Ryan Anderson was the Most Improved Player for the NBA in 2011-12.
He was a first-time, full-time starter and a deadly efficient shooter. His scoring average jumped from 10.6 to 16.1 points per game with the increased playing time, having traded Rashard Lewis the year before to open up playing time for him and then Brandon Bass in the offseason to allow him to start. The Magic had big plans for Anderson in 2012 and expected him to deliver.
And he did.
Honestly, Anderson’s ability to step into the starting lineup and become a reliable scoring option, even as more or less a spot-up 3-point shooter, helped buoy the Magic through a lot of rough games and create more than a few wins.
Anderson won the league’s Most Improved Player Award. There was a lot of debate about whether he deserved to be the winner or not. This is not an attempt to rehash that debate. The bottom line is, whether he “deserved” the official award or not, Anderson improved greatly when he was given the playing time to do so.
Anderson saw his playing time increase from 22.3 minutes per game to 32.2 minutes per game, a 44.4 percent increase. Pretty much, he went from playing nearly half the game to two-thirds of the game. That is a pretty large increase and is asking for a lot more from Anderson, a player who was supposedly just a spot-up shooter.
Anderson did a lot of spot-up shooting, for sure.
He led the league with 366 made 3-pointers and with 422 3-point attempts. He shot 39.3 percent from beyond the arc, which is quite impressive considering how much volume he had from beyond the arc. Stan Van Gundy liked having his power forwards able to hoist away 3-pointers. Anderson fit that bill, and that is why the Magic were willing to invest so heavily in Anderson as a start and in his future with the team (well, actually that will come with what the team does as the rights holder in Anderson’s upcoming restricted free agency).
His per 36 minute numbers changed very little — going from 17.2 points per 36 to 18.0 points per 36 and 9.0 rebounds per 36 to 8.6 rebounds per 36. But his impact seemed to be even greater. And that is what you want from a young player being asked to step in and play more minutes. As Stan Van Gundy said when he was asked about Anderson’s Most Improved Award, this was a strong measure of how a young player like Anderson improved. He was asked to take on a bigger role, and he succeeded in it.
Anderson though tried to develop himself into more than just a spot-up 3-point shooter. This is what Stan Van Gundy asked him to do and continued to harp to him through the press throughout the season.
Anderson greatly improved in one area and this might account for a good chunk of his increased scoring production. Anderson became a superb offensive rebounder.
His offensive rebound rate jumped from 10.8 in 2011 to 13.0 in 2012. Anderson took 233 shots at the rim in 2012 (making 135 of them for 57.9 percent shooting). In 2011, Anderson only had 136 shots at the rim and, in 2010, Anderson had 141. On a per-36 minute basis, that equates to: 4.3 shots at the rim per 36 in 2012 compared to 3.4 in 2011 and 5.6 in 2010 (in much more limited minutes).
Anderson was better at providing some dynamism to the team and doing more than his expected role. His work on the offensive glass was always underrated and it came through in the
He certainly has a rebounding mentality in him. After all, Anderson was the top rebounder int he Pac-12 his sophomore year at California. He also played a lot more in the post for the Golden Bears in those two years.
“I think this series has taught me a lot of what I want to improve on,” Anderson said at exit interviews following Orlando’s defeat to Indiana in the first round. “Obviously teams are going to be trying to take away my shot. I definitely want to work on improving my post game and getting stronger in the post. In college, that was kind of my bread and butter and I was really comfortable with that. Then when I came into the NBA, I turned into a pick and pop guy. I want to work on that a lot.”
Anderson said he would also like to improve his ability to shoot off the dribble and create shots for himself some. That is something he said he has worked on throughout his NBA career, but has not been comfortable enough to use in games (and that was not really his role as much).
Stan Van Gundy was constantly asking Anderson to do more. He would have liked to see Anderson continue to improve his work on the defensive glass and on defense overall. Van Gundy constantly challenged Anderson to define himself less and less by his offensive numbers. It is yet to be seen whether this is something Anderson will take to heart with Van Gundy no longer the head coach.
Anderson said he does not want to be limited to being a spot-up shooter and hopes to continue expanding his game in the offseason. It is yet to be seen whether the Magic will be the beneficiaries of his labors this offseason.
Anderson though took those first steps in 2012. He not only continued to hit 3-pointers at an incredibly efficient rate, but began to show he could get active in many other ways on the offensive end.