Ryan Anderson Is New Orleans Hornets' Best Big Man...For Now

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistNovember 25, 2012

November 2, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Hornets power forward Ryan Anderson (33) against the Utah Jazz during the second half of a game at the New Orleans Arena. The Hornets defeated the Jazz 88-86. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

The New Orleans Hornets continue to look like a promising young team, even with Eric Gordon still on the shelf for much of the foreseeable future. A big part of their modest success early on comes from their frontcourt, and more specifically their two power forwards, Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis.

With Davis on the sidelines for the second time this season, Anderson stepped in and scored a stunning 34 points thanks to eight three-pointers in New Orleans' game against the Phoenix Suns on Friday evening.

Not only did Anderson go crazy from the three-point line, he also was able to pull down 11 big rebounds.

New Orleans' success hasn't transferred much to the win column yet this season, but things are definitely looking up if they can hope to play Anderson alongside Davis for the next four years, and potentially beyond.

The two big man have yet to play much together this season, what with Anderson acting as the team's sixth man and Davis having played in only six games so far, but what we've seen from them together has been impressive. Davis is capable of protecting the rim, while Anderson can roam and shoot jumpers.

Basically, Anderson can do the exact same thing he got to do alongside Dwight Howard. The only difference is Anderson playing alongside a big man that not only knows how to pass the ball, but dribble out of tough situations and find him on the move.

New Orleans has even run out a frontcourt combination of Jason Smith, Anderson and Davis for a few minutes this season, which makes for interesting basketball with three near-seven footers on the floor. It's been effective in limited time with an efficient offense and a towering defense.

The only question that remains between these two big men is which one of them is the better player. And the answer to that is quite emphatically Anderson, which is kind of surprising.

Obviously, we've seen Davis score, play defense, pass, dribble and basically do everything possible, but his inexperience and injury woes early on leave him green, while Anderson has been consistent for New Orleans.

Just once this season has he failed to score double digits, he's made a three-pointer in every game he's played and he's shot below 47 percent in a game just four times so far.

What comes from that is a team-high 17.9 points per game, 8.2 rebounds (slightly behind Davis) and a 45-percent clip from the three-point line to go along with 48 percent from the field, a very good rate for a jump-shooting big man.

Anderson brings space to a team that would otherwise be bunched around Anthony Davis and dependent upon three-pointers from guards. He's also more of an example of a modern-day power forward along the lines of Rashard Lewis and Chris Bosh, rather than the Tim Duncan path that Davis is following.

Until Davis gets in games without getting nicked and bruised and shows consistently that he's going to make a contribution, Anderson remains more important to New Orleans. It may take just a few more weeks or months to pass him, but he's on pace to get there very quickly.

Instead of a starting combination of Davis and Robin Lopez, it seems wiser to throw Anderson out with Davis at the center spot. Davis certainly has the speed and athleticism to play center, and it puts their five best players on the floor, rather than holding Anderson back and limiting his minutes.

Obviously, this team is going to have to work on a lot when it comes to their backcourt, and Al-Farouq Aminu isn't exactly the perfect small forward, but as long as they've got the two of these big dudes, they should have a bright future.

This team is going to have their struggles for the remainder of the season, but once the backcourt gets their game together, this Davis-Anderson inside-outside combination is going to become one of the most talked-about in the NBA.