Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

If pressed to pick between David Lee and Josh Smith, most would quickly direct their attention to the Atlanta forward and not even blink before making the choice. And really, the choice is an easy one considering the tantalizing talent of J-Smoove. Indeed, he rebounds with the best of them, runs the floor like a gazelle, gets up around the rim and finishes with authority and intimidates players that come into the lane with some fierce and spectacular rejections. This explains why many were clamoring for Smith to be selected as an All-Star this season.

And yet, David Lee has a superior PER figure. There’s a Criss Angel Mindfreak for you.

Lee sports a player efficiency ranking of 19.82 while Smith trails him with a mark of 19.24. The differences can be attributed to the Warriors’ forward superior scoring average and field goal shooting. The gap between both players in these statistical areas is slim, but Lee outpaces him nonetheless. But does that make him the better player? Not quite.

Have a look at their respective plus-minus ratings:


On Court

Off Court

Net Rating

David Lee




Josh Smith





The Golden State Warriors play better with Lee on the bench while the Atlanta Hawks are little more formidable with Smith on the floor.

Josh Smith’s contributions on offense are highly documented (as well his penchant to hoist away long two-point shots) but his defense on the other hand tends to get mentioned only in passing, which is a shame. According to MySynergySports, the Hawks forward only allows his opponents to convert 38.7 percent of their field goal attempts.

He is a poor one-on-one defender, allowing a 48.9 percent conversion rate in isolation situations. Mind you, he excels in situations that require him to help out and recover back to his man such as defending the pick-and-roll ballhandler as well as the roll man. Essentially teams have a hard time scoring, especially on the interior when Josh Smith is in the game.

On the other hand, MySynergySports confirms that David Lee is a poor defensive player and that’s putting it lightly. Indeed, on the season Lee allows opponents to convert 44.2 percent of their field goal attempts. He is relatively successful in isolation situations, yielding only 42.3 percent from the field thanks in large part to his foot quickness in comparison to opposing power forwards. However, when he is called upon to help out and get back to his man, he struggles because he takes poor angles when rotating back on defense.

MySynergySports tells us that when Lee defends the pick-and-roll roll man, the offensive player converts 63.6 percent of his attempts. Also, given that Florida product is relatively undersized, post players can push him around on the block and get to their spots for scores. Indeed, Lee allows a 47.5 percent marksmanship from the field in these situations.

Needless to say, the Florida product’s value comes for the most part in his scoring, passing and rebounding. His defense typically puts the Warriors at a disadvantage.

Josh Smith on the other hand is able to give the Hawks some scoring punch but he is also a great defensive player capable of guarding multiple positions. In addition, he is invaluable to his teammates because of the support he provides them with his help defense. Indeed, Smith gets into passing lanes, helps out in the screen-and-roll action, fights through screens, switches on picks and contests/changes shots with his wingspan when he’s not busy rejecting them.

It’s worth noting that Josh Smith is in the second tier of the NBA power forwards, but he is probably atop the group and yet never gets the deserved kind of attention or publicity that should come along with it. He may not necessary be an elite player but he is quite good at what he does and helps Atlanta accumulate wins.

David Lee gives the Golden State Warriors terrific statistical production on most nights but does not offer the same kind of impact on games that Josh Smith does.

When the Warriors and Hawks square off at the Phillips Arena tonight in Atlanta, their matchup won’t draw much fanfare but it will be an interesting one nonetheless as both players try to outduel each other and earn their team a win. As he does throughout the season, Lee will probably have better looking numbers by game’s end, but Smith will probably have the greater impact on the overall game.

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One Response

  1. Boomsizzle

    Hmmmm – eating some crow after last night?