The Spurs Might Be Better Without Pau Gasol
It's not often that an injury makes a team better.
That's especially true when the injured player in question has half a dozen All-Star appearances and four All-NBA team honors to his name.
But that might be the situation for the San Antonio Spurs, as Pau Gasol was injured in pregame warm-ups prior to last night's game against the Denver Nuggets after a collision with teammate Kyle Anderson.
Gasol broke a bone in his left hand, and the team has not provided a timetable for his return.
Gasol had played in all but three of the Spurs' games this season and averaged 26.4 minutes, 11.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.2 blocks per game.
How will the Spurs replace him in their rotation -- and how might that make them better?
Who Gets the Minutes?
Well, in the three games without Gasol, here is a look at the how the minutes were attributed to the rest of their big men.
|Minutes per Game||With Gasol||Without Gasol|
Dedmon will likely play all of his minutes at the center position, where he has played roughly 94% of his minutes this season, while Lee will play at the power forward spot (where he's played roughly 84% of his minutes).
Here is a look at each player's statistics per 36 minutes this season.
|Per-36 Stats||David Lee||Dewayne Dedmon|
Lee has the ability to score and is a solid play maker, averaging more than three assists per 36 minutes.
Dedmon, on the other hand, is more of a defensive player and thrives at blocking shots and rebounding. He ranks eighth in the entire league by ESPN's defensive real plus-minus metric.
Where the Usage Goes
Kawhi experiences a 3.6% usage increase while averaging an additional 4.68 points and 1.44 rebounds per 36 minutes when Gasol is off the court. Parker gets a 4.1% usage bump and averages an additional 3.96 points per 36 minutes.
Aldridge only receives a 1.6% usage increase, but he averages 2.88 points and 1.8 rebounds above his season averages per 36 minutes.
How the Spurs Will Play
Interestingly, the Spurs have benefited when Gasol has been off the court.
In 1,029 minutes with Gasol on the court this season, the Spurs have a 113.9 offensive rating and a 106.5 defensive rating that totals a net rating of 7.4.
However, in 992 minutes with Gasol off the court, the Spurs' offensive rating increases to 114.8, and their defensive rating improves considerably to 102.3. That is an incredible net rating of 12.5.
How are the Spurs better without Gasol?
Well, it's -- in part -- because of Lee and Dedmon. With Lee on the court, the Spurs have a better offensive (114.8) and defensive rating (102.4). When Dedmon is on the court, the Spurs' offensive rating decreases to 112.2. However, their defensive rating drops to an astonishing 98.7. No team has a defensive rating better than 103.5 on the full season, for context.
In all, with Dedmon on the floor, the Spurs have a net rating of 13.5.
From a season-long fantasy perspective, both Lee and Dedmon can provide a boost for teams in deeper formats. Lee will provide considerable scoring, rebounding, and assists numbers from the power forward position. Dedmon, on the other hand, will produce strong rebound and block outputs while Gasol is out. Neither player will be a liability in the free throw category, as Lee is shooting 75% and Dedmon is at 68.9%.
From a daily fantasy perspective, the Spurs just became a considerably more difficult matchup for their opponents. The Spurs have played their worst defense this season with Gasol on the court. Without him, they will now have a legitimate rim protector in Dedmon playing significant minutes. Lee has shown the ability to bolster San Antonio's defense, as well, despite not providing as much in the blocks and steals categories.
From a purely basketball perspective, this may be a blessing in disguise for the Spurs. The advanced statistics show Gasol has not been better for the Spurs this season based on his net rating.
Considering the play from Lee and Dedmon, we can likely expect minimal drop off from the Spurs moving forward, and they will likely be the team testing the Golden State Warriors come May. Our algorithm gives the Spurs a 22.1% chance to win the NBA Finals this season, second only to Golden State.