This is the first in an offseason series of articles we’ll be doing this summer at Blue Man Hoop. In these Offseason Homework pieces, we’ll be breaking down one Warrior to figure out which area of his game needs the most improvement before the 2012-2013 Warriors season kicks off in Phoenix on October 31.
David Lee’s Assignment: Improve Help Defense
David Lee is a skilled offensive player. No question about it. He’s got two seasons of better than 20 points per game under his belt, including last season for Golden State. He’s a solid rebounder and an underrated passer, as well. But anyone who either watches Warriors games closely or is acquainted with any advanced statistics knows that Lee is a complete disaster on defense.
According to ESPN’s John Hollinger gave the following glowing review of Lee’s defensive shortcomings:
[Lee] really has no interest in playing defense at all. This wasn’t just a Golden State thing—he was horrible in New York, too—and obviously joining this bunch didn’t heighten his motivation any. The all-too-common sight of Lee staying put on the weak side while an opposing guard cruised in for a layup was his most egregious failing, but he also struggled on-ball.
Here’s the good news: that was Hollinger’s assessment of Lee after the 2010-2011 season. The bad news? Lee was even worse last year.
Keeping expectations realistic, Lee will never be a shutdown defender. He’s a finesse guy, and his offense benefits from his skill. Defensively, he’s just not cut out to put the clamps on opposing bigs.
But anyone can play help defense. More than any other aspect of defending, being a good helper is all about the head and the heart. Lee’s no dummy, that’s for sure. He’s got a clever, creative offensive mind and certainly has a polished presence in interviews. He’s definitely smart enough to learn the proper rotations and schemes to play good help defense.
So Lee’s got to want to play defense. It’s as simple as that.
If Warriors management needs to assign him a drill sergeant this summer, so be it. He needs a fire lit under him somehow. Hopefully, nothing so extreme will be necessary. It’s possible the Warriors’ team-wide emphasis on defense (which they clearly displayed in the Vegas Summer League) will practically shame Lee into giving a better effort.
However it happens, Lee’s got to use this offseason to improve his most glaring weakness. If he can finish his homework and become a better help defender, the Warriors will be a much better team for it.