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.
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.