Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Spencer Redmond.

Coming off the best Raptors season to date, the team looks to improve on its Eastern Conference Finals appearance and make a splash this offseason. While some fans would like the Raptors to go all out and make a run for Kevin Durant, after a WCF appearance, and his love for Oklahoma City, that now seems unlikely, as the Raptors aren’t listed on the teams Durant will have meetings with this offseason. The Raptors will have to look elsewhere in free agency to take their winning ways to the next level. One option could be unrestricted free agent power forward Ryan Anderson. The twenty-eight year old Anderson is entering into the prime years of his career, and probably looking for one last big contract and to win in that final stretch. The Raptors seem like a perfect fit for Anderson, so why is Anderson a perfect fit for the Raptors?

Anderson has played for the New Orleans Pelicans since 2012, the same year he won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. Anderson has been used primarily as a backup power forward, while Anthony Davis and Omer Asik man the front court in the starting lineup. Anderson only started seven games last season, but never had trouble finding the floor, as he averaged the third most minutes per game on the team. Although Anderson serves as a backup, his play the past few seasons suggests he could be an important component to a playoff team.

While inserting any piece into a starting lineup, one has to think about how well that piece will space out for other players to score. As some find the power forward position in the NBA to be a “dying position,” other see it as a position that is changing drastically. Ryan Anderson fits your prototypical “stretch four” position. He’s 6’10, he has dribble combos, shoots like a wing player, and can shoot threes efficiently.

As the league becomes more reliant on three point shooting, it seems as though the Raptors are stagnant in this new movement. In the 2015-2016 season, the Raptors ranked 19th in the NBA in 3PA at 8.6 a game, a -7% differential from the previous season. A lot of this is has to do with personnel, and not having DeMarre Carroll in the lineup for most of the season. With all the drives to the basket, especially with DeRozan, who was second in the league in drives to the basket at 11.6 per game, it makes sense for the Raptors to take more threes.

Over the past two seasons we have seen the Raptors try and space out the power forward as much as possible. Amir Johnson tried and develop what Matt Devlin famously called the “Summer Three,” in an attempt to space out the floor better for the back court. The starting power forward this season, Luis Scola, took 101 more threes this season than his previous eight seasons in the NBA. Moving the four out to the perimeter allows Jonas Valanciunas the space to work post ups without drawing double teams. It also allows the dynamic backcourt duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, to run isolation plays, and drive to the basket without defenders in the way. Lowry and DeRozan make up a majority of the Raptors offence, as per game Lowry and DeRozan combined for a total of 33.3FGA.

Backcourt Isolation Plays Freq PPP FT Freq TO Freq Score Freq
DeMar DeRozan 16.1% 0.92 19.3 6.8% 46.3%
Kyle Lowry 9.8% 0.93 15.8% 11.9% 43.4%
Team Totals 8.1% 0.86 16.3% 8.4% 43.2%

Both Lowry and DeRozan are good one-on-one players, and both can be efficient in scoring through isolation plays. Having shooters to kick out to when the double teams come, can make the offence much more efficient.

Spacing out the three point line with Anderson in the lineup becomes much easier as well, as you can see from the shots charts below,

charts1

Anderson can be inserted into areas of the three point line where there are available shots.

With Lowry and DeRozan driving to the basket through isolation plays, DeMarre Carroll, although he doesn’t shoot many corner threes, is extremely effective from that area including the elbow threes, and Anderson shooting a majority of his threes as a trailer from the top of the line, which is where Luis Scola took most of his threes this season.

While much is made about Anderson’s ability to shoot threes, he isn’t just a one trick pony. Anderson is a terrific offensive rebounder, although his ORB% has decreased the past few seasons. Anderson isn’t regressing when it comes to grabbing offensive boards, with Anthony Davis, and Omer Asik playing a majority of their minutes with Anderson, there weren’t as many rebounds on the floor to grab. With the Orlando Magic, Anderson boasted a ORB% over 10% twice. To put that into perspective, Tristan Thompson who’s regarded as one of the best offensive rebounders in the game today, had an ORB% of 13.5% this season, and in 2011-2012 Anderson was at 13%.

Anderson also shows the ability to post up in the mid-range, and has a multitude of moves in the post, shots resembling Dirk Nowitzki’s step back jumper, using his outside leg to create space between him and defender, easy turn around fade-aways over smaller defenders, even using step back dribble moves like a guard.

This post up game can prove troublesome for the opposing teams. Most teams this year tried to emulate the Warriors and go small, but unfortunately didn’t have the roster to do so. The Raptors would have a legitimate small ball lineup, using Anderson as a stretch five in some lineups, spacing out the floor even more for Lowry and DeRozan’s drives to the basket.

While Amir Johnson and Luis Scola are respectively good offensive players, Anderson is no doubt an upgrade at the starting power forward position. Anderson comes in with a scoring pedigree, scoring 30 points or more six times this season, able to shoot threes at a high clip, 36% on threes on more than five attempts per game, and his ability to create his own shots off the dribble, 42%FG% this season.

The one major red flag that raises in Anderson’s game that comes up quite often, is his defensive abilities. Anderson is slow on his feet guarding in one-on-one scenarios, and he also boasts a -1.67DRPM (Scola -0.18DRPM), which ranks him bottom ten at power forwards this season. The Raptors actually did quite a good job hiding Scola on the weaker man in the starting lineup this season, and there is no reason they couldn’t do the same with Anderson. On a good defensive team the year before, Scola actually was a positive on defense, with a +0.87 on defence with the Indiana Pacers. The Pelicans were a bottom five defensive team this season, most likely setting Anderson up for less success on that end of the floor. Anderson is most likely going to struggle somewhat defensively, maybe putting Anderson into the correct defensive system like the Raptors have, and who knows maybe he can succeed to some degree.

With so many positives to Anderson’s game, there is no doubt he will be a sought after free agent this summer. With the rise of cap, Anderson could pursue something around the $12-$18 million dollar range per season. This price range might be tricky for the Raptors to squeeze into their current cap, if they plan on resigning DeRozan or Biyombo. If the Raptors plan on contending with the powerhouses of the NBA, going into the luxury tax for a season might be an option, but getting there is a little difficult with where they currently are. The cap in the NBA will again rise the season after, allowing the Raptors to slip back out of the luxury tax situation, and avoiding the repeat luxury tax fines.

With so many trade rumours surrounding Terrence Ross, maybe a potential sign and trade can be done. Ross could fill into the roll for unrestricted free agent Eric Gordon, including the 2017 first-round pick from the Clippers, and the Raptors could sign Anderson to a deal, while shedding cap room. The Raptors first round draft choice of Jakob Poeltl, could be a telling sign of what’s to come this offseason. Poeltl is an impact role player coming right out of college, and could fill in the role of Bismack Biyombo if the Raptors choose to spend their money elsewhere.

In the first round of the playoffs, the Raptors scrambled against the Pacers struggling to find someone to turn to and score with Lowry and DeRozan struggling. It was eventually Jonas Valanciunas, but it took multiple games to find that consistent third option. All good teams in the NBA have a consistent third option, and sometimes even a fourth. While Valanciunas looks ready to step into a new role offensively, adding Anderson into the equation wouldn’t hurt the Raptors chances of finding that consistent scoring option on the wing.