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February 24, 2012
Special Specialist
Ryan Anderson

by Neil Paine

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In his midseason report, Sports Illustrated's Ian Thomsen was listing his all-improved team, and had this to say about Orlando's Ryan Anderson:

"Once a three-point specialist, he's evolved into a well-rounded offensive threat and solid rebounder."

Can't argue on the rebounding; Anderson's 13.4 rebound percentage ranks 39th out of 101 qualified forwards this season. But let's not get carried away and call Anderson a "well-rounded offensive threat"--he takes 55.2 percent of his shots from beyond the arc, scores 54.2 percent of his points by way of the longball, and needs to be assisted on 75 percent of his made field goals. He's currently touching the ball only 0.68 times per minute (of which he eventually shoots or draws a foul 72 percent of the time) and is assisting on a microscopic 5.4% of teammate baskets when in the game. His Bullard-esque 4.6 3PM/TOV ratio speaks to his penchant for the pure catch-and-shoot. Yes, he's also a plus offensive rebounder, but the rest of his game screams "shooting specialist". Anderson hasn't really become more multi-dimensional this season ... he's simply enjoying the greatest three-point specialist season in NBA history.

To illustrate, let's look at every season in NBA history where a player:

  1. Played at least 1,000 minutes
  2. Took at least 55 percent of his shots from three-point range
  3. Made at least 40% of his threes

That leaves us 43 seasons, from such beloved three-point specialists as Dennis Scott & Jim Les. Using a "statistical plus/minus" variant based on Dean Oliver's ORtg/%Poss/DRtg, Anderson is having by far the best year of anyone who met the above criteria:

Rk Player          Year    Team    MP      ORtg    %Pos    DRtg    3P%     3PA%    Off     Def     Tot
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1  Ryan Anderson   2012    ORL     1027    128.4   20.6    102.3   43.7    55.2    5.4     0.2     5.6
2  Brent Barry     2007    SAS     1631    126.2   15.1    101.7   44.6    67.5    1.7     1.0     2.6
3  Brent Price     1996    WSB     2042    123.6   18.4    108.8   46.2    56.4    2.6    -0.2     2.4
4  D. Marshall     2005    TOR     1645    120.5   18.0    105.0   41.6    61.3    2.0     0.2     2.2
5  Reggie Miller   2004    IND     2254    123.0   15.1    101.1   40.1    56.2    1.7     0.4     2.1
6  J.R. Smith      2008    DEN     1421    110.7   24.4    108.5   40.3    57.9    1.9    -0.2     1.7
7  Eddie House     2009    BOS     1479    114.9   18.2    103.2   44.4    60.7    0.6     1.0     1.7
8  Voshon Lenard   1997    MIA     2111    115.6   17.7    103.9   41.4    64.6    0.9     0.6     1.5
9  Damon Jones     2005    MIA     2576    124.1   15.5    107.3   43.2    71.8    1.6    -0.2     1.4
10 Terry Mills     1997    DET     1997    113.8   19.0    104.7   42.2    59.1    1.0     0.4     1.4
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rk Player          Year    Team    MP      ORtg    %Pos    DRtg    3P%     3PA%    Off     Def     Tot
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
11 Dennis Scott    1996    ORL     3041    117.7   18.6    109.8   42.5    56.2    1.7    -0.4     1.3
12 Brent Barry     2004    SEA     1803    119.8   17.3    107.9   45.2    59.0    2.2    -0.9     1.2
13 Kenny Smith     1995    HOU     2030    121.5   17.6    111.2   42.9    55.8    1.7    -0.6     1.2
14 Jason Kidd      2010    DAL     2881    115.5   16.9    104.5   42.5    61.7    0.4     0.6     1.0
15 Sasha Vujacic   2008    LAL     1279    116.1   18.1    108.1   43.7    56.0    1.1    -0.1     1.0
16 Joe Dumars      1999    DET     1116    114.3   17.9    106.1   40.3    63.1    1.6    -0.7     0.9
17 Brent Barry     2001    SEA     1778    124.5   14.0    106.0   47.6    57.1    1.4    -0.6     0.8
18 Channing Frye   2010    PHO     2190    119.6   15.7    107.9   43.9    55.8    0.7     0.0     0.6
19 Luther Head     2007    HOU     2211    107.2   18.0    102.1   44.1    57.3   -0.4     0.9     0.5
20 James Jones     2008    POR     1276    125.8   13.8    110.6   44.4    62.7    0.8    -0.6     0.2
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rk Player          Year    Team    MP      ORtg    %Pos    DRtg    3P%     3PA%    Off     Def     Tot
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
21 Matt Bonner     2011    SAS     1432    125.5   12.8    107.5   45.7    62.0    0.3     0.0     0.2
22 Chuck Person    1996    SAS     2131    110.6   16.5    104.2   41.0    65.7   -0.5     0.7     0.2
23 Brent Barry     2000    SEA     2726    115.1   15.0    104.9   41.1    56.4    0.3    -0.1     0.2
24 Shane Battier   2007    HOU     2988    118.7   11.7    102.2   42.1    57.0   -0.9     0.8    -0.1
25 James Jones     2011    MIA     1549    127.6   11.1    106.7   42.9    82.9   -0.3     0.1    -0.2
26 Kyle Korver     2005    PHI     2667    111.9   14.4    104.5   40.5    73.5   -0.6     0.3    -0.2
27 Jim Les         1991    SAC     1399    122.8   13.8    111.0   46.1    57.5    0.4    -0.6    -0.3
28 Matt Bullard    2001    HOU     1000    120.2   13.6    107.8   40.4    69.8    0.6    -0.9    -0.3
29 Jud Buechler    1999    DET     1056    116.4   11.5    101.8   41.2    61.7   -0.7     0.1    -0.6
30 Matt Maloney    1997    HOU     2386    112.9   15.0    107.9   40.4    62.0   -0.4    -0.2    -0.6
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rk Player          Year    Team    MP      ORtg    %Pos    DRtg    3P%     3PA%    Off     Def     Tot
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
31 Daniel Gibson   2008    CLE     1765    116.3   14.8    109.6   44.0    57.6   -0.2    -0.4    -0.6
32 Daniel Gibson   2010    CLE     1068    117.1   13.6    108.2   47.7    55.6   -0.5    -0.1    -0.6
33 Matt Bullard    1998    HOU     1190    114.5   15.3    110.0   41.6    59.4    0.2    -1.0    -0.7
34 Damon Jones     2008    CLE     1336    120.7   13.4    111.9   41.7    76.0   -0.1    -0.9    -1.0
35 Steve Novak     2009    LAC     1161    118.7   15.2    115.4   41.6    72.2    0.3    -1.4    -1.1
36 Keith Askins    1996    MIA     1897    110.5   12.3    104.1   41.8    60.6   -1.8     0.7    -1.1
37 Mike Bibby      2011    ATL     1674    111.3   15.2    110.0   44.1    58.0   -0.7    -0.5    -1.2
38 Shawne Williams 2011    NYK     1323    110.6   14.7    109.1   40.1    55.1   -0.9    -0.4    -1.3
39 Kyle Korver     2006    PHI     2563    111.3   15.3    110.4   42.0    57.6   -0.5    -0.8    -1.3
40 Bobby Simmons   2009    NJN     1729    115.9   14.1    111.9   44.7    59.4   -0.6    -0.7    -1.3
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rk Player          Year    Team    MP      ORtg    %Pos    DRtg    3P%     3PA%    Off     Def     Tot
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
41 James Posey     2006    MIA     1914    111.5   11.1    104.5   40.3    73.4    -1.9    0.3    -1.6
42 Raja Bell       2008    PHO     2646    112.6   13.8    111.3   40.1    58.3    -1.1   -0.8    -1.8
43 B. Scalabrine   2007    BOS     1027    100.9   10.9    109.2   40.0    57.6    -3.2   -0.5    -3.7

In fact, Reggie Miller (who had a 129.6 ORtg on 21.6 percent of possessions in 1991) is the only other player since 1974 to have a season with an ORtg greater than 128 while taking on more than 20% of team possessions.

Anderson's tendency numbers haven't really changed in 2012, though--it's just that he's taking advantage of his chances more efficiently. He's still a three-point specialist, but he's playing at the absolute highest level that any three-point specialist has ever played.

Neil Paine is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Neil by clicking here or click here to see Neil's other articles.

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