consistent Anderson. Anderson is showing a lot of new aspects to his game and prove he is more than just a shooter.