Orlando’s Ryan Anderson is having a crazy start to the 2011-12 season. His offensive rating is 130.8, and while plenty of one-dimensional jump-shooters have crazy ORtgs in limited touches, Anderson is using 21.2% of the Magic’s possessions while on the court, and firing off a staggering 26.6% of their shots while in the game. Like most guys who take so many spot-up Js (Anderson has bombed 59% of his FGAs from deep), he needs others to create for him — hence the fact that 80% of his made shots are assisted — but this level of usage from a shooting specialist is almost unheard of.
In 2007 and 2008, J.R. Smith posted FGA%s of 25.5 and 26.8, respectively, with 59.3% and 57.9% of his FGAs coming from 3-point range. Smith was a different animal, though — he also had touches/min in the 1.0-1.1 range (Anderson is only touching the ball 0.7 times/min), and just 66% of his FGs were assisted in 2008, indicating a greater ability to create for himself. Smith was also an athletic 6-6 swingman; Anderson is a 6-10 stretch 4 whose athleticism doesn’t impress anyone. Dig deeper in the list of players with high FGA% and 3PA%, and you run into a similar issue, with gunner guards like John Starks & Eddie House showing up.
Perhaps the best comparison for Anderson, then, is another tall shooter who wasn’t especially adept at creating for himself but still launched a ton of shots with great efficiency: Peja Stojakovic.
Stojakovic’s best year by just about every metric was 2004, when he posted an ORtg of 119.9 on 22.0% of Sacramento’s possessions while on the floor. He also had a 106.0 individual DRtg, an SPM of +4.72, and a 182 AWS+ (per-minute Alternate Win Score — the best linear-weights metric — compared to the league average, where avg = 100). With Chris Webber limited to 23 games that year, Peja was the focal point of the Kings’ offense despite taking 40% of his shots from beyond the arc and needing assists on 77.1% of his field goals.
Using Mike Bibby at the point and Vlade Divac to pass out of the high post, Kings coach Rick Adelman crafted a Webber-less offense that ranked 2nd in the league thanks to Peja’s eye-popping efficiency numbers. Likewise, the Magic currently have built the league’s 2nd-best offense around the passing of Jameer Nelson & Hedo Turkoglu, and Anderson’s shooting. And most surprisingly, Dwight Howard has taken a backseat in all of this — Superman currently sits 5th on the team in %FGA, taking only 20.9% of the shots while in the game.
Peja proved that a successful offense can be built around a brilliant shooter who can’t necessarily create looks for himself (or others — Anderson is passing on a paltry 26% of his touches, even lower than Stojakovic’s 35% in ’04). But the jury is still out as to whether Anderson can keep up this level of hot shooting. He’s knocking down treys at a 43.4% clip right now, a rate even Peja was only able to match once (2008, when he hit 44.1% of his threes for New Orleans). And remember, that was a run-down 30-year-old Peja, using only 17.9% of the possessions while on the court. Also note that, while Anderson made 39.3% of his threes with a 122.1 ORtg last year, he was taking only 22.8% of Orlando’s shots while in the game. The leap from is 22.8% to 26.6% is a massive one indeed.
Still, Orlando’s scoring fortunes may depend on whether their newfound offensive centerpiece can continue to be as efficient as a prime Stojakovic. He’s posted Peja-esque numbers so far, so it’s going to be fun to see if he can live up to those expectations over an entire season.