Ryan Anderson lands in ideal situation for fresh start with Suns
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — In the 2016-17 season, Phoenix Suns power forward Ryan Anderson started all 72 games he played for the Houston Rockets, and in the playoffs, averaged 32.0 minutes per game in the Western Conference semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs.
Fast forward one year to last season. Anderson took only 7.3 shots per game, was relegated to a bench role and played a combined 49 minutes over the last 12 Houston playoff games.
Because of his defensive limitations in Houston’s switch-heavy looks and teams attacking mismatches in the postseason more consistently, Anderson even had four DNPs in those 12 games.
That made it no surprise to hear Anderson reveal at Monday’s media day he had a sitdown with Houston’s decision-makers that led to him being traded two days later.
The 10-year pro checks a lot of boxes for coming into the right situation.
He fills a direct need at power forward, he gives the team another good shooter to space out coach Igor Kokoskov’s pass-happy offense and also stretches the floor for the No. 1 overall pick and his frontcourt partner Deandre Ayton.
“One of the things Igor and I talked about a lot, especially with Deandre coming in, was having an elite-shooting four man to create space,” general manager Ryan McDonough said at the team’s media day Monday. “I think in Igor’s offense, that is a key.”
In general, Anderson will help make things easier for Ayton and everyone as a whole offensively. Kokoskov called Anderson’s presence “huge” for Ayton and the offense.
“That’s balance,” he said Monday. “That’s something that we’ve been talking about. Breaking the paint, get in the lane, attack the rim and then spacing.”
Anderson has been unfairly rated in NBA circles as of late, particularly because of his contract, which sees him earn over $20 million each of the next two seasons.
A role player in Houston, Anderson averaged 17.0 points per game two seasons ago for New Orleans and is far more than a spot-up shooter.
When he averaged 11.6 points per game over two years with the Rockets, Anderson’s assignment in Houston was strictly being a floor spacer.
Anderson, however, can put the ball on the deck to get a bucket. He’s surprisingly quick and fluid with his dribble.
If the path to the basket isn’t there, Anderson can do more than you’d expect with mid-post position.
Anderson is one of the most prolific and best big men shooters of all time. Among players who have attempted 2,000 three-point attempts and are at least 6-foot-10, Anderson is fifth all-time in three-point percentage at 38.2 percent, per Basketball-Reference.
What you’ll notice with Anderson’s shooting is how much of a professional shooter he is.
Watch here how he floats into the open space off the ball and easily gets a quick shot off on the hop, catch and release once his feet land on the ground.
Even when he needs to re-position himself, Anderson can step back smoothly into his stroke with not the slightest bit of discomfort.
The “gravity” Anderson gets as a shooter off the ball is where he helps the offense the most.
“Ryan Anderson is a huge, huge piece for us,” Kokoskov said. “Just the fact that sometimes we’re gonna play 4-on-4 because they’re gonna hold him on the weak side.”
Anderson is also tagging up with one of his best friends in the NBA: Trevor Ariza.
The teammates for the past two seasons in Houston talked almost every day over the offseason and have had multiple conversations regarding their goals as the new veterans coming into Phoenix.
“It’s such a bromance, me and Trevor,” he joked Tuesday. “Having that comfort level of a friend and teammate you trust and rely on and a great veteran presence with these guys makes it a lot easier than being the sole new guy.”
In Kokoskov’s system, as well, Anderson goes from standing and watching Chris Paul or James Harden dribble for an entire possession to a full playbook.
“Me and Trevor keep joking because we didn’t run a whole lot of playsets in Houston,” Anderson said. “We’re just even implementing five or six playsets right now and that’s more than we probably ran over there.”
The offense keeps the ball moving and prioritizes spacing, meaning Anderson will be busier than he was last year and, to no surprise, he’s thrilled about that.
“I can’t wait to play in this system,” he said. “I know that coach Igor is going to do a lot to get shooters like myself, Trevor and other guys open looks which is the way I play basketball.”
All of it adds up to a dream scenario for Anderson in Phoenix, which is a crazy but true statement to say for a guy going from a 65-win team to a 21-win team.
“This is the beautiful thing for me: I’m happy to be here, we’re building a culture, we’re building a future with our group,” he said Monday. “I’m happy to be a part of that. I’m happy to help in the best way I can.”