After starting 50 games this season and 72 last, power forward Ryan Anderson seems to have fallen from the Rockets rotation. The long distance big man didn’t touch the court until the four remaining minutes of the contest posed no threat to the Rockets healthy advantage.
Anderson has been understandably supplanted in the starting lineup by the more defensive minded P.J. Tucker. The defensive shortcomings of Anderson have been exacerbated by a lack of conditioning and recent ankle injury. For Houston it makes more sense to have Tucker or Luc Mbah a Moute at power forward to allow their switch everything defensive scheme.
There’s no arguing with the results from Friday night.
In the first two contests against Utah Anderson received less than 10 minutes, but they were not garbage time. The brief appearances really made clear the shooter didn’t have much to bring to the court. He tallied zero points over both games.
Last season Anderson was a staple of pick-and-roll action with James Harden. His ability to shoot from five feet behind the three point line made him a deadly partner to The Beard.
Send Harden’s defender around the pick and Anderson stepped backwards to receive a casual behind-the-back bounce pass and fire from 27 feet. Switch the action and Anderson would still have the option of shooting over the smaller defender, but more likely you were left with a bigger defender guarding Harden at the three point line. Neither situation was ideal.
When Anderson logs minutes with Harden or Paul he’s no longer a primary player in the action. For the most part he drifts to the corner and stays there. On a few actions he will come out with another big to set a two-man screen at the three point line. But the days of him screening on his own appear in th epast.
Further, the play of Capela and Nene has seemingly erased the idea of Anderson at center. He has played only a few minutes at center in the series and they were meant to provide a few more minutes of rest for Capela.
At the end of the regular season, without Anderson, the Rockets were allowing Tucker to slide to center at times. One would have to imagine Tucker or Mbah a Moute are currently tied for third on the depth chart at center.
Even against the Jazz, a team with size, who start Rudy Gobert and Derek Favors, Anderson’s size doesn’t make the case for time on the court.
The power forward had a promising start to the season showing a newfound defensive attitude and rebounding tenacity. Both waned following injury and have been gone since February at the earliest.
Three games into the second round of the playoffs it seems Anderson has fallen out of Mike D’Antoni’s notoriously thing playoff rotation.