Ryan Anderson is now halfway into a 4-year, $80 million contract he signed in July 2016. It seemed like a hefty burden of a contract at that time, and the burden has never felt heavier at the end of his second season with the Rockets.
This is not because of the play he had early in the season, but the second half of the year was a dud for Ryno, and that’s putting it lightly. Throughout the season, Anderson averaged 9.6 points per game, his lowest since the 2009-10 season when he was an NBA sophomore and a minor figure of an Orlando Magic team that lost in the Conference Finals.
2017-18 marked Anderson’s return to the Conference Finals, but like his appearance with the Magic, he played seldom and was a minor figure. This was not the case at the beginning of the season.
Anderson began the season where he left off last season, as a three-point specialist and starting forward who could create space for the point guard in Mike D’Antoni’s system. Anderson’s role in the offense was a very important one and in the first half of the season, he fulfilled his role and picked up right from where he left off last season.
Anderson started in his 50 of his first 51 appearances this season, and Anderson left a game in mid-February against the Nets with an injury. At the time of his injury, the Rockets were 39-13. Ryno missed the next game and relinquished his place in the starting lineup to P.J. Tucker, and it stuck. Anderson was sent to the bench and Tucker flourished in the starting lineup.
While the move elevated Tucker’s play, it sunk Anderson’s confidence. Anderson would surpass double digits in scoring for just three of his final 15 games in the regular season as he was reduced to a bench role. He also sustained a hip injury in late February, causing him to miss nine games.
In the playoffs, Anderson would peek his head in and out of the lineup, averaging just 1.7 points per game in 11 games. Most of those games only saw Anderson play in garbage time, but he did see some rotation minutes in each series at one point.
After Game 3 of the Jazz series, he did not play until Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, where he saw five first half minutes against the Warriors. That was enough to banish him back to the bench, and the next time he saw rotational minutes was Game 7, again, just a quick five-minute stretch.
Anderson had the ability to space the offense, but Tucker could also space the offense.
He also had the ability to shoot from long distance, but Gerald Green snatched that role.
Because of those two things, Anderson became somewhat obsolete in the Rockets’ scheme.
Now 30 years old, Anderson is nowhere near playing the worth of his $20 million per year contract. It will be a difficult contract to move in the offseason, but I’m sure Daryl Morey will look for Anderson suitors because it will give him more cap flexibility in an offseason where Clint Capela, Chris Paul, and Trevor Ariza are all major free agents.
However, it is very likely that nobody will want Anderson’s cap-eater contract and that he will begin his third season with the Rockets next year.
But not all hope is lost with Anderson. I feel that in the offseason, Anderson needs to heal physically, mentally and spiritually and regain the confidence that he had last season. After he was injured, he was demoted, and became timid to shoot. Keep in mind, he was a 38 percent three-point shooter this season, well above the league average. There is still some potential that can be wrung out from Anderson, but it all starts with him.