The recent news of the Golden State Warriors’ willingness to shop David Lee has opened up some intriguing possibilities. Ryan Anderson may not be the first person that comes to mind when you think of potential Lee replacements, but let’s get into why he would be a great replacement for the sole Warriors All-Star.
An Offensive Reconfiguration
The most obvious difference between Anderson and Lee is the ability to shoot the three pointer. The 6’10’’ forward made 213 three-pointers this season, second only to Stephen Curry and only slightly more than Klay Thompson. Imagine the three best three-point shooters in the league on one team. They made a combined 696 threes last season on 41.3 percent shooting. The Splash Brothers would undoubtedly be adding another member to the family.
The greater implication of Anderson’s three-point ability would be floor spacing. With a power forward with a credible three-point shot, a weak-side defender will either have to choose to allow more space to the Anderson, which results in an easy three-point attempt, or choose play the forward closer, clearing out room in the paint.
Another offensive benefit of Anderson is that he will not demand as many touches as Lee does. This means more shots going to Curry, Thompson and Harrison Barnes.
Age and Money as a Factor
Lee is 30 years old. Take all the criticism about his defense, or lack thereof, and add another year. The aging big men will have to contend with not only old age but health, as he is coming off a hip injury. He is also set to be paid about $14 million in 2013-14. Anderson, on the other hand, is healthy, a spry 25 years old and will only make $8.3 million in 2013-14. Five years younger and five million dollars less.
The Warriors are looking not only in the present but also on the horizon, as they seem to have youth and talent in spades. Anderson is the same age as Curry and just as the Davidson product is developing into a more complete point guard, so too is the Pelican..
But What About Rebounds?
The quantitative difference between Lee and Anderson is mainly in the rebounding department, but to truly compare the two, you have to look deeper than just the rebounding stat. On paper, Lee averaged 11.2 rebounds to Anderson’s 6.4.
The first major and obvious caveat is minutes. Lee played on average six more minutes than Anderson this season, which was mostly due to Bogut’s absence for most of the season and his subsequent inability to log major minutes, forcing the frontcourt burden onto Lee. If we normalize the minutes of both players to 36, we see the deficit is reduced, with Lee averaging 11 rebounds and Anderson averaging 7.5 rebounds.
Even if we adjust for minutes, we can still see that Lee grabs more rebounds, but is he a better rebounder? To answer that question, we have to look to advanced stats, specifically total rebound percentage.
Total rebound percentage is the estimate of the percentage of available rebounds a player grabbed while he was on the floor. Lee’s total rebound percentage is 16.8, only 4.4 percentage points more than Anderson’s 12.4. This means that some of the rebounding deficit can be explained by the fact that Lee had more potential rebounds available.
By using total rebound percentage, we can see that Anderson would have averaged 8.3 rebounds if he had been playing in Lee’s place last season, only three less than the Warriors power forward.
The combined factors of time played and rebounds available greatly mitigate the rebounding deficit to the point where Anderson’s nominal rebounding weakness is far outweighed by his ability to space the floor.