New acquisition Ryan Anderson, the original stretch-four model, has had an up and down career and may be crossing into NBA irrelevance due to his limitations as a basketball player.
With the Phoenix Suns, who desperately need actualized basketball players, he has a chance to reclaim his role as a three-making volume shooter at power forward who needs a little help on the defensive end.
After six years of being a sure-fire starter or sixth man with a strong role — one that earned him $20 million per year in free agency in 2016 — Anderson lost his Rockets rotation spot bit by bit last year to players like Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker.
This year, he’s better than Marquese Chriss or Dragan Bender, but Suns fans — including this one — pine for a stretchy, switchy lineup too, and want Anderson’s former teammate Trevor Ariza to play more minutes at power forward than Anderson.
This just a year after Anderson played a huge role alongside Ariza in Mike D’Antoni’s starting lineup, starting all 72 games he was healthy and making 40% of his seven threes per game. He’s had a positive plus-minus in seven of his last nine seasons, helping show he often is better offensively than he is bad defensively.
Here he is scoring 29 against the Warriors in a huge Rockets win.
Doesn’t that seem like a guy who can help the Suns?
We check in with Jeremy Brener of TheDreamShake.com, our brother SB Nation site with the Rockets coverage on what went wrong for Anderson in Houston.
For more on Jeremy’s takes on the trade and its impact on the Rockets and Suns, listen to last week’s Solar Panel.
1. Why did the Ryan Anderson experiment not work in Houston?
Ryan Anderson could have worked in Houston, but like many others in the Free Agency Class of 2016, their salary outweighed their production. If Anderson was making $7-8 million per year, he would still be a Rocket. His salary is what ultimately weighed him down. He also could have upped his game to play more like a $20M per year player, but that would mean playing at a level of an All-Star.
All-Stars making less than Ryan Anderson this season: Kawhi, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, John Wall.
2. What does Anderson need to do to salvage his career in Phoenix?
Anderson is on the wrong side of 30, but his goal should be to get another contract after 2020. He won’t see a contract nearly as expensive as his previous one, but being a good veteran mentor for the young guys like Dragan Bender, Deandre Ayton and Josh Jackson will help his cause. There are guys like Tyson Chandler and Jared Dudley who don’t deserve NBA contracts based on their play but continue to receive a boatload of money just for being a good teammate.
3. What is his biggest strength and weakness?
Believe it or not, Anderson was the Rockets’ best three-point shooter last season. He was better than James Harden, Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon, a former three-point contest champion. The problem is that he is incredibly streaky. He’ll have stretches where he hits 5 of 8 and then miss his next 14 shots.
4. What is his biggest risk?
When you’re on a rebuilding team like the Suns, there is not much risk involved. He’s likely to be the team’s starting power forward for the forseeable future, but if he does not play, it is not the worst thing in the world. He’s basically Brandon Knight with a little more money, and considering Knight was attached to the bench for the past two seasons, anything is better than nothing.
5. What is your projection for Anderson next season?
I think he’ll start the season well, averaging somewhere between 9-11 PPG and then find a way to get injured and be buried in the bench in favor of rookies. Anderson is not part of the Suns’ future and although there is value in him playing, there is more value in him helping mold and create a system and culture for the young Suns.
6. What is the better package, Knight/Chriss or Anderson/Melton?
Anderson/Melton is probably the more talented package on the basketball court, but Knight/Chriss is a more tradable package, which is what the Rockets needed more of. There’s still a chance Knight and Chriss get flipped for a bigger picture trade whether it be this offseason or in February at the trade deadline. Both teams got what they wanted and needed in this trade.
Big thanks to Jeremy Brener from The Dream Shake!