Come November, you can essentially count on three things each year without fail: huge college football games, lousy midwestern weather, and Ohio State fans bemoaning the quality of their frontcourt play. After getting spoiled with a run of NBA big man talent, the rotation of Amir Williams and Trey McDonald has caused much chagrin amongst Buckeye basketball faithful, even if all of it isn't totally deserved. With the program now replacing Aaron Craft and LaQuinton Ross, it would appear that some sort of upgrade among their big man rotation would be required if the team wanted to compete a higher level.
Is Anthony Lee the cure for what ails the Ohio State men's basketball team?
Lee, a transfer from Temple, only has one season of eligibility left after joining OSU through a graduate transfer bylaw, but the 6'9 big man projects to be part of the rotation and contribute right away this season. For the Owls, Lee was a rebounding machine, provides some touch, and can step out and a hit a jumper. Is he the missing link in this offense? What can we expect? Let's take a closer look.
A look back
Last season, Lee averaged 13.6 points per game, along with 8.6 rebounds over 31.1 minutes per game. Lee's free throw shooting was only okay, at 65% on roughly four free throw attempts a game. He shot .495 from the floor, and while he doesn't have three-point range, he showed he had shooting range away from the basket.
Granted, Lee's offensive proficiency didn't do much to help the Owls succeed on the court. Temple stumbled badly to a 9-22 record last season, including losses to Kent State, Towson, Texas Southern and South Florida. Lee was fourth on that team in scoring, and easily led the team in rebounds.
Outlook for 2014-15
The good news for Anthony Lee is that the minutes are going to be there for him, and Ohio State needs him. You don't transfer somewhere for just one year if you don't expect to play. With only Amir Williams and Trey McDonald as pure "big men" on the roster, (Dave Bell is redshirting and Trevor Thompson has to sit out a year due to NCAA transfer restrictions), Lee should be able to regularly play, help clean up the glass (especially on the defensive end), and provide some amount of spacing that the other two can't provide.
There are questions about Lee's defensive ability, though, as well as where he might be the most effective. Could he be a devastating small ball center? Is he best when paired with Amir Williams, even if that means keeping Marc Loving off the floor and hurting shooting? Expect Matta to continue to tinker with the best way to use Lee over the first month or so of the season.
Best Case Scenario
Lee defends well enough to be a regular mainstay in the Matta rotation, and is an efficient scorer, making life easier for Amir Williams and for the shooters around him. Lee isn't the best player on the team by any stretch, but he steps in as a more than effective role player to keep the offense moving, and to take the lid off the bucket when the team needs it. He becomes part of the late game crunch time lineup, either at power forward or center.
Worst Case Scenario
Lee struggles to defend power forwards and is exposed in Big Ten play. He becomes a little shot happy, falling in love with inefficient jumpers, earning him a new kind of ire from fans and coaches alike. He's able to rebound effectively, but doesn't do anything else well enough to spell the other two forwards or solve Ohio State's problems at the position group, effectively becoming a slightly better shooting Trey McDonald.