This is usually the category that analysts even out the Lee argument. For everything he does well on offense, this is where his weaknesses lie. No argument here. Is defense really what he’s paid to do? Of course not. So you cannot expect huge impact in this category. On offense, he is expected to dominant, and yet, it seems he only good, not great. On defense, anything you get is gravy because it is not expected.
So, based on what you should expect from Lee, which would be mostly defensive rebounding, do the stats differ tremendously on and off the court. Eh, not really. What does that mean? the Dubs’ defensive rebounding is basically identical to the rate when Lee is off the court, and they actually rebound better offensively when he’s off the floor.
Pause. So the guy that led the league in double-doubles lowers the team’s ability to rebound when he is on the court? How does that happen?
Well, when you play poor defense, you are typically in bad position to block out because you have lost sight of your man. So, although it may not happen every possession, it eventually adds up and Lee gives up a few more boards than, say, someone like Draymond Green, who plays excellent position basketball on the defensive end (all-time leading rebounder at Michigan State, remember).
The Warriors also give up fewer points per 100 possessions when Lee is off the floor, which should not surprise anyone. But when you are leaking points on the defensive end with your best players on the floor, you typically do not pull away during games despite being the “better” team. Many games resulted nail-biting finishes just because the Dubs, with Lee on the floor, could not stop teams down the stretch.
Now, Festus Ezeli is not Andrew Bogut, so his rotations and positioning could not be trusted down the stretch, so Lee was paired with Carl Landry (not exactly known for his defense either) during long portions of games. The closing lineup of Lee, Landry, Curry, Jack and Thompson had the highest opponent field goal percentage of any lineup consisting of Lee. Granted, it was only for about six minutes a game, but those are usually the final minutes of game.
In the end, this may have only hurt Lee’s rankings a little. Regardless, the “OLAY!” defense was in full effect for most of the season. But again, that is not what you pay him for.