A quick look at why Ryan Anderson might be a good fit on the Atlanta Hawks during the 2019 NBA offseason.
Ryan Anderson never once wanted to stop.
Even when opportunities didn’t result in anything over the last year with trips to camps with the New England Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars, Anderson remained focused on his dreams of punting in the NFL.
That meant plenty of trips to an uneven soccer field at a church in the Grand Rapids area last fall working on his punting skills using his car head lights as lighting after getting done with long days of work as a technical sales engineer.
And it meant using the light on his phone to find the balls and even shoveling his own path at times when snow covered the field.
All of the time spent still pushing toward his dream paid dividends this weekend for the DeWitt graduate, who was signed by the New York Giants on Sunday after a strong showing at a rookie mini camp.
“It was a surreal moment,” Anderson said. “I was taken a back for sure and definitely had some tears of joy.”
Anderson got a call from the Giants a few weeks ago and knew it was an opportunity he had to make the most of – especially since he had been out of football the last year following a 2017 season where he earned first team all-Big Ten recognition while punting at Rutgers.
Anderson, who averaged 44.4 years per punt during his lone season at Rutgers, had a brief stint trying out with the Birmingham Iron in January in the now-defunct Alliance of American Football league in addition to his trips to NFL training camps over the last year.
But even when the previous opportunities didn’t pan out, Anderson knew he had to keep pushing because of the support system around him.
“I knew I wanted to play in a professional football league and the NFL,” Anderson said.
“It got hard though. Every time it got hard I looked at the people around me like my family, girlfriend and coaches. They were the ones that made it all worth it just to keep going. I knew that if I pushed through long enough that finally I’d catch a break. I was lucky enough and fortunate enough to find that break.”
I know what you’re thinking: “In the 2019 NBA offseason, you want an up-and-coming franchise like the Atlanta Hawks to trade for a notably unplayable defender on a team that is already not particularly well-known for its defensive personnel? Why?”
Perhaps I’ve been swayed by basketball writer Kirk Goldsberry’s new book Sprawlball, which begins with a lengthy dissection of the impact that Ryan Anderson had on the 2016-17 Houston Rockets. It is certainly true that Anderson is one of the few players – at any position – that can truly warp defenses with his spacing due to his ability to spot up from way, way downtown.
In his career per Basketball Reference, Anderson is a 38 percent three-point shooter on a 53.4 percent three-point attempt rate. This begs the question: Why would the Hawks want to add a one-way player like Anderson to a team with already limited defensive personnel?
First-year head coach Lloyd Pierce implemented a modern offensive system in his first year and also prioritized playing an extremely fast pace – two things that Anderson would benefit from, clearly. Despite having a horrendous season in limited action with the Suns and Heat, his time with the Rockets should be a harbinger for what his role might be with the Hawks.
Trae Young attracts a lot of attention, much like James Harden did when Anderson was on the Rockets, which means that Anderson will have an ocean of space around him to spot up from deep as a 6-foot-10, 240-pound big man.
In this case, the Atlanta Hawks would be hedging that offense can outweigh defense – especially in the regular season – and lead to the next step in General Manager Travis Schlenk’s master rebuild plan in the 2019 NBA offseason.