There was no way Ryan Anderson was going to live up to that contract.
Last offseason, the Houston Rockets signed the stretch four to a four-year, $80 million deal, and though he was immediately thought of as a good fit for Moreyball and Mike D’Antoni, we all knew that was a lot of cheddar for an injury-prone and defensively challenged power forward.
And while Anderson did manage to stay relatively healthy — his 72 games played were the second-most of his career — he had an underwhelming season.
Ryno averaged just 13.6 points per game, which was his lowest total since the 2011 season, his third year in the league. He was also extremely streaky for the majority of the year, showing a marked difference between what’s now become known as “Home Ryno” and “Road Ryno”.
Road Ryno was what the Rockets paid $20 mil per season for. He averaged 16.2 points per game while shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 46 percent from beyond the arc, making 3.5 triples per game.
Consequently, Home Ryno was a complete bust, averaging only 11 points per game on 37 percent shooting and 33.3 percent from deep. He made one full less triple per game.
Combine the two and you get a player who was decidedly average from an offensive standpoint. Anderson’s defense was as bad as ever, and his offensive rebounding, formerly a strength (he averaged 3.0 offensive rebounds per game from 2012-2015), fell off a cliff. Ryno’s 1.6 offensive boards per game was his worst mark since his sophomore campaign in 2010.
He also didn’t show up in the postseason. While he wasn’t nearly as bad defensively as one would think filling in at center after Nene went down, his offensive performance was atrocious. Anderson averaged just 9.4 points per game in the playoffs, while shooting a rock-bottom 39.1 percent from the field and 28.3 percent from deep.
Add all of those things together, and you get a player who clearly wasn’t worth the monster deal he received.
But what you don’t see in the individual box score was the effect Anderson had on the Rockets as a whole. His mere presence helped make last year’s Houston team the offensive juggernaut it became. Anderson’s ability to stretch the floor and the fear opposing teams had of his ability to get scorching hot and change the complexion of any game is what opened up the rest of the court for the Rockets. Add in James Harden’s ability to get to the cup and the ever-present threat of easy lobs inside to Clint Capela, and you had the “pick your poison” scenario Houston’s opponents were forced to deal with night in and night out.
The Rockets finished with 55 wins on the year, which was the fourth-highest win total in franchise history, yet they were no better than a .500 ball club (5-5) in the 10 games Anderson missed on the year. The effect of a stretch four in this system cannot be understated. But neither can Anderson’s shortcomings.
It’s why he’s been on the block all offseason, and he’s been one of the key pieces (and possibly even the hold up) in Rockets GM Daryl Morey’s overtures for Carmelo Anthony. It’ll be tough moving Ryno in a deal for one of the game’s premier scorers, but if anyone can pull it off, it’s Daryl Morey.
Should he remain on the roster, he’s still a good fit for Mike D’Antoni and for Moreyball. In fact, with Chris Paul now on the roster and some added defensive help in P.J. Tucker, he may even be a better fit this year than last. As Ethan mentioned yesterday, this Rockets team already looks better on paper than last year’s third-seeded team.
But there’s no doubt team management is looking for an upgrade and a way to get out from under that deal, so at this point, it’s anyone’s guess how much longer Ryno remains in H-town.