When they traded Rashard Lewis to the Washington Wizards in December 2010, the Orlando Magic indicated they had faith Ryan Anderson could deliver in an increased role. Though Brandon Bass inherited Lewis' starting job, Anderson saw an increase in minutes as Bass' backup, and delivered. The former California Golden Bear averaged 11.9 points and 6.2 boards from January through the end of the season.
But I don't think anyone could have foreseen Anderson's emergence as a star in the 2011/12 campaign. Anderson beat out the newly acquired Glen Davis for the starting power forward job and has played near an All-Star level in his new role, leading the league in three-pointers made (93) and attempted (212) and averaging 16.6 points and 7.2 boards. Further, he leads the Magic in True Shooting Percentage. He's the team's most efficient and second-most prolific scorer, punishing defenses for paying too much attention to Dwight Howard inside.
Advanced metrics illustrate Anderson's importance to the Magic: prior to Sunday's loss against the Miami Heat, Orlando scored 19.52 more points per 100 possessions with Anderson on the floor than with him on the bench.
So how does Anderson change the game? His breakout season has come in a year in which Orlando's been wanting for offense. In addition to having a bench sadly lacking in firepower, starters Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson have struggled to score, with a combined 12 appearances of five points or fewer. Anderson has kept the Magic afloat and is a huge reason they're tied for third place in the Eastern Conference.
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