Ryan Anderson’s first season with the Orlando Magic wasn’t flashy or all that impactful. Anderson was acquired from the New Jersey Nets in the Vince Carter deal last off-season and my initial thought was that Ryan could be the “gem of the deal.” While the role was wide open for him to take over, Anderson didn’t receive enough minutes to make himself standout.
Anderson found himself playing in 63 games last season, averaging 14.5 minutes, 7.7 points and 3.2 rebounds a game as the 8th or 9th man in Orlando’s rotation. His limited playing time didn’t allow for him to showcase his full abilities but he still finished the season shooting 44% from the floor and 37% from beyond the arc. With a team like the Magic, that is pretty much the perfect offensive formula for a power forward that is going to back-up Rashard Lewis, another three-point specialist.
The issue with Anderson was his inability to defend opposing power forwards. Lewis has some of the same struggles but Anderson has a better frame and more strength than Rashard and at the age of 22, there is room for growth. Within the team concept, Anderson wasn’t horrible, but when he was faced with a one-on-one situation, he was most likely getting scored on.
Ryan knows that he has strides to make on that end of the floor and that’s why he’s been working hard this summer on improving his ability to defend NBA power forwards while improving his overall condition and endurance. Anderson is not the most talented player in the NBA but you have to appreciate the work ethic he is showing by committing his summer to getting better. Can you imagine how good some of the more talented players in the league would be if they were in the gym doing three-a-days with some of the best trainers around instead of partying at Tao or renting cabanas?
This path to potential NBA relevancy is similar to that of J.J. Redick, a fellow Magic player that uses the same trainer that Ryan is working out with. Both entered into Orlando’s organization as shooters and both of them spent the majority of their summers getting better on the other end of the floor. Redick’s improvements led to increased playing time, a defined role, and even some meaningful minutes in the post-season.
With his versatility on the offensive end, specifically his ability to consistently knockdown a three-point shot, Anderson is the perfect rotation player for Stan Van Gundy and his four-out, one-in offense. And because he is working his strength and endurance in order to make him reliable on the defensive end, which was perhaps what kept him from being a serious contributor last season, Ryan should be a frequented option on Orlando’s second unit next season.