NBA / Feb 8, 2013 / 5:00 pm

4 Reasons Why Chris Andersen Makes Miami Better

Chris Andersen

Chris Andersen (photo. Rob Hammer)

Let’s start with a caveat: Miami wasn’t looking for and didn’t need a multi-talented post. It has fewer than 20 minutes per game to allot to a player like that, for one, and Chris Bosh already stretches the court nicely. The Heat needed the best of a special (and limited) class of available big men, and may have found their player today by signing Chris Andersen to the rest of the season today after two consecutive 10-day contracts. After of Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony, the last big man off the bench has been a revolving door for Miami, partly because the team has the luxury of not needing much from him because of their core of All-Stars.

But that rotation among the big men also shows that despite their relatively low statistics, it’s not that easy to find the right defense/rebounding/hustle-minded big man. Andersen is looking like the solution so far, however.

Defense: Opponents are shooting five percentage points worse in Andersen’s 65 total minutes, but it isn’t that they aren’t simply making fewer shots. They’re also taking fewer shots, averaging 6.1 fewer field goal attempts per game since he’s joined Miami. This isn’t to say that the Andersen Effect is felt all over the court: Opponents are better shooting within 15 feet when he plays. Whether his shot-blocking has regressed or his teammates are at fault, too, inside buckets are coming easy when he plays. But watch when he takes on a pick-and-roll near the arc and see how he influences a shot. His defensive range is still plenty large at 34, and opponents shoot just 20 percent from corner threes (that goes up to 45 percent when he doesn’t play) and just 19 percent from 19-25 feet overall (that goes up to 35.2 percent when he doesn’t play). It might be more helpful if he was a more persuasive force inside the paint, but Andersen is helping on defense.

Rebounding: Miami’s rebounding has been awful at times, but the Heat average just 1.5 more rebounds in wins than losses. Still, Andersen will help against larger lineups (such as Indiana’s) in his 10-15 minutes per game with a 22.4 percent rebounding rate, five points higher than his career average and 10 points higher than Anthony and nine points better than Bosh. The Heat average two more offensive rebounds per game in the six games he’s played than the season average. Defensive rebounds have decreased by three in that span, but consider that stat I mentioned earlier about fewer attempts per game, and the fewer available rebounds it means.

Hustle: Hustle bleeds into the two previous categories, but unless you have a personal in-game tracking system there are ways he contributes that aren’t apparent in common statistics. Chief among these is how active he is defensively with his hands, which comes from his energy. How much of that activity was Andersen playing out of fear he could be sent home after his 10-day contracts ended and how much will translate to the final 50 games? That’s not known, but the way he played in Denver — with abandon for his own safety or fatigue, like a less-gifted Kenneth Faried — offers a hint he could sustain his active, occasionally harassing defense.

Turnovers: Turnovers have been a killer in Heat losses, with three more per loss than in wins. Andersen’s turnover rate is a piddly 10.0, third lowest on the team. And before “small sample size!” can be called, check out the rates of similar big men Jarvis Varnado (33.3), Dexter Pittman (28.6), Josh Harrellson (23.3) and Anthony (21.1). Those are four of the five highest on the team.

What do you think?

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