Ryan Anderson - Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
The Magic let the NBA's Most Improved Player leave the team in free agency due to salary-cap concerns.
The Orlando Magic had a tough decision to make with regard to Ryan Anderson as the four-year veteran entered restricted free agency in July 2012. Anderson was coming off the best season of his professional career, one in which he led the NBA in three-pointers made and attempted en route to capturing its Most Improved Player award. But Anderson had floundered in the postseason, shooting 34.1 percent from the field and scoring just 9.6 points per game as Orlando, without Dwight Howard, fell to the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
Still, many of the league's teams expected Orlando to make a long-term financial commitment to Anderson, especially since it held the right of first refusal via restricted free agency. But Anderson tells Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel that "Orlando didn't even make a move at me" as the free-agent period began.
"So it was a situation where every other team we spoke with thought that Orlando was going to match," Anderson said, "and the only team that was willing to take that risk was New Orleans. It was just a real different situation."
Magic general manager Rob Hennigan, who had been on the job for less than a month, ultimately decided it'd be in his team's best interest to let Anderson leave. He worked out a sign-and-trade arrangement with the New Orleans Hornets, enabling Anderson to get his $34 million payday while acquiring Gustavo Ayón, a productive and inexpensive rotation player, for his own team.
"Hennigan wanted — and still wants — to create cap space for a possible run at free-agent superstars during the summer of 2014," Robbins writes. Keeping Anderson around, even on a fair contract like the one he got with New Orleans, would have limited Orlando's cap flexibility in future seasons.
Though he doesn't have Howard in New Orleans to draw defenses away from him, Anderson has flourished as a Hornet, earning team co-captaincy honors while averaging career-bests in scoring, field-goal percentage, and three-point percentage. And he still leads the league in threes made and attempted.