David Lee: What’s His Role With the Golden State Warriors Going Forward?

May 14, 2013; San Antonio, TX, USA; Golden State Warriors forward David Lee (10) is defended by San Antonio Spurs forward Tiago Splitter (right) during the second half in game five of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at the AT

Since the Golden State Warriors’ playoff run has ended, many questions have been asked about the roster going forward.

One of the biggest questions centers around David Lee. The lone All-Star injured himself in the Game 1 loss in the series against Denver, and many people were quick to write off Golden State. Lee’s absence, coupled with the return of Kenneth Faried, was expected to ensure Golden State’s demise. But that never happened.

The Warriors went on to win four of their next five games against Denver with only a minute of game time from Lee in those five games. Even in the San Antonio Spurs series, Lee only played for an average of nine minutes over four games. Even a healthy Lee wouldn’t have necessarily improved the Warriors’ chances against the Spurs, as San Antonio’s victories came much more from our lack of defense rather than production, the former of which being something Lee has a famous, or should I say infamous, reputation for.

The point of all this is simple; does Lee really deserve such a prominent role, and paycheck, on the Warriors? His injury allowed Harrison Barnes to prove his mettle at the four and also gave Draymond Green, Carl Landry and Festus Ezeli an opportunity to show their worth. The Warriors most used lineup during the postseason, the one that included Jarrett Jack, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut, shot 49 percent from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc and had a plus/minus rating of plus-18.

May 16, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry (30, left) and power forward David Lee (10, right) react after game six of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs at Oracle Arena. The Spurs defeated the Warriors 94-82. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

This four shooters and big man lineup allowed Curry to handle the ball more and ultimately, the Warriors were scoring more effectively on threes than Lee’s long twos. His volume shooting style also took shots away from Curry, Thompson and Barnes. Barnes specifically exploded in the playoffs, and averaged nearly double the amounts of points in the playoffs than in the regular season.

Regardless of what you think about Lee’s influence or lack thereof in the Warriors’ lineup, we must clearly re-examine his role going forward. His help during the regular season obviously can’t be forgotten, as he helped support the team while Andrew Bogut was injured, but now that Bogut returned and played well on both ends of the floor, Lee is not as needed.

While trading the All-Star wouldn’t be a likely option, as he is owner Joe Lacob’s hand-picked player and he has a $14 million salary next year, coach Mark Jackson should seriously consider playing him less. Even if the Warriors still lose both Jack and Landry next year, Lee’s role should still be re-evaluated. Though I would not go so far as to say that he should be a benchwarmer, he should not be in as prominent of a role until he defers more of his shots to Curry and Thompson, and he makes serious efforts to improve his defense.

While David Lee was a large force during the year because of his double-doubles and pick and rolls, his defensive failures, Stephen Curry’s evolution into a guard who can slash to the hoop by himself, and the return of Andrew Bogut should force coach Jackson to question how much he will utilize Lee in this upcoming season.

Topics: 2013-2014 Preview, David Lee, Golden State Warriors, NBA

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  • Arteen Zahiri

    Yes the warriors need Lee. He is a smart player, one of the best offensive bigs in the NBA. He creates pick and rolls and scoring opportunities for others, as well as him self. Keep in mind his rebounding was huge, and severely missed when he was gone. He led the league in double doubles.

    • Dhara Taheripour

      Double-doubles are less important than you probably think. Consider the fact that Andrew Bogut only had two double-doubles in eight playoff games, but clearly he demonstrated his value on both sides of the court. Bogut was efficient on offense and a great interior defender, whereas Lee takes a lot of shots and doesn’t defend very well. His absence has allowed Stephen Curry and Harrison Barnes play to evolve. Obviously no one can say Lee hasn’t been effective in the past, as the Warriors were 3-18 in the last three years when he was not in the lineup, but with the evolution of Curry and Bogut finally being healthy, David Lee just isn’t that important anymore. This year’s postseason should prove as the greatest indicator of this. You can refer to the article I linked in my write-up to further explain why even a healthy David Lee wouldn’t have changed this series.

    • Joe Moore

      Arteen, I also think Lee is a bit overrated as a rebounder. The Warriors had a higher total rebound percentage with Lee off the court than on (52.0 off vs. 51.1 on). Lee has a relatively low offensive rebounding percentage of 8.6, and a high defensive rebounding percentage at 24.8 percent. This is a concept of great debate, but most statistical analysis shows that a defensive rebound holds less value at a player level than at a team level. What I mean is that at a team level, 1 defensive board is worth exactly that; 1 possesion, but at a player level the value decreases, because several players may be in position to grab a rebound, but only one can actually record the stat. Offensive rebounding is generally a more player specific skill, while defensive rebounding is dependent on the full defensive unit. Lee rates much higher as a defensive rebounder than offensive, which overvalues his production as a rebounder. Here or some articles on the subject. http://blog.philbirnbaum.com/2011/01/do-players-steal-rebounding.html
      http://www.countthebasket.com/blog/2008/02/05/diminishing-returns-and-the-value-of-offensive-and-defensive-rebounds/

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