The New Orleans Hornets continued to add to their rebuilding process Sunday, agreeing to terms with restricted free agent forward Ryan Anderson, the NBA’s 2012 Most Improved Player winner, on a four-year deal worth between $34 and $36 million, according to league sources. The acquisition will officially be a sign-and-trade deal, with the Magic receiving center Gustavo Ayon from New Orleans. The deal cannot be consummated until after the end of the July Moratorium on the 11th.
The 24-year-old Anderson earned himself a big payday last season, shooting 39 percent from three-point range and averaging career highs in scoring (16.1 points per game) and rebounds (7.7) for the Magic. But it became apparent that the Magic, trying to figure out how to put a roster together amid swirling trade talks for Dwight Howard, weren’t going to be willing to pay what Anderson wanted in free agency. He played mostly power forward for the Magic last season and will likely have the same role for the Hornets, who took Anthony Davis with the first pick overall in last month’s Draft. After dealing Ayon, New Orleans’ only other returning center on the roster would be free agent Chris Kaman, who is not expected to return.
Anderson’s deal is similar in average to the expected new contract the Bucks will give forward Ersan Ilyasova, who finished second to Anderson in the Most Improved Player vote and is a stretch four himself. Ilyasova and the Bucks are working on a five-year deal worth $45 million.
The Hornets have remade their roster in a matter of weeks, trading big man Emeka Okafor and forward Trevor Ariza to Washington in June for forward Rashard Lewis, whom they promptly bought out for $13.7 million. They took Davis and Duke freshman guard Austin Rivers in the first round of the Draft, and insist they will match the proposed $56 million offer sheet guard Eric Gordon received last week from the Phoenix Suns.
Ayon played well for the Hornets last season when Kaman was out with injuries, starting 24 games for New Orleans. He averaged 5.9 points and 4.9 rebounds in 20 minutes per game. He is a low-priced ($1.5 million) alternative for Orlando up front next season and would back up Howard if the All-Star center were somehow still on the Magic’s roster at the start of the season.