The pick-and-pop pair, serving as complements to MVP candidate James Harden, has certainly made it look easy since Paul’s return from a knee injury that sidelined the nine-time All-Star point guard for a month.
With the exception of his early exit due to back tightness in Sunday’s rout of the Los Angeles Lakers, Anderson has been red hot since Paul rejoined the Rockets’ starting lineup, shooting 57.6 percent from the floor and 56.3 percent from 3-point range in that span. The timing is no coincidence.
Paul has assisted on 25 of Anderson’s 38 buckets during the winning streak, per NBA.com statistics. According to Second Spectrum data, Anderson has knocked down 21 of 27 3-point attempts off passes from Paul while the Rockets have rolled to eight straight double-digit victories.
Yes, you read that right. That’s 77.8 percent long-range shooting by Anderson when fed by Paul.
Anderson scored 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting against the Jazz, including 5-of-6 from 3-point range. Paul assisted on six of Anderson’s buckets, including all five 3s, with Anderson’s lone long-range miss coming on a dish from Harden.
“That’s why I’m here — to shoot the ball around guys that are great playmakers,” Anderson said. “Having him here has just opened up the court so much more for me and all of our shooting ability. For me, it’s just easier looks.
“He hits me from the instant I’m open, which just helps me as a shooter. Those are the moments where I know that I’m going to get the ball from him, and when I get it, it’s pretty much directly at the numbers. Obviously, he’s Chris Paul. He’s a great playmaker who helps me a lot.”
It’s a case of two players whose games fit together perfectly in theory, meshing immediately. Paul and Anderson have played a total of only nine regular-season games together, but they already know what each other are thinking just by making quick eye contact, two of the league’s elite pick-and-pop players instantly and instinctively clicking.
It comes as no surprise that Paul, who put up 18 points, nine rebounds and 13 assists in the victory, is thriving as a playmaker while surrounded by so many scorers with the Rockets. His 10.1 assists per game would lead the league if Paul had played enough games to be a qualifier. His ratio of 5.7 assists to turnovers is simply ridiculous.
Anderson has enhanced Paul’s game even on possessions when he isn’t the recipient of a pinpoint pass. Paul has always wanted to play with a stretch 4, lobbying to get Anderson on his team in several years, because he recognized how a big shooter changes the game’s geometry.
“Even if he doesn’t make it, everybody’s got League Pass. You know what I mean?” Paul said. “He’s been in the league long enough to know what he’s capable of, so his value to our team is, even when he’s not getting those shots, they’ve still got to guard him out there. When Ryan’s standing at the 3-point line, you’re not offering help because you know he’s got a quick trigger.”
With Anderson, “out there” isn’t on the 3-point line. It’s often several feet behind it, providing extra space for the Rockets’ creators to work. He’s launched 14 of the 21 3s he’s hit off of Paul passes during the winning streak from between 25 and 30 feet from the hoop.
“He’s shooting by half court and doesn’t miss anything,” coach Mike D’Antoni said.
As if dealing with Harden and Paul isn’t tough enough.