Why the Golden State Warriors Should Trade David Lee

David Lee does not fit the makeup of the Golden State Warriors’ roster, and should be traded. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

In the National Football League, there is a saying that if a team has two quarterbacks, then they really have none. In the National Basketball Association, a similar saying can be applied: you can’t have six starters for five spots. And in the 2013-14 season, it seems like the Warriors have six starters for only five starting spots.

Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, and Andrew Bogut are four members of the Warriors starting five. The fifth, David Lee, does not fit the makeup of the roster built around the other four. The sixth starter in the analogy above — Harrison Barnes — does.

David Lee of 2013 is not the same David Lee of 2012. He doesn’t look the same on the court. He is hesitant on offense. He is backing down bigger players and getting overmatched. He’s trying to bang on the boards with bruising forwards, and his defense, which has never been great, still does not look any better. Plain and simple, if you asked the casual fan who the Warriors representative on the All-Star team was last season, David Lee would be their third guess. Behind Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

With Iguodala out, the Warriors needed Lee to step into a bigger offensive role, and much to the Warriors chagrin, he did not. While Lee wasn’t horrible during Iguodala’s absence, he wasn’t the easy double-double machine he was last season. Lee’s scoring, rebounding, and assist numbers are all down this season from last. So is his shooting percentage, which has dropped to 49 percent.

Just take a look at his shotcharts from this season and last. His chart from last season is on the left and his chart this season is on the right. Yes, his sample size is smaller this season, but the drop-off in terms of his shooting is still noticeable enough.

Screen Shot 2013-12-18 at 10.37.28 PM

His lone green area this season comes from a spot where he has taken only two shots this season. Last year, he was green in two areas where he is now red. Plain and simple, that’s not good.

With Lee off the floor, and either Andrew Bogut or Jermaine O’Neal at the five spot, surrounded by Curry, Thompson, Harrison Barnes, and Iguodala, the Warriors shoot a higher percentage from the field and three. The Warriors roster is built around spreading the defense and setting up open lanes as a result of their lethal three point shooting. As Barnes showed last year in the postseason, he is more than capable of guarding NBA power forwards, which is another key reason why Lee could become expendable.

One of the reasons why Lee’s name isn’t floated in trade rumors as some other NBA players is because his massive contract makes him hard to trade.  Lee has two more years of a combined $30 million dollars left on his contract after this season. That’s a deal that is one year too long.

Even though his win shares are down from 9.1 last season to 2.1 this season, Lee’s contract is the main reason why he has not been dealt. Because the Warriors are short on first round picks thanks to the Andris Biedrins/Richard Jefferson deal that enabled the team to sign Iguodala, and because Lee is owed so much money, he is tough to move.

Expect the Warriors to ride out this season with Lee on the roster, but if the Warriors falter in the postseason and don’t reach their potential, expect Lee to be traded next year when he is one year closer to being an expiring contract.

Topics: David Lee, Golden State Warriors

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  • kromman

    Disagree. D Lee is a perennial trade candidate, mainly due to his defensive deficiencies, but you forget a few things:
    -He’s pretty damn consistent, while neither Barnes nor Thompson have shown that trait.
    -There are very few bigs with his offensive, rebounding, and passing skills. The Dubs are already thin at interior offense. A trade for someone with weaker interior offense would make the Dubs even more dependent on the outside shot. Cue Charles Barkley….
    -His minutes played/injured ratio is favorable.
    -Good character and team guy
    -And this is a big one, how have the Warriors historically done when trading away talent? Where’s Billy Owens?

    • Ben Pickman

      I love the last point maybe they should trade Lee to Portland’s next high draft pick but make the Blazers draft a center. While Lee is very consistent now, I think the Warriors envision Thompson and Barnes becoming more consistent as their careers progress. Thompson is in year 3 and Barnes 2 so they are still developing. And to your point about reliance on the three, keep in mind that early in the year before Iguodala got hurt the Warriors were top 3 in defensive rating as well as top 3 in offensive rating. They can be a dominant defensive team because of their athleticism and because Bogut is a good rim protector. Even though a trade of Lee makes their interior offense weaker, there shooting is their best weapon and 3 points are more than a 2. In prior seasons, the run-and-gun Suns that loved shooting three’s and getting as many offensive possessions as possible did not play a lick of defense. These Warriors do. And ideally if the Warriors were to ship off Lee, they would get a solid offensive bigman in return. In general I think the Warriors should try to trade for the Celtics Brandon Bass. Bass can be a great 3rd bigman on a championship level team. And from his time in Orlando and Boston, he is not afraid of the moment and brings great leadership. I’m not so high on Nedovic and niether is Mark Jackson right now, maybe they could package him and another player/pick for Bass and get another interior scoring threat that can also step outside a bit and make 15-18 foot jumpers.

  • Steve N

    Klay’s shooting has been just as bad as Lee lately and pretty much every other game he has a stinker. I don’t know a single person that thinks Klay was our all-star last season, you lost me there.

    • Ben Pickman

      Klay has been bad lately. He just isn’t making shots. Only twice this year has he taken less than 10 shots in a game and one time was the second game of the season. His game against Houston was troubling 1-of-7 from three won’t get the job done. They need him to succeed to be successful.

  • matt

    I’ve been dreaming of a trade: D. Lee+Barnes(and maybe a draft pick) for Kevin Love. The only reason we have Lee is cuz he can rebound well, and pass. While neither can defend, Kevin Love is the top rebounder in the league, shoots better than Lee, and can pass. Why we would become the best team in the league: 1. he can command double teams and attention which gets open looks for everyone else, especially the 3pt shooters 2. also he himself can shoot the three very well and stretch the floor without giving up size and rebounding 3. Kevin Love Steph Curry picknrolls and picknpops. And Kevin Love is going to get traded out of Minnesota this year or next before his contract expires…

    • Ben Pickman

      In a game of who says no to the above trade, I think that the Wolves would say no. Kevin Love is the Wolves second best three point shooter at 39% this season and is only 1% worse than Kevin Martin who shoots 40%. The Wolves desperately need shooting and getting rid of their best player and top outside presence is not smart. Also, I don’t think the Wolves would be interested in Barnes. The Wolves traded for Shabazz Muhammad during the draft and think that if develops a consistent offensive game then he could be of value. On top of that they have Chase Budinger who is a solid small forward and Corey Brewer who is a top defender. And we all know Lee is not a good defender, and neither is Nikola Pekovic so Lee and Pekovic together couldn’t stop a nose-bleed.

      • matt

        I appreciate your comment. But with all due respect let me point out things: you are forgetting that Kevin Love will most likely be leaving Minnesota after next season when his contract expires, and Minnesota will not want to loose such a player for nothing, a fundamental philosophy non-idiot teams follow (especially after howard in la). Even though they wont want Kevin Love to leave at all, they will have to face the truth that hes leaving and trade him. I highly doubt he will be with the Ws, hes probly going to LA. And by the way Love is a weak defender, and he and Pek already cant stop a nose-bleed. And also Barnes is already much better than Muhammad, Budinger, and Brewer, and has unlimited more potential on both ends of the court.

        • Ben Pickman

          Correct, I think Love will get traded, but not yet. The Wolves still want to be good and want to be buyers as evidence by their trade for a player in Mbah a Moute who plays a specific role. I think if Minnesota could package players say Muhammad and Brewer to upgrade themselves I think they would. I agree that Minnesota would want to get something back for Lee and I think he will go to the Lakers or another big market franchise, but Lee is very expensive and they would not want to take back such a big salery player who they can’t build their entire franchise around. Take Joe Johnson, he’s good and he has games such as his night two or three days ago where he is unstoppable but his contract is ridiculous and David Lee, while more consistently productive than Johnson is too expensive to trade for a team that only wants him to be one of their guys not THE GUY like love. Barnes right now is better than the Wolves platoon at the 3, but they drafted a guy in the first round and would want him to develop. Back in November, Yahoo sports reported that the Knicks were highly interested in Love and are already planning their strategy to lure him to the Big Apple. Also to be a dominant franchise player, don’t you think you should play in at least one playoff game. Love’s teams have never won 35 games.

  • Andreas Ryge

    I pray the W’s trade him. its the only way they can win a championship. D Lee is so bad on defense(as everyone knows) cause he lacks the heart, athleticism and he doesn’t understand its importance(otherwise he’d try harder). I finally figured out why he’s so frustrating offensively too despite his numbers. As Bob Fitzgerald always points out, D Lee uses quickness to beat people. This reduces the amount of time he has to think and execute with the ball. So when his jumper isn’t falling, like this entire season, he can’t keep defenders honest and has almost no value whatsoever. Now that Speights jumper has come around, I’d rather have him starting over Lee. He’s much more conducive to the W’s offense and is much better than Lee defensively(mostly cause he tries). Also, what the eff is wrong with Klay? watching him is just painful right now he’s so bad on both ends

    • Ben Pickman

      Clearly I think he should be traded and you make some valid points about his offensive struggles so far this year. But Speights should not start over him. There is a difference in playing 30 minutes a game from 17 minutes per game. Speights is not skilled enough to play 17 minutes a game. He is a better defender, but the Warriors should just not play a traditional four. Also Klay doesn’t look as good right now, neither does the entire team. I wasn’t worried about the Dubs because Iggy was out, but I am starting to worry. Last nights loss was discouraging for the Warriors.

    • mkb

      Oh man, I’ve watched most of the games this year and I cringed every time Mo Speights takes an elbow jumper. His mid-range game has not heated up — it’s been flat all year. Not sure if it’s an apples-apples comparison as Lee is playing against starters and Speights against backups.

      • Ben Pickman

        Agreed. Speights jumpers are not a good solution.

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