I don’t know about anybody else, but I am so ready for basketball Twitter to vanquish into anarchy when Ryan Anderson signs a big contract once free agency opens. The fan base of the team he signs for? Oh, he will be hated there from the get-go. As sad as it is to say, it’s a lose-lose situation for Anderson and fans. Because narratives spread like wildfire, and once the masses think you are this awful, unathletic, overpaid player when their GM could’ve spent valuable money on a younger, more exciting player, all voice or reason is gone.
Anderson will receive this treatment because of the large contract he is set to earn according to multiple reports. He is definitely a good player, but is he a player worth upwards of 1$6 million a year, even with a rising salary cap? To be determined. Personally, I have nothing against Anderson. I think he is a good basketball player who can contribute to a team in some capacity similar to the way Channing Frye contributed to the Cavaliers this past season. Except Frye is earning well under 8 million dollars a year and Anderson is expected to more than double that annual salary. That is where I pretty much draw my line in the sand. Except, my standard for Anderson’s salary doesn’t matter at all, because he is going to find a team to pay him that much.
Anderson’s ability works well in a vacuum. He is really good shooter who can space on offense the floor and cause problems for opponents with bigger, less mobile lineups. That’s pretty much it. He is an average rebounder at best, he has never been a good passer, and he is a defensive liability. His defense renders him virtually unplayable versus several teams, especially if his team is a playoff contender. Frye, for instance, averaged steady minutes against the bigger lineups of the eastern conference, but once the Cavs faced the Warriors who were well accustomed to playing small ball, Frye became non-existent in the NBA Finals.
For Anderson, there lies his problems of the future. As the NBA shifts to a small-ball “positionless” league, Anderson will need to adapt quicker than ever if he wants to remain effective on the court. Yes, I have heard the rumblings of the Wizards and Kings having Anderson as one of their priority free agents heading into free agency. But this piece is aimed at the BEST theoretical landing sports for Anderson, not the most likely landing spots. With that in mind, let’s jump in.
Stan Van Gundy loves himself a shooting power forward, and he will find no better one on the market this year than Ryan Anderson. Van Gundy is already familiar with the big man, having coached him for three seasons while they were both members of the Orlando Magic. However, with Marcus Morris as the starting power forward and Tobias Harris set to get minutes at the PF position, Anderson will be nothing more than a situational role player in Detroit. Which is fine for a player of limited capabilities like Anderson. With all due respect, I can’t imagine any playoff contending team wanting to sign Anderson because they believe he is their permanent answer in their starting lineup.
Anderson’s defensive faults can be masked if paired with a presence like Andre Drummond. Drummond can make up some of the ground left by Anderson and compensate for any lost rim protection with his dominant figure in the paint. On offense, he can be the veteran shooter who’s ready to knock down three balls whenever he gets a fair look. His outside threat would expand the floor and give more space to young players like Reggie Jackson and Stanley Johnson who do not yet command a long-range game. Anderson could also be a refreshing compliment to Drummond. A big body post presence in Drummond and a more agile, quicker, outside shooter in Anderson. The pair could score off of each others respectable games in their area of the court. The only question now left for Van Gundy is: is Anderson worth the investment?
Oklahoma City Thunder
Realistically, I don’t suspect the Thunder’s chances of landing Anderson, or even being remotely interested in him at that price tag, are high enough where he signs with team, but I think it would be a fun addition to Billy Donovan’s team. By the way, this scenario only works assuming the Thunder miss the mark on resigning their superstar Kevin Durant. Like the Pistons, the Thunder have a big man who is quick and skilled enough to help on defense when Anderson is on the floor; a true warrior if there ever was one, Steven Adams. Of course, Oklahoma City can never replace the offensive output and shooting Durant gave them, but they can try to recreate it — think of Billy Beane trying to compensate for the loss of Jason Giambi by utilizing multiple players for similar production.
OKC is already functioning with a lack of shooters and if they lose Durant they will be in dire need of outside threats. Hopefully Andre Roberson improves his three point shot to become a true 3-and-D guy; same goes for Victor Oladipo and Anthony Morrow. Realistically, though, OKC can’t expect their player to make such a dramatic turnaround in one offseason. The best substitute would be to sign new player who can contribute immediately. Players like Anderson.
Even without Durant, OKC is one of the more lengthy and athletic rosters in the league and having natural physical dominance might offer them some wiggle room with Anderson on defense. Anderson would give the Thunder a reliable threat on offense and if Donovan can channel the great coaching he exhibited in these pasts playoffs, OKC shouldn’t be giving up too much on defense. I see Anderson having more to offer the Thunder than anything else and I think his catch and shoot, or spot up and shoot game would fit snug and sound with OKC’s quick-tempo offense. But I’m not Sam Presti so that’s none of my business. *sips tea*
Gordon Hayward is an unrestricted free agent in one year and he could be looking to join a contending championship team. Utah’s general manager Dennis Lindsey might sense an urgency to win this and he has already told the media that the Jazz plan to be “very aggressive” once free agency opens. Utah has terrific depth, athleticism, and defensive-minded players on their roster, but what they don’t have are shooters.
The Jazz are looking to lock down a playoff seed next season and in order to do that they need more wins. Anderson is the type of player who can nicely contribute to a team during the regular season and give the Jazz those wins. Lindsey and the Jazz have roughly 30 million to work with in free agency, and that could be a point they don’t shy away from if they’re trying to lure big names to Utah.
Anderson wouldn’t be challenging Rudy Gobert or Trevor Booker for big minutes in the Jazz lineup; those Jazz love both Gobert and Booker and have expressed interest on keeping them around. But neither Gobert nor Booker shoot three pointers — like, at all. Last season alone Gobert and Booker combined to make 12 three pointers. Booker had 12 of them.
The addition of Anderson could be exactly shooter Utah is looking for. However, the Jazz are also eyeing unrestricted free agent Solomon Hill. A stretch for himself who would come boat-loads cheaper than Anderson will. If Lindsey is not interested in banding up a large sum of the team’s money on one player, Hill offers that backup option.
Ultimately, this is the fork in the road I keep coming to when analyzing Anderson’s free agency. He is looking for a big payout this summer, and I don’t blame him. Get your money while you can, sir. But these three teams listed above are all ran by respected GM’s who have made several smart moves in their history. They have all successfully built young attractive rosters who can compete in the league. It’s not that Anderson is old or that he’s not a good player, but for his price tag, history shows us these teams are unlikely to pay big bucks for a role player.
Anderson could very well end up going to the Washington Wizards or the Sacramento Kings, two teams who have openly expressed interest in him, who have the money to spend, and who feel the pressure from their star players to win now.
That’s the thing about free agency, nobody knows what’s going to happen. We’ll be shocked when a player signs with a team few expected and even more shocked when they sign for an amount nobody expected.
But we indulge in it all the same, because, in our hearts, we are all junkies.