As Ryan Anderson sat on the podium inside Amway Center to accept his Most Improved Player of the Year Award with Otis Smith flanked to one side, it seemed a sure thing the Magic would find a way to keep the young sharpshooter. Smith said as much when the question of Anderson's future came up. He wanted Ryan Anderson in a Magic uniform for a very long time.
Even then, it was somewhat assumed that Smith would not be in his job very much longer and that it would not be his decision to make. The Dwight Howard mess seemed to ensure that there would be major changes in Orlando's front office.
There was change. And the new management did not know Anderson well at all.
Perhaps, all they saw in Anderson was a player who was a great shooter and stretch-4 and perhaps an underrated rebounder. But he was also someone many viewed as a product of Stan Van Gundy's 3-point happy system and got the space from Dwight Howard sucking in defenders.
To many, his 16.1 points per game and 39.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc were nothing more than the products of a system.
That appears to be the thinking for Rob Hennigan and the Magic. They let Anderson go in a sign-and-trade with the Hornets, deciding not to match a four-year deal that started at $8.7 million. And Anderson told Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel that the Magic let him walk without much of a fight.
The thing is Orlando didn’t even make a move at me. So it was a situation where every other team we spoke with thought that Orlando was going to match, and the only team that was willing to take that risk was New Orleans. It was just a real different situation.
Part of that might be the intricacies of restricted free agency. The fact the Magic could match any offer means they could have let others set the market. That seemed to be the smart thing for the Magic to do. Depending on the price, the Magic would have the option to match or not.
And there were legitimate concerns about whether Anderson could be as successful without Dwight Howard. He averaged only 9.6 points per game, but shot 40.0 percent from beyond the arc. The Pacers did a good job neutralizing Anderson.
So far Orlando's gamble has not paid off. Anderson has increased his scoring output to 17.7 points per game and 40.4 percent from beyond the arc in approximately the same minutes — even while coming off the bench for the most part for New Orleans. It appears Orlando's gamble did not pay off.
Really, it turns out it was a bad situation for Anderson. The new regime did not know who Anderson was and the other skills he could potentially provide for the Magic. And so it made it easy for them to let him walk with little in return (the Magic did acquire Gustavo Ayon in a sign and trade deal). They are going through the same quandary and discovering new things in their upcoming decision with J.J. Redick.
Lesson learned for a new general manager. Anderson is in New Orleans and seemingly happy with the decision and playing well.