While looking at Ryan Anderson’s game, I decided to examine if he’s part of a new trend of Power Forwards who rebound yet also shoot the three. While Dirk Nowitzki was the pioneer, there hadn’t been too many other players like him, until Kevin Love came along. With his prodigious rebounding and three point shooting, he was starting to get into the MVP conversation this year.
As I flipped open Synergy Sports’ Rankings, I decided to look at the top 20 most efficient players by position, and was surprised to see how that played out. The positions with the fewest players were Power Forward and Point Guard. This seemed weird since guys like Derrick Rose and Deron Williams fill up the stat sheet. But there it was staring me in the face.
For some historical perspective, in the NBA, the power forward tended to be a rugged, tough rebounder and enforcer, like Buck Williams or Charles Oakley. (They never ventured out beyond 15 feet and would almost never dribble the ball. Phil Jackson changed that in the early 90’s by installing the triangle and having Horace Grant catch the ball out on the wing. (note: Charles Barkley might have been considered a power forward, but at 6’4″ he defied most positional reference anyway)
The only power forward in the top 20 is none other than Ryan Anderson, who is quietly having a terrific year amidst the tumult of the Dwight Howard Non-Decision. In his fourth year, he’s 3rd in scoring efficiency, maximizing his role as spot up three point shooter when teams double Dwight Howard. But his game is much more refined, as he has tapped in to the Kevin Love rebounding focus, averaging 7.8 rebounds per game. While that might not stand out in the big scheme of things, he’s averaging a very healthy 3.7 offensive rebounds per game. By starting at the three point line, if he does not take the shot, he can get a running start at the rim, making him very hard to box out.
In fact, according to Synergy, Anderson offensive rebounds more than any other play except for spot up jump shots, with a healthy 1.16 PPP on the putbacks.
So don’t be surprised to see the NBA move towards big men who can stretch the floor with their shooting, then use that spacing to dive to the rim for offensive rebounds and putbacks. If a player with limited athletic ability can rise to 3rd in the league in scoring efficiency, imagine what someone with otherworldly ability could do. While it all started with Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Love and Ryan Anderson could be the start of a whole new wave of offensive explosion from the power forward spot.