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Ryan Anderson Is Not a Specialist

Bruce Maddox - Orlando Pinstriped Post
Bruce Maddox - Orlando Pinstriped Post

After yesterday's practice, Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy touched on Ryan Anderson's varied skill-set, a topic that I've tried to tackle several times. In this video from Zach McCann--who's proven to be a brilliant hire for the Sentinel--Van Gundy explains that Anderson's tendency to shoot the three-pointer masks his contributions in other areas.

Kyle Korver is a shooting specialist. Steve Novak is a shooting specialist. Daniel Gibson is a shooting specialist. What makes them specialists, to these eyes? The fact that shooting is their lone skill, that if they aren't making shots, they can't help their teams.

Anderson? Not so much. Not at all, even.

Yes, 400 of his 795 career shot attempts are three-pointers, and his 36.8 percent mark from long range is closer to "good" than "great." But before writing him off as just another jump-shooting power forward, consider the other ways in which he can help. Consider his work on the glass on both ends of the court, as Van Gundy says in the video, is of particular importance. Consider the impact his presence as a floor-spacing power forward has on opposing defenses. Consider his age.

I get the feeling that Anderson's detractors must have a blind spot located where the "rebounds" column appears in their boxscore, particularly recently. In his last 12 games, spanning this preseason and the 2009/10 postseason, Anderson has grabbed 53 rebounds in 153 minutes, an elite average of 13.5 per 40 minutes played. I can't help but think this improvement is real, not a fluke, in spite of the small sample size. Remember in the 2008 Playoffs, when Jameer Nelson took his play to the next level? And then, in the following season, when he maintained that play and earned an All-Star berth? Anderson may have just turned a similar corner in his career, though in no way am I suggesting he's an All-Star. Yet.Alternatively, maybe the people whom Anderson has yet to impress haven't had the chance to watch his excellent work in the offensive paint, particularly on putbacks. His 1.269 points per possession mark on putbacks last season ranks him ahead of Marc Gasol (1.23), Amar'e Stoudemire (1.22), Zach Randolph (1.19), Shaquille O'Neal (1.18), Brook Lopez (1.16), and many other stronger, tougher players.

Anderson isn't without his faults, particularly defensively, where his mediocre mobility causes the Magic some trouble at times. The good news is there's plenty of time for him to learn, and he's eager to put in the work. As Vince Carter said after Sunday night's win against the New Orleans Hornets, "Me sitting here and just trying to praise him for his hard work in the summer won't do it justice." And Carter, I believe, is an authority on the subject of Anderson's career, having known him since the New Jersey Nets selected Anderson with the 21st overall pick in the 2008 Draft.

It's probably about time for the NBA community to take a closer look at Anderson so we can clear up the misconceptions Van Gundy addresses.