Short-handed Pelicans rely heavily on Ryan Anderson
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
New Orleans Pelicans power forward Ryan Anderson seemingly can hold a conversation about anything – food, movies, road trips, you name it – but the discussion slows when you ask the 25-year-old to talk about himself. For a second straight season, Anderson has put together one of the most productive stretches of his NBA career as New Orleans deals with key injuries, but the sixth-year pro is quick to deflect praise to his teammates.
“We’re moving the ball so well,” Anderson said after his career-best 36-point performance in a triple-overtime win at Chicago on Dec. 2. “I’m getting open shots. I played 56 minutes tonight, so you better be productive when you play that long.”
The modest Anderson has again upped his production when New Orleans has needed it most. Last November, with Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon out of action due to injury, Anderson carried the offensive attack, even though opposing teams knew he was often options 1A, 1B and 1C. During a four-game road trip, he averaged 21.0 points and shot a scorching 21-for-33 from three-point range (63.6 percent). Yet New Orleans only went 1-3, even losing at Phoenix when Anderson poured in then-career highs of 34 points and eight three-pointers.
After an offseason filled with roster upgrades, including a trade for 2013 All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday, the Pelicans appear more capable of easing the offensive load on Anderson this time. Gordon is now healthy, giving New Orleans a pair of backcourt scoring options with career averages of 13.5 and 17.8 points, respectively.
Anderson has again been the club’s top scorer, averaging a team-high 21.7 points in 2013-14. Since Davis was sidelined with a broken hand at New York on Dec. 1, Anderson has been even more potent, averaging 25.8 points, highlighted by consecutive 31- and 36-point outings in road wins against the Knicks and Bulls. Although he’s been an exceptionally high-volume three-point shooter – launching 7.4 per game – he has still connected on 50 percent of his attempts (37-for-74). That’s tied for third in three-point percentage in the league, behind only Marco Belinelli of San Antonio and recent all-time NBA record-breaker Kyle Korver of Atlanta.
He’s also been remarkably consistent, scoring 17 points or more in all but one of his 10 games, a valuable trait for a team that has been forced to shuffle its starting lineup and rotation. Although he’s been in a mini-slump by Anderson standards on the Pelicans’ homestand so far, in his first eight games of the season, he shot at least 40 percent every game
“He gets good shots,” Pelicans center Jason Smith said of Anderson. “He has more shot opportunities when guys are out. When we have Tyreke (Evans) and Anthony healthy, it kind of disburses those shot attempts. With them being injured, Ryan has kind of taken it upon himself to be more of a scorer. He’s doing a great job so far. We just have to continue to go to him.”