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Rockets 2017-2018 player previews: Ryan Anderson

Anderson was almost not a Rocket this offseason, but don’t expect that to affect his game.

NBA: Playoffs-Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

It has to be tough knowing your name is on the trading block. It’s probably even tougher knowing you were the holdup in any potential deal.

All offseason, Ryan Anderson was the subject of trade rumors, as the Houston Rockets attempted to move his $20 million per year contract in order to get Carmelo Anthony into the fold. Despite rumors that the Rockets actually did have a deal in place, only to have it fall through, Anderson is back as the Rockets’ starting power forward, and he’s still one of the best stretch fours in the game, despite a down year last season.

Ryno is coming off of his worst scoring average (13.6) since the the 2010-2011 season, and his rebounds (4.6) were the fewest since averaging 3.2 in the 2009-2010 season.

He also had terrible home/road splits, scoring 5 points better per game on the road, and shooting like a different player altogether away from the Toyota Center. Anderson shot 37 percent from the field and 33.2 percent from deep at home, but get “Road Ryno” in the arena (that is any arena not in Houston), and suddenly we’re looking at 46.1 percent overall from the field, and a scorching hot 46.7 percent from beyond the arc.

In addition, Anderson’s defense needs no further deconstruction among Rockets fans. He’s always been pretty bad, and he was bad again, and though his defensive plus/minus of -2.6 was his best mark since 2011-2012, he’s still a negative defender.

But for all his faults and the potential sting of being so publicly on the trading block, Anderson is still a good fit for this Rockets team. Houston was better when Ryno was playing well, and his shooting presence and capability to light it up from downtown kept defenders honest and opened up other aspects of the Houston offense.

He’s also a professional, and by all accounts a good guy and a hard worker, so don’t expect the offseason rumors to affect him too much. Rockets GM Daryl Morey said he had been in communication with Anderson throughout the summer, and Ryno does really like being a Rocket. Expect no issues with hard feelings from the trade rumors.

Anderson returns this season to his place in the starting lineup, and should offensively be a perfect fit again alongside James Harden and Chris Paul. You’d like to see the home/road disparity gap shrink into a more consistent line, but overall, it should be bombs away once again for Anderson, who shot 7 threes per game last year (making 2.8).

Ryno may lose some minutes this year, however, and that’s not entirely a bad thing. Anderson played 29.3 minutes per game for the Rockets last season. However, the Rockets put a renewed focus on defense during the offseason, and accordingly, they brought in two defensive-minded forwards in P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute. Expect both to at times sub for Ryno, giving the Rockets a little more muscle in guarding the opposition.

The key for head coach Mike D’Antoni will be creating the right balance, where the Rockets still receive the maximum benefit from Anderson’s shooting and positive effect on the offense, while minimizing the impact of his poor defense through proper substitution and minutes management. No more trotting Anderson out at the five, like what happened in the postseason this past year after Nene went down (though Anderson did, admittedly, handle himself a bit better than expected). The Rockets have a multitude of lineup options this season, and expect D’Antoni to use them.

In the preseason, which D’Antoni used almost entirely as a dress rehearsal for the regular season, Anderson averaged 25 minutes per game, a slight dip from last year. This is right in line for about what we can expect from Ryno this year. When he’s shooting well, it might be higher. Not shooting well, and thus not really contributing, the Rockets can realistically replace him this year, and still have guys who can shoot the rock (even if it’s not quite at Anderson’s level).

Another thing to keep an eye on with Ryno is his health. He’s historically been injury prone, though he did stay relatively healthy this past season. Anderson played in 72 games, the second most of his career, and save a six-game stretch in March when he was nursing a sore knee, he had no real extended absences.

Will Ryno stay just as healthy this season? He’s already been a little banged up in the preseason, battling a sore hip and missing one contest. At least the Rockets are now fully equipped to deal with any potential absences due to injury. Getting one mostly healthy season from Ryno was a blessing. Two in row might be asking too much.

Regardless, Anderson should be ready to roll when the season opens Tuesday night at the Oracle against the Golden State Warriors, where the Rockets are going to need him to come ready to shoot in order to keep up with the league’s best offensive team.