Anderson rises from trade throw-in to indispensable

By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer

The term “trade throw-in” is a derogatory description that applies to a player who is included in a deal, but isn’t expected to make any impact for his new team. As insulting as it may sound, when Ryan Anderson was traded by the New Jersey Nets to the Orlando Magic in 2009, that undesirable characterization was tossed around by virtually everyone. Three years later, even he acknowledges the negative label.

“Coming to the Magic, I was considered sort of a throw-in guy,” Anderson said of the transaction, which included higher-profile names such as Vince Carter and Courtney Lee. “People didn’t know much about me. I had to work through proving myself (in the NBA).”

After an extraordinary transformation – capped by Anderson earning the NBA’s Most Improved Player award in 2011-12 – the forward has completed a three-year journey from inconsequential to indispensable. A restricted free agent this summer, the Hornets swooped in and acquired the player who led the NBA in three-pointers made last season (166 treys in 61 games). This time, NBA analysts praised the acquisition of the fifth-year pro, who immediately made New Orleans a more dangerous offensive club.

In its annual rankings of the league’s 400-plus players, ESPN.com rated Anderson No. 50, causing the often self-deprecating player to tweet, “This is a surreal thing to see for a guy that wasn’t even ranked in the top 100 coming out of high school!”

In a Hornets organization that stresses player development, the 24-year-old University of California product appears to be an ideal fit. Along with his prolific perimeter shooting, the 6-foot-10, 240-pounder is also an elite rebounder. He was the NBA’s fifth-best offensive rebounder in 2011-12 (3.7 per game), behind only DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Love, Joakim Noah and Kris Humphries.

“People think of Ryan as just a shooter. But Ryan can post up a little bit and he’s a good rebounder,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said of his versatility. “He’s got a bit of an edge to him. He’s emotional, which is something we need. He’s hungry.”

So much has changed for Anderson in three years. Instead of being in the background, he’s now at the forefront of New Orleans’ future.

“I feel so much more comfortable coming to a team where I do have experience now,” Anderson said. “It’s definitely a different feeling.”