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.