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Finding A Home For Ryan Anderson

Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Miami Heat should trade Hassan Whiteside for sharp-shooter Ryan Anderson.

The moment Russell Westbrook was crowned the first back-to-back All-Star Game MVP since Bob Pettit on Sunday night, the focus of NBA media and fans turned toward this Thursday’s impending trade deadline. Each year, the several days leading up to the trade deadline provide us with a myriad of rumors, trade speculation and insider information from “league sources.” It is, without question, one of the most fun times of the year for NBA fans, and especially for “NBA Twitter.”

Last year did not disappoint, as numerous blockbuster deals were completed prior to the deadline including Goran Dragic to the Heat, Reggie Jackson to the Pistons, Isaiah Thomas to the Celtics, Brandon Knight to the Suns, and Michael Carter-Williams to the Bucks. And, just as last year’s trade candidates consisted of a litany of point guards, this year’s prospective group of movable players is predominantly made up of big men. 

Dwight Howard, Al HorfordThaddeus Young, Markieff MorrisBrook Lopez, Blake Griffin, and Kevin Love have all been thrown around in trade rumor discussions this week. One potential difference-making big man who has flown under the radar so far is New Orleans Pelicans power forward Ryan Anderson. It just so happens that the team that needs Anderson’s talents the most, is also the one with assets to procure him: the Miami Heat.

The Trade

The Pelicans send Ryan Anderson and Alexis Ajinça to the Heat for Luol Deng and Hassan Whiteside.

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The Justification

As noted by SB Nation, the basis of this trade (Anderson for Hassan Whiteside) was first discussed on Zach Lowe’s Podcast with Brian Windhorst back on January 6th. The business rationale for both teams is mostly the same today as it was six weeks ago:

  1. The Heat do not want to pay Whiteside a maximum deal, an offer he will almost assuredly get from another team during the offseason.                        
  2. The Pelicans would get a high risk/ high reward asset in return for Anderson, who may leave in free agency this summer if not traded.

  3. The Pelicans would rid themselves of a redundant long-term contract for a middling big-man in Anjinca, whom they simply do not need with Omer Asik on the books.

  4. Luol Deng’s expiring contract works as a throw-in to meet league salary matching trade requirements, without committing to the Pelicans long term.

However, the best reason to get this deal done is simply a matter of fit. On the Heat, Anderson would be able to spread the floor with a hopefully-healthy Chris Bosh at center. Anderson is shooting a robust 38.3% from behind the arc on 5.4 attempts per game, a top-five league mark among players 6‘10 or taller. Anderson’s range has made him arguably the most potent stretch-four in the league: 


Today, the Miami Heat are the third worst three-point shooting team in the NBA and are desperately in need of more firepower from beyond the arc if they want to contend with Cleveland and Toronto in the playoffs. Anderson would be their best distance shooter and his presence help bring them back up to league average. 

Perimeter shooting is not the only facet of Anderson’s game that could aid the Heat tremendously. The Pelicans’ sixth man is efficient out of pick and roll sets, a skill that could be heavily used with Goran Dragic running point. Among the 20 players with as many pick and roll possessions as the “roll-man,” Anderson ranks seventh in points per possession. Anderson functions mostly as a pick and pop big, but also has the athleticism and coordination to roll to the rim. Though not off a pick and roll, this play demonstrates the surprising amount of bounce in Anderson’s game:

Anderson doesn’t only pick on hobbled 37-year olds, either. Since he’s established himself as such a dangerous shooter, he is able to take advantage of scrambling defenses running out on him. Unlike earlier in his career, Anderson is now able to put the ball on the floor for dribble drives to the rim.

Ryan Anderson Soars for the Two Hand Slam! #NBA #Pelicans

— All Sport News (@All_SportNews) December 27, 2015

Anderson doesn’t only operate as a roller in pick and rolls. The Pelicans will even run double-big pick and rolls with Anderson as the ball-handler. Imagine this play in Miami, but with Chris Bosh as the screener instead of Davis:

Per, the Heat are second in the league in pick and roll (roll-man) scoring efficiency, so it’s important to know that Anderson could come in and thrive in these sets.

Perhaps the most under-appreciated part of Anderson’s game is his ability to score efficiently from the post. Among players with at least 140 post-up possessions, Anderson is tied for fifth in the league in points per possession.

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He scores using his size and unorthodox footwork. Watch as he uses his strength to knock DPOY candidate Draymond Green off balance to get a clean look at a fadeaway:

And watch as he does his best Dirk Nowitzki impression with these one-legged step back jumpers over Matt Barnes, a trick that he now uses regularly:

Coming into the All-Star break, the Heat rank in the bottom half of the league in post-up scoring, per There’s no question that Anderson’s offensive versatility would be a boon to this Miami team. The wildcard in this deal is, of course, the health of Chris Bosh, who is reportedly facing another blood clot scare. If Chris Bosh’s long term playing future is at risk, the Heat will want to further shore up their frontcourt on both offense and defense, without committing to the volatile Whiteside, who is reportedly not a great fit in Miami.

The biggest knock against Anderson is typically his defense. However, Ajinça is not a throwaway in this deal, either. He has been a surprisingly effective defensive player on a Pelicans team that is often unable to get stops. In the 499 minutes that Ajinça has been on the court, the Pelicans give up a stingy 101.3 points per 100 possessions, a top-10 league rate. However, when Ajinça sits, New Orleans hemorrhages 108.1 points per 100 possessions, neck and neck with the Lakers for worst defensive rating in the league.

This deal not only represents the best chance for both teams at getting a great return for expiring contracts, but it puts Ryan Anderson in a position to showcase his talents for a potential playoff team. If Thursday night comes around and this trade is unable to materialize, both teams will have lost out on major potential upside.

Edited by Joe Sparacio, Jacob Greenberg.

Headed into the 2016 All-Star break, which player over 6'10 was shooting the best percentage from 3-point range (at least 3 attempts per game)?
Created 2/16/16
  1. Kevin Love
  2. Dirk Nowitzki
  3. Ryan Anderson
  4. Kelly Olynyk

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