David Lee and LaMarcus Aldridge are both top five power forwards in the league and depending on how the chips fall, could potentially see each other in a postseason matchup. They are both All-Stars and all in all, the Golden State Warriors forward and Portland Trailblazers’ forward are similar in some respects, but ultimately, one is better than the other.
The offensive edge goes to LaMa for two key reasons. First is his ability to create and make his own shot. Second is his ability to actually make those shots that he creates. Let’s go indepth.
In terms of creating and making their own shot, it’s no contest. Only 54.2 percent of all of Aldridge’s shots were assisted, compared to Lee’s 68.3 percent. If we break it down even further, we can see that Aldridge creates more of his own shots at every part of the court and makes them at a higher percentage than Lee.
At the rim, Aldridge makes 69.4 percent of his shots, with only 51.3 percent of them being assisted. Compare this to Lee’s slightly lower field goal percentage at the rim of 68.1 and his much higher assisted percentage of 68.2.
From slightly farther from the rim, at a range of three feet plus, yet less than 10 feet, Aldridge makes his shots at 44.7 percent per clip. Of these, only an insanely low 29.2 are assisted. Lee makes just 40.9 percent of those shots, even though 52.8 percent of them are assisted. That means that even with Lee getting presumably better and easier shots, he is not converting on them with the efficiency of Aldridge.
If we take several steps back into the 10 to less than 16 feet zone, we can see LaMa’s continued ability to create his own shot. The Portland power forward makes 43.8 percent of his shots from that zone with only 37.7 percent being assisted. Lee makes just 41.6 percent of these shots with 64.9 percent of them being assisted.
If we take another giant step back, we reach the edge of where it is remotely acceptable for non-”stretch” power forwards to take shots. The no man’s land greater than 16 feet but within the three-point is a hard area to be efficient from and is generally an area that it is discouraged to take shots from.
All that being said, Aldridge and Lee are equally good or bad at hitting shots in this zone from a purely statistical standpoint, as they both shoot 41.8 percent from that zone. The only thing LaMa has going for him is that only 79.2 percent of those shots are assisted compared to Lee’s 91.2 percent. That advantage is nullified by the fact that Aldridge took double the amount of shots that Lee took in that area, meaning that even though the UT product is creating his own shot in that zone, he would be better served by taking another step or two in or passing the ball instead.
It’s hard not to give a defensive edge to David Lee in anything, no matter who you are comparing to. Lee is plain and simple, an awful interior defender. It has been documented multiple times and has become a sort of not-so-inside joke among Warriors fans these days.
Knowing all that, it comes as no surprise that LaMa is a better defender. But credit must be given where credit is due, as it is not just because of Lee’s deficiencies that Aldridge wins this comparison.
When Lee is defending within five feet of the basket, opponents make 61 percent of their shots. Yes you read that right. It’s hard to be worse than that. Aldridge on the other hand holds opponents to 43.9 percent when he is within five feet of the basket. In case you can’t do the math, a shot near the basket is more than 17 percent more likely to go in if Lee is defending the rim instead of Aldridge.
If 17 percent isn’t enough of an indicator of Aldridges defensive dominance, we can look to another stat in which the Portland forward destroys Lee. LaMa averaged 1.2 blocks per game for the 2012-13 season. Lee averaged 0.3. The discrepancy is widened when we use advanced stats. In terms of block percentage, Aldridge is more than eight times better than Lee at swatting the ball as Aldridge got a block in 2.5 percent of all potential shots compared to Lee’s 0.3 percent.
The defensive discussion is awfully one-sided but you can give Lee some credit in terms of his rebounding numbers, though not enough to put him above Aldridge significantly. Lee averaged 11.2 rebounds per game to LaMa’s 9.1 and even if you use advanced stats, specifically rebounding percentage to even the field, Lee still holds a vice grip on rebounding advantage.
All in all, Lee is a better rebounder, but at the point that he gives up so many easy baskets, Aldridge is the better overall defender.