(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
One of the reported reasons why the Orlando Magic didn't offer starting power forward Ryan Anderson a contract extension prior to the January deadline to do so is the uncertainty surrounding Dwight Howard's future with the team. Orlando was leery of making a big financial commitment to Anderson without knowing if Howard would remain with the team beyond the 2011/12 season. The theory holds that Anderson, who's converting 40.6 percent of his league-leading 6.7 three-point attempts per game, is only as productive as he's been because he shares so much floor time with Howard, who draws defensive attention away from Anderson, enabling him to launch from deep with impunity.
While it's hard to argue against the fact that Anderson benefits from playing alongside the league's top center, the numbers indicate Anderson doesn't exactly need to share the floor with Howard--or with any other dominant low-post player--in order to be successful.
According to NBA.com/Stats, Anderson is shooting 40.7 percent from three-point range with Howard on the floor during the 2011/12 season, with three-pointers making up 58.6 percent of his total shot attempts. With Howard on the bench, Anderson's accuracy decreases a smidge, to 40.3 percent, but he does more of his offensive work inside the arc, as only 47.2 percent of his shot attempts are threes.
Anderson takes fewer threes with Howard on the bench because, yes, he's not as open to shoot them. But it's also because he makes a concerted effort to crash the offensive glass with Howard, the league's best rebounder, unable to do so. As a result, shot attempts within five feet from the basket comprise 38 percent of Anderson's total field-goal tries with Howard seated, compared to 31.5 percent with Howard in the game.
Anderson certainly owes some measure of his success to playing alongside a future Hall-of-Fame center who can draw double-teams, and for a coach, in Stan Van Gundy, who encourages his players to shoot threes. But he's a great player in his own right, one who's been productive even without Howard. In fact, since joining the Magic prior to the 2009/10 season, Anderson's scored more points per 36 minutes with Howard on the bench (19.3) than with Howard playing (17.4).