Improved Anderson One of NBA's Most Underrated Players
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer

Ryan Anderson

July 11, 2012

Whether it’s with recent draft picks like Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers and Darius Miller, or players who’ve been in the NBA for a few years such as Jason Smith, New Orleans Hornets head coach Monty Williams and his staff are focused on developing talent. The goal is to ensure that Hornets players continually improve, a commitment that was best personified by the enormous leap Smith made during the 2011-12 NBA regular season, when his scoring average jumped from 4.3 to 9.9 points per game.

In acquiring 6-foot-10 forward Ryan Anderson from the Orlando Magic, the Hornets added a player who was the NBA’s finest example of player development last season. In his fourth year, the California native earned the league’s Most Improved Player award, after increasing his scoring average from 10.6 to 16.1 points. The 24-year-old started in all 61 of his appearances for Orlando, after he had been in the first unit just 14 times during the previous season.

Despite receiving praise around the NBA for his dramatic uptick in production in 2011-12, Anderson remains one of the league’s more underrated players among casual fans. With an individual skill set that lacks flashiness but is fundamentally sound, Anderson doesn’t appear on many highlight reels, but has become a darling among the sport’s growing legion of statistical analysts.

Anderson possesses an extremely rare combination of three-point accuracy and rebounding prowess, having shot 39.3 percent from beyond the arc in his final season with the Magic. For his career, he’s at 38.4 percent from three-point range. New Orleans ranked 22nd in the league as a team in three-point percentage last season (33.3), making perimeter shooting a key area of need this summer. Anderson also led the entire NBA in three-pointers (166) by a substantial margin (Dallas’ Jason Terry made 138).

In the paint, Anderson averaged a career-best 7.7 rebounds, including 3.7 at the offensive end. The latter figure ranked him fifth in the league, behind only DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Love, Joakim Noah and Kris Humphries.

The Cal-Berkeley product came to the Magic during the 2009 offseason from the Nets, as a virtual afterthought in a five-player trade that also included Vince Carter. In large part due to his individual improvement, the Anderson addition eventually benefited the Magic more than that of Carter, who has since moved on to play for the Suns and Mavericks.

“He did the work and made himself into a better basketball player,” then-Orlando general manager Otis Smith told ESPN.com in May. “He’s in the first part of receiving his dividends. … He’s making me look like a genius for making the trade.”

“I really did put in the time,” Anderson said in ESPN.com’s article on him capturing the Most Improved Player award. “I saw that I could have an opportunity here and I put in the hours.”

A similar opportunity awaits in New Orleans, where the Hornets expect Anderson to be an ideal complement to Davis and an offense that ranked 29th in scoring last season (89.6 points per game). A few days prior to the official announcement that marked Anderson’s arrival in South Louisiana, he tweeted, “This whole process was a bit of a surprise to me, but I am so incredibly blessed to be a part of such a promising team now.”


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