Over 17 points and six rebounds a game… and nearly 40 percent from three-point range. That’s not your typical power forward stat line. But then again, Ryan Anderson isn’t your typical big man. He puts in threes more than he posts up. His foot speed is quicker than it should be at 6-10 and 240 pounds.
He’s soft. Not really a power forward. Talk when you get some rebounds. Some call that stuff criticism. Anderson calls it noise.
“I think my whole career, whether it’s been in high school, college or the NBA, I feel like I’ve been an underdog guy,” Anderson says. “And that’s fine with me.
“If somebody wants to treat me like an underdog, I’m confident enough to prove to them on the court that I’m different.”
Being different defines him. He’s a stretch four, a forward who can open up the floor with his perimeter shooting, one who thrives on versatility, able to take it inside while just as (if not more) effective from the outside.
In his three years with the Magic, Anderson reaped the benefits of a 4-out, 1-in offense, waiting on the wing with his feet set, ready to catch and shoot, while all of the attention flocked to Dwight Howard in the middle. It was a stand-up shooter’s paradise, as Anderson went from 7.7 points a game in his first season with the team to 16.1 in 2011-12’s shortened season, including a career-high 7.7 boards a contest, earning the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.
Yet Anderson was hardly praised. Many said he had Dwight and the triple teams that surrounded him to thank for his stats, and that anyone can make open shots.
“At first I got a ton of open shots because of Dwight,” Anderson says. “He did open up the court a lot for me, but I always knew that I could score without a ‘Dwight.’
“It was something I just had to brush off and just play. It’s not something where I’m trying to go in and prove myself. I just want to go in there and play my game, shoot the ball when I’m open.”
Anderson is used to having a chip on his shoulder, even if he never felt the weight. Coming into the league out of Cal, he averaged a Pac-10 best 21.1 points (along with 9.9 rebounds) a night as a sophomore in the 2007-08 season, more than highly-touted eventual first-rounders O.J. Mayo (USC), Kevin Love (UCLA), Russell Westbrook (UCLA) and Brook and Robin Lopez (Stanford). Although Anderson was selected in the first round (No. 21 by the Nets), Mayo was No. 3, Westbrook No. 4, Love No. 5, Brook No. 10 and Robin No. 15. Yet as a rookie, Anderson never felt compelled to make the teams who passed on him pay. He just wanted to play.
“Hearing stats from college, it’s great because I know for a fact, I know that I can compete with the best,” Anderson says. “And that’s all that I need to know, you know?”
He’s not concerned whether anyone else knows it either, even if the rest of the league thought that this season with the Hornets was proving time, since the Magic didn’t match New Orleans’ four-year, $34 million offer last offseason.
Even though there is no more Superman in the middle, Anderson’s stats didn’t disappear. Instead Anderson averaged career-highs.
“I think the key right now is winning. I’m not really looking at my own stats,” he says. “I want to do whatever I can to help the [Hornets]. I always have to pinch myself to remind myself that I’m doing what I’m doing. I don’t deserve any of this stuff. It’s an honor to be doing what I’m doing, and I’m very humbled by that.”
Not being the first guy picked allowed Anderson to keep a level head when AAU teams and prep scouting reports were busy crowning the next seventh grade phenom. As a skinny white kid from El Dorado Hills (Calif.) putting up shot after shot, Anderson knew he would eventually overcome the skeptics and bring something different to the game.