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Ryan Anderson Might Be A Sunk Cost, But He Still Has Value

The Rockets can use Anderson's bloated contract to get better

May 30, 2018 - 12:48 am
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By Adam Spolane (@AdamSpolane)

A quarter of the way through, it looked like Ryan Anderson’s second season with the Rockets was going to be a good one. After losing 10 pounds over the summer, the Rockets big-ticket free agent signing from the summer of 2016 was healthy, shooting well, and defending at an improved clip, but that didn't last long. Not only did Anderson lose his place in the Rockets starting lineup, he lost his spot in Mike D'Antoni's rotation, and then when he got an opportunity to make amends, Stephen Curry torched him in game seven of the Western Conference Finals. Now a contract that was seemingly untradeable last summer is an even bigger albatross today, or is it.

Anderson played on 20-of-21 games to start the season and shot over 41 percent from behind the 3-point line while playing 30 minutes per game. In the Rockets December 3, win over the Lakers he connected on 1-of-4 three-pointers, only to bounce back by draining 5-of-6 in Utah. After that point, his season was a nightmare.

Following that game in Salt Lake City, Anderson shot 25 percent from behind the arc for the remainder of December and followed that up by draining a third of his triples in January. He started to regain his stroke in February, but then the injuries struck and Anderson played in just nine of the Rockets last 23 games of the regular season and missed the start of the playoffs. He hasn’t played double-digit minutes since the first round, with most of his minutes against Utah and Golden State coming in garbage time, minus the game seven disaster.

Still, Anderson is owed over $41 million over the final two years of his contract, and unless the Rockets elect to let all their major free agents (Chris Paul, Clint Capela, Trevor Ariza) walk in six weeks they’ll be capped out for the foreseeable future. Trading Anderson is one way they can get better, though it isn't a trade particular trade you're thinking about.

Teams were reportedly asking the Rockets for two first round picks in order to absorb Anderson’s contract into their cap space, and the Knicks refused to take him in a possible deal for Carmelo Anthony. With fewer teams under the cap this summer it’s hard to think it will be any easier to trade Anderson, even with him being owed $19 million less now than before. On top of that, trading more first round picks may not be the best plan for a team that has one contributor under the age of 28, though that doesn’t mean the Rockets can’t use Anderson and his contract to improve.

On December 19, 2010, the Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards swapped Gilbert Arenas for Rashard Lewis. Both players had massive contracts, and neither were playing well, so why not. This is the type of trade I'm talking about, one sunk cost for another.  I came up with six names that while they're unlikely to push the Rockets past Golden State for Western Conference supremacy they could still be an improvement over Anderson. If anything, they wouldn't make the Rockets any worse off.

 

Kent Bazemore (Atlanta)

The Rockets would likely have to throw in a second round pick or two in order to get this done as Bazemore is owed $4 million less than Anderson over the next two years, but in their hopes of accumulating assets and losses, the Hawks could be willing to take that on. Before signing Anderson, Houston went hard after Bazemore, who, while being overpaid, checks the boxes the Rockets care about. He can shoot the three, over 39 percent this season, he’s athletic, and he can defend multiple positions.

Nic Batum (Charlotte)

Batum has been a below average 3-point shooter for a few years now, but for whatever it’s worth, he shot over 37 percent on contested threes this season and just 32 percent when open. He’s 6’8 so he can guard multiple positions and has averaged at least 5.5 assists in all three of his seasons in Charlotte. The tricky part about this is not only is Batum owed more money than Anderson the next two seasons, he has a $27 million player’s option for 2020-21, which he’d have to decline, like Ty Lawson did three years ago, in order for the Rockets to think about acquiring him. It’s hard to see a guy in his 30s turning that sort of money down.

Evan Turner (Portland)

After signing for four years, $70 million, Turner has never been able to fit in with the guard dominant Blazers, and because he’s a lousy 3-point shooter it’s likely he’d have the same issues with the Rockets. That doesn’t make him worthless, though. Turner is a 6’7 playmaker that is capable of guarding multiple positions, and because he makes less than Anderson saves the Rockets in luxury tax penalties.

Danilo Gallinari (LA Clippers)

In 10 NBA seasons, Gallinari has played 70 games twice, the last coming in 2012-13, and multiple injuries limited him to just 21 games in his first season with the Clippers. On the positive side, the Rockets have had success when it comes to players with checkered injury pasts, the most recent example being Eric Gordon. He might be worth the risk, he’ll be 30 at the start of the season, and when he is on the floor you’re getting an above average 3-point, who at 6’10 can get to the free throw line and cause all sorts of matchup problems.

Chandler Parsons (Memphis)

Parsons has made a ton of money since leaving the Rockets four years ago, but he hasn’t finished any of those seasons healthy and he’s played in a total of 70 games since signing a max deal with Memphis in 2016, but hear me out. Parsons could’ve played more than the 36 games he was limited to this season, but the Grizzlies weren’t trying to win after Mike Conley got hurt so there was no point, and when he did play, Parsons was pretty good. Not max good, but there was something there. On a team with very little talent, he shot 42 percent from beyond the 3-point line, and he was above league average from inside the restricted area. If he can find away to stay on the floor, admittedly the biggest if ever, he’s a wonderfully gifted offensive player, unfortunately, the deterioration of his defense, and the extra money the Rockets would have to take on makes the chance of Parsons returning to Houston as minimal as it gets.

Carmelo Anthony (Oklahoma City)

The Rockets tried to get this trade done last summer to no avail, but after Anthony just went through the worst season of his career the Thunder might be willing to take on Anderson to get rid of him. Oklahoma City needs shooters, so Anderson fills a big need, and on the Rockets side of things, maybe in a contract year, wearing the same color uniform as Chris Paul, Anthony accepts a lesser role in order to rebuild his value, and it’s been six years since he ran D’Antoni out of New York. The contracts make this complicated. Anthony will make $7 million more than Anderson next season, but will be in the last year of his contract. The Rockets would have to add players to the deal, which isn’t a big deal, but it would add to their 2019 luxury tax bill, though it would save them money the year after.

 

The Cavaliers aren't going to take Ryan Anderson in a LeBron James trade, and can a team that has traded its last four first round picks plus a first round pick it traded for (Sam Dekker) afford to move one or two more? This plan is far from ideal, and I’m sure many will argue it’s flat-out stupid, but at this point, Anderson is giving the Rockets nothing, and on a team that has championship aspirations you have to make use of every dollar available to you, so if there’s a way to use his contract to get even the tiniest bit better, you have to do it.