November 21, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee (10) dribbles the ball against Brooklyn Nets power forward Mirza Teletovic (33) during the fourth quarter at ORACLE Arena. The Warriors defeated the Nets 102-93. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Golden State Warriors: Where Does David Lee Fit Into the Offense?

April 09, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee (10) drives in against Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Derrick Williams (7) during the first quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

With the Golden State Warriors’ recent acquisition of swingman Andre Iguodala, they now have four players who can handle the ball on offense. This will likely leave one player with the short end of the stick, and it could be All-Star power forward, David Lee.

Lee is the oldest core player and makes the most money, but expect his numbers to take a slight dip over the next few seasons, even though he has been synonymous with getting his own numbers throughout his career. Lee will still get his 10-plus rebounds a night as he gets most of those from just hustle plays, and although he doesn’t get many offensive boards, he may have to crash the glass on that end to impact the game more.

The fortunate thing about having four players that can run the offense is that head coach Mark Jackson can give the team so many different sets to play through, and therefore he can get creative with the group of players he sends on the court. Lee is still an elite passing forward, so Jackson can run shooters off picks as Lee handles the ball on the elbow, which could end with Lee’s assists taking a jump up this season. With the addition of Iguodala, the Warriors now have one of the best slashers in the game, one who can get to the rim almost at will. This is where Lee’s signature 17-footer comes into play.

Lee may have to become a spot-up shooter for some games where the other team wants to crowd the middle and force the Warriors to become outside shooters. This is never a problem with the Warriors guards, but center Andrew Bogut still can’t shoot much farther than a free throw because of his massive elbow injury from four years ago.

One remedy to this issue would be Lee extending his range out to the three-point line. While he has never been a three-point shooter in his career (he’s only made one in 25 tries), he has a good stroke and the will to force himself to extend his range this summer. This could be a huge weapon, and it would benefit the Warriors’ offensive schemes greatly.

Lee is still one of the best pick-and-roll forwards in the NBA, and that’s where much of his production will have to come from. Luckily, he’ll have another elite pick-and-roll partner with Iguodala in the mix. Point guard Stephen Curry must sustain his elite shooting and  while being a threat from deep to clear out space for guys like Lee to work on the elbow or in the post, because if double-teamed, Lee will surely find the open man.

Lee’s statistical numbers could be the lowest of his career, but the Warriors could win upwards of 60 games and be poised to capture the two seed in the Western Conference behind the Oklahoma City Thunder. That is a tradeoff any team player would accept.

Jackson will have the most fun next year, though. He can get really creative with his lineups, running small-ball lineups with Lee and the recently acquired Marreese Speights, or even put Stephen Curry-Klay Thompson-Harrison Barnes-Iguodala-Lee together with Lee as only big. He can also go big with Lee-Bogut-Speights or Lee-Jermaine O’Neal.

This will be the true test for Jackson, with former assistant coach Mike Malone gone to coach the Sacramento Kings, to see where these intricate lineup changes can be taken advantage of.

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