November 7, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee (10) grabs a rebound against Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Samardo Samuels (24) during the first quarter at ORACLE Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

Giving David Lee His Due

David Lee gets his own recap-independent post after last night’s 106-96 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Oracle. I’m rough on Lee all the time, but he does deserve credit for gutting out 37 productive minutes despite being a game-time decision because of a case of the flu. (Jarrett Jack did the same).

Lee put up the best statistical line of any Warrior last night; his 22 points, 14 rebounds and six assists on 10-of-16 shooting were a fantasy player’s dream. There’s no disputing the fact that Lee was an excellent offensive player last night. His mid-range jumper was falling, which opened things up for a couple of nice drives after several Cavaliers fell for his up fake. And really, Lee is a good offensive player. He shoots a high percentage and doesn’t often take bad shots. He’s a willing passer, too—his feed to Harrison Barnes for a fourth-quarter corner three was the dagger last night.

If there’s a knock on Lee’s offensive attack, it’s that he doesn’t draw contact very effectively. He’s a little bit like Monta Ellis used to be in that sense: He’s athletic enough to get to the hole, but is also athletic enough to stretch and bend around contact. That style makes for some aesthetically appealing finishes, but the goal in that situation should probably be to earn a trip to the foul line. That’s a small issue in Lee’s otherwise excellent offensive game.

He’ll never affect the game in a positive way on defense, though. Despite his excellent box score, Lee simply isn’t able or willing to do the things we now know good defensive players do. Andrew Bogut has shown us that it’s possible to play excellent defense with virtually no athletic ability. (Clarification: Bogut is athletic. He’s just limited by his injury right now. When/if he gets some mobility back, watch out.)

Lee has plenty of athletic ability, but he doesn’t use it on half of the court.

At this point, it’s hard to continue harping on him, especially when he was the Warriors’ best offensive player last night. He is what he is, and that’s not going to change. It might be time to just enjoy what he can do offensively, while simultaneously understanding that he absolutely has to be great as a scorer and passer to offset his defensive ambivalence. Maybe that’s fine. Maybe I’m being unfair with my expectations.

Anyway, Lee is owed credit for his performance against Cleveland. Just getting that on record.

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