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The Pros & Cons of David Lee

Talked with David Lee’s agent Mark Bartelstein. He gave the credit for the Warriors’ acquisition of Lee to general manager Larry Riley and his staff. He said they were hard after Lee from the start of free agency and worked tirelessly through countless scenarious to make it work.

Bartelstein: “I tell my guys, ‘Pay attention to who wants you most, because that means something.’ … They persisted.”

So Riley, in the end, got his guy though the likes of Minnesota, Toronto, New Jersey and Phoenix were interested in Lee. After landing one of the top 10 free agents in this year’s class, which is considered the best ever, members of the Warriors’ front office are riding high from this trade. But most fans, judging by the social media outlets and comments on Warriors-related blogs, are down on this trade.

Which is the accurate perspective? Well, I’m stealing an idea from my colleague, TK. Here is the case for and against David Lee. You be the judge.

Before I get into it, the one thing you won’t see is salary. Why not? Because I’ve come to the realization that it’s overrated. To me, if Lee is good trade at $70 million over six years, he’s good at $80. Do you pass up the guy you feel you need for less than $2 million a year? Some players get overpaid, some are underpaid. That’s the name of the game. Period. And in this market, overpaid was the most likely. The fact is, no matter how you cut it, the Warriors are going to spend more than $58 million and less than $70 million. How you divy that up does not matter as much as the ability of the players you’re going to spend that $58-$70M on. You identify what you need, who you want, and the numbers fall into place.  The Warriors were going to spend that money anyway. The question is not the money, but whether he was the guy the Warriors should have spent it on. That is what the following is about.

The Case FOR David Lee

* He automatically upgrades and solidifies the power forward spot. With Randolph, forward Brandan Wright and rookie Ekpe Udoh, that position was a question mark. Randolph, was up and down to begin with, was coming off ankle surgery. Wright hadn’t played since January ’08, and Udoh didn’t make it to summer league before landing on the injury list.

Lee has played 81 games each of the last three seasons, averaging 29.1/34.9/37.3 minutes per game during that stretch. He brings instant, reliable production. His last two seasons combined, he averaged 18.1 points and 11.7 rebounds. Last year, he was 14th in the NBA in PER rankings.

* He helps with a major problem for the Warriors: rebounding. The Warriors were last in rebounds per game (38.41), last in opponents rebounds per game (48.07), and therefore last in rebound differential (-9.65). Not only does Lee rebound, but he and a healthy Andris Biedrins could seriously improve Warriors rebounding

* He fits the Warriors style of play. His agent called it a perfect fit. He’s no Randolph, but Lee can move a little bit. He gets up and down the court. Plus he has some of the skills that allows him to operate away from the basket. He has a midrange game. I’m told he’s been working hard on developing his 3-point shot, too.

* He is a really good finisher around the basket. He’s not going to flush on anyone like Stoudemire flushed on Anthony Tolliver last year at Oracle. But he is adept at finishing in the lane with both hands. That gives PG Stephen Curry a good pick-and-roll partner, which is vital if Biedrins never gets back to form. Plus Lee, because of his developed jumper, can also pick-and-pop.

* Get some veteran experience with shelflife. What I mean by that is they got a veteran who isn’t on the tail end of his career. Lee will be starting his sixth season in November, just like Monta. He’s not too young, not too old.

* Does a lot of the little things that go a long way. Loose balls. Charges. Solid screens. Always hustling.

* Added Lee without sacrificing the ability to add more. The Warriors got the guy they coveted, without compromising ability to make another move. Warriors still have mid-level exception. Still have $13M in expiring contracts. Still have depth in backcourt. Either could help land the small forward they need.

* Able to keep Monta Ellis. With the development of Curry and the addition of a reliable scorer, Ellis doesn’t need to carry such a big load on offense and may be more efficient for it. Bartelstein said because the Warriors were able to add Lee and keep their best players, like Ellis, Curry and Biedrins, that the Warriors are now a playoff team.

* The Warriors got some kind of return on their lottery pick. Even Randolph supporters have to admit his success wasn’t a guarantee. His detractors believe it was a good chance Randolph would never reach his potential. Some think its a good thing that the Warriors got something for him now instead of finding out later he wouldn’t pan out. What if Randolph’s attitude problem wasn’t all Nellie’s fault? What if he never overcame turnover issues, struggle with knowing where to be on the court?

* He’s a good guy. (This is last for a reason). After experiencing locker room drama with Stephen Jackson, Baron Davis and Al Harrington, the Warriors have been consistent about their desire to have good guys. With so many young guys, namely Curry, they emphasize veterans who are positive and productive in the locker room. From all accounts, Lee is a model NBA player in that regard.

The Case AGAINST David Lee

* He cost them Randolph. There is a reason so many teams wanted Randolph. He has the potential to be a star. He showed that just about every time he got significant minutes. I’m not a fan of making deals based on PR moves, so that fans liked him is fairly trivial to me. But Randolph was a super talented player who is a good situation away from being a perennial All-Star, maybe even All-NBA candidate. And Randolph hasn’t even turned 21 yet.

Check out this comparison I cribbed off a Warriors fan who posted this on Twitter:

Lee at age 22: 5.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 0.6 assists

Randolph at age 20: 11.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.5 assist

To be sure, Lee was in his rookie year at 22 and Randolph was in his 2nd year at 20. And Randolph averaged some five minutes more per game in the years being compared. But hard to argue with how early in his maturation as a player Randolph was producing.

* Getting Lee hurt Warriors defensively. Was talking with someone who knows basketball and Lee’s game. He said don’t hold your breath waiting on Lee to protect the basket. Lee doesn’t have the athleticism, toughness to defend the beast PFs in the West (two of which are now in the East). He is widely regarded as a poor defender.

Not only that, but the Warriors arguably gave up their three best defenders to get him. I know his health was uncertain after major knee surgery, but Azubuike was their most versatile, if not best, defender. Turiaf was the team’s best pure shot blocker. Randolph was close behind, plus had the tenacity to for the task. Certainly, the Warriors added Ekpe Udoh, a defensive big, so that might lessen the blow (if and when he’s healthy). But their starting five is worse defensively at this point.

* Lee has peaked or close to peaked as a player. I will start this by acknowledging I haven’t seen much of Lee, and most of what I’ve seen has been on TV. But from talking to people, one of the concerns about Lee is that he is who is going to be. At 27 years old, he is at the very least entering the prime of his career. Plus, he is not physically dominant, which makes it harder to build on your game. Whereas Randolph could develop so many things because of his athleticism, length and skillset, I’ve been told Lee doesn’t have such prospectus. Personally, I find it hard to believe a player can’t get better. If you work hard, you’ll get better just by virtue of experience. But I’ve heard this from multiple people and I get what they mean. When you sign David Lee, you sign him for what he gives you now. So what you pay him $11 million for now, you will get four years from now, but for a few million more.

* Warriors still have major holes. Going into free agency, general manager Larry Riley said small forward was his biggest need. That and a big man who could score inside, rebound and defend bigs. It seems like the $80 million deal would’ve been better spent going to get an All-Star caliber small forward. You could make the case that the Warriors are better going someone like Andre Iguodala or Josh Smith or Luol Deng and keeping Randolph at PF (with Wright) than getting Lee at PF with Reggie Williams/Anthony Morrow/Mid-level exception guy at small forward. Of course, that all depends on one of the top-notch SFs being available, which may have not been the case. This knock against Lee is moot if the Warriors get somebody pretty good with the mid-level or if they use some of the aforementioned pieces to get the beast they need at small forward.

There you have it. Both sides of the ledger.

Marcus Thompson

  • TownLove

    I just don’t get the arguments against this trade. They are sayingg Randolph could have been a 20/10 player……. Well didn’t we just get a 20/10 player

  • Boycott_CC

    Good Read MT. You actually touched on something important, but often gets overlooked by critics of this trade: Lee played 81 games each of the past 3 seasons.

    Last year, AZ played 9 games, RT 42 games, and AR 33. That’s 84 games played between those 3. In that regard, they’re as good as just 1 solid player.

    Plus, it sounds like AZ is still a long ways from full recovery, if he ever gets there.

    I really liked all 3 of those guys for what they brought, but they were getting paid to sit on the bench a lot due to injury. By comparison, Lee was an iron man despite the heavy minutes he played (out of position no less).

  • frenemy

    I realized that my initial negative reaction was because I am so used to the Warriors screwing everything up (Todd Fuller anyone?). On reflection and a little more sleep I actually think this could work out provided Lee stays healthy. I am a huge AR and Buike fan but with AR we are talking potential only at this point and with Buike I wouldn’t want to bet on his health. We traded potential for tangible production. And given the money that is flying around it was not an outrageous sum.

    Using the mid-level exception on a good SF would make this a pretty decent team. Not championship calibre but let’s be real — with the Celtics, Lakers and now Heat who else is seriously a championship contender or will be for the forseeable future?

  • sisyphus

    I’m a knick fan and have watched Lee play every year, and every year he has improved. Contrary to the post, I believe he’ll continue to improve. He has a strong work ethic and is focused. By far, he was our best player. One item not mentioned is his passing. He’s not the type of player who holds onto the ball, and holds, and holds, while everyone stands around and watch. He’s one of the best passers in the league for a big man. His game is very fluid and should fit GS’ tempo well. He’s excellent on the pick n’ roll and will add an extra dimension to your offense. He’s an excellent offensive rebounder as well, and, as mentioned, does all the little things that are fundamental to winning basketball games.

    The downside is his defense. It’s not that he doesn’t care or try, but he lacks the lateral quickness and can get overpowered by bigger players. But overall, Lee will improve the team.

  • DKnight007

    Yesterdays RIDICULOUS joke of attention whoreism from LeDiva and BSPN proves that LeDiva is a piece of crap.

    What a classless move with the way he went about all of this and how he stepped away from Cleveland. He should have shown the Cavs and their fans a little more respect yesterday.

    Mark my words…LeDiva will NOT win a Title next year.

    LAKERS!! The Team of Decade!

  • DKnight007

    What a typical stupid move by the Warriors. Why….why…why would a lame duck owner and the lameduck front office management do something stupid like this before they leave? Unreal!

    Ahh heck why didn’t they just throw in CJ Watson while they were at it and Brandon Wright? Screw it huh? LOL!

    Don’t worry Warrior fans…the new owners and front office will look to be trading Lee away and his fat contract out of here in 2-3 years time anyway.

    Thats the disturbing trend with the LOOOUSSSY Warriors!

  • Mike 117

    The Knicks finally proved beyond a doubt that the Warrior’s front office are bigger moorons than they are.

    Lee is 6-9, good jump shooter, good rebounder, bad defender, can’t block shots. In other words, he’s a younger more athletic Troy Murphy. Murphy didn’t get the W’s into the playoffs, neither will Lee.

    Also, if Lee is really that good why would the Knicks be so willing to give up an all-star for a young so-called “unproven” but talented player? That’s because they know that Randolph is a better player than Lee and will only get better down the road.

    The really stupid thing about this trade is: a) the W’s give up their best three defensive players (Randolph, Buike and Turiaf). Now they’re going to see third stringers from lottery teams lighting them up for 30 every night. b) if they were determined to dump Maggette, why not do a sign/trade and throw in Wright who hasn’t done anything in 3 years to justify keeping him over Randolph.

    This trade stinks and it’s got Nellie’smell all over it.

  • DKnight007

    Aaron Says:
    July 9th, 2010 at 11:06 am
    If I were Larry Ellison, I would immediately lower my bid by 50 million dollars.

    ^^^^^^^^
    More like 80 million….which is the ridiculous amount of Lee’s contract! Ugh! LOL

  • Alex

    I’ve followed Lee since his rookie season and I’ve got to tell you that GS really made out (unless Randolph turns into something special). The comment that Lee is who he is and won’t get better is contested by the fact that every year Lee came into camp with a new addition to his game because he worked like hell on the weakness over the summer. Very few players can say that – he has one of the best mid range shots in the game after the first few years when it was non-existent. He can rebound with the best of them and has such a soft touch around the hoop that its pretty amazing to watch him finish sometimes. Watching Lee and Curry on the pick and roll should be eye-opening.

    The only thing you won’t get is a good defender. Its just not in his makeup, but all the other aspects of his game will leave GS truly happy about the trade. Again, that is assuming Randolph continue to have problems with the head aspect of his game. He’s got to grow up and NY is an especially difficult and unforgiving place to grow up under the lights of MSG. Either he will finally get it right or he will go down in flames. Unfortunately, I am betting on the flames at the moment. I hope AR proves me wrong.

  • BJM

    I like the trade. Randolph’s flashes of brilliance were overshadowed by a tone of boneheaded play. He’s missing basketball IQ, and you can’t teach it. I love Azubuike and Turiaf, but they both have injury histories. I wish they could have thrown in Radmanovic for free.

  • jsl

    Fair points, MY, though this trade has disaster written all over it.

    But the Riley chase comes down to one thing: We were willing to overpay by FAR more than anyone else.

    Now, the question is are these FO jokers still tinkering with the team that will surely jettison them shortly? More to the point, is the Fat Man trying to dump Monta now and re-open the Mayo trade negots with the Grizz.

    You’d think that’d be a no-brainer “NO!” But if we’ve learned one thing from watching Nelson over the years, there’s no limit to his destructiveness — and many of us think he’d just love to destroy this team — yes, again — on his way out the door with another $6MM in his pocket.

    Whatta guy!

  • KK

    Not sure why everyone is saying we are overpaying for Lee…have you not see some of the other contracts signed this off season? Frye for 35M, Warrick 25M, Joe Johnson for 120M and he is not even one of the two best players on his team. Lee was overlooked as one of the best players available this off season. Do you know how many players averaged 20 and 10 last season? THREE! DLee, Bosh and Zach Randolph. Not Amare, Not Boozer, Not Duncan. Give this guy some credit, I would be willing to bet that almost everyone talking crap about him has never seen him play. The guy gets it done and makes other around him better with his energy and enthusiasm. Prepare to eat crow naysayers.

  • Gunner

    I actually like this move. For once, Riley has done something right.

  • Cadillac

    Here is the case for drafting well and hanging onto players, letting them mature into a “team”. Scenario below if the Warriors just hung onto their drafted players from 1998 until now, basically a powerhouse:

    G1: Curry, Ellis
    G2: Arenas, Richardson
    F3: Vince Carter, Dunlevy, Pietrus
    F4: Randolph, Murphy
    C5: Biedrins

    Tell me that you couldn’t package up some combo of Arenas, Richardson, or Ellis over the past five years for a top center like Amare or Bosh.

    The starting 5 could then look like:

    G1: Curry
    G2: Arenas
    F3: Vince Carter
    F4: Randolph
    C5: Amare Stoudamire

    Lesson: You hang onto your drafted players and develop!!!

  • RLee

    This trade reminds me of the Chris Webber/Tom Gugliotta + picks trade, watering down the talent level. CW was an elite talent ready to blossom, we traded him for Tom Gugliotta and some picks which resulted in nothing. TG wasn’t a bad player, good mid range shooter and a strong rebounder. Sound familiar? TG was later traded for Doneyall Marshall “the next Connie Hawkins” and the rest is history.

    How much better is David Lee comparing to Troy Murphy? Power Forward at 6’10″ who was a rugged rebounder. Troy was a double/double guy with 3pt range when he was traded. Did we just traded for a Troy Murphy clone?

    Kevin Garnett was as raw as Randolf coming out of high-school. The Timberwolves, specifically Kevin McHale, knew that they had to be patient and they nurtured the raw talent into an All-NBA player. The problem with the Warriors is that they don’t have the right support system in place to develop a young big man. See the difference that a Patrick Ewing can make with Yao and Dwight Howard or a Kareem can make with Adrew Bynum? Small investment with big returns.

    With the three stooges (Bron/Wade/Bosh)in Miami, it will take elite talents to compete for the NBA Championship for the next 7-8 years.

    Can Steve Nash/KG combo with a good supporting cast at their prime compete with the three stooges? I think so. Curry and Randolf has the potential to be that good. It’s not a guarantee but at least we have a shot. But we just traded away that possibility for a Tom Gugliotta/Troy Murphy clone. Funny how history repeat itself.

    Unlike Cleveland Cavs seeing their Superstar walk away, the Warriors simply give their stars away.

  • Hook Mitchell

    Equalizing at 40 minutes per game for last season,

    Lee averages 21.6 points, 12.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists,

    compared to

    Randolph’s 20.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists.

  • Steve
  • Doc K

    I am in favor of this trade and think Riley did a good job. And why is everyone so worried about the money? If it becomes a problem, it can be moved. That’s been proven time and time again. Also, we still will be under the cap next year WITH Lee because we have expirings in Gadz and Vlad. Remember?

    David Lee is a baller and is better than Amare Stoudemire (and cheaper). He is one of the better passing bigs in the league and has great basketball IQ. The Warriors are building a team of smart basketball players. That’s smart.

  • csagustin1

    we need a sf. how bout hedo? sign n trade?

  • slamdunk

    Short term, this trade might look ok, but if Randolph develops with a better coach than the moody Nelson, than this trade can look bad in a hurry. Nelson did not like Randolph, so he got his buddy Riley to dump him. I would rather Nelson/Riley did nothing to the team and let the new ownership decide on the team’s future. Get a GM who actually knows what he is doing, instead of letting these clowns trade for a player that neither of these guys will have anything to do with once they get fired.

  • Adoggz

    This is a good trade for us. Lee is what were hoping B-rite and AR can develop into number wise. Although AR seems to have the potential to be greater than Lee. It’s still a gamble to keep AR and the FO chose the latter. Nothing wrong with this thinking but we $PAID$ for it sadly. I’m also hoping giving up Turiaf was a calculated gamble in that Udoh will provide the same energy and productivity and hopefully more. I love Buike but i think Reggie can help us just as much.

    My only concern now is who in our current roster will step up their leadership, attitude, and defense. We lost a lot of that in the trade. Hopefully the SF the FO or new ownership will bring in will have all those qualities. peace…….

  • tonyj19

    I’ve become a Warrior fan because of S. Curry. Watched almost every game last season. Overall, great article! The only thing I disagree with is, that Lee will make the W’s a better team , defensively. Size alone gives them a much better matchup at the 4. Remember, Maggette spent alot of time at the 4, and the addition of Lee puts everyone back into their more natural position, and reduces the scrambling help defensive style. Being from St. Louis, I’ve followed Lee’s career from the start, and he is a good guy, a hard worker, and has excelled at every level despite people always saying pretty much the same things against him. Believe me, GS fans, teammates and coaches will love this guy!

  • Dick v

    Great piece… I was really struggling to see downside but you did a nice job of highlighting that…
    That being said it was the best move of the off season as fas improving a team in the win / loss colum.

    The warriors added a legit 20/10 big that is a hard worker. Randolph has more upside but warriors do not need upside as much as they need production.

    Stephen Curry will be a good point guard for years to come. Monta can drop 20 points every night. David lee gives them a real low post scorer.

    This trio is not James, Wade, Bosh or Kobe, Gasol, Artest, but it is good enough to be a legit nucleas of a playoff team.

  • Fat dog

    Character is often overlooked in the bling bling world of the NBA. Maybe the Dubs wanted to find some character and relieve themselves of Randolphs attitude. Maybe lee and curry will make a great 1-2 punch and Ellis will net the team another big who can defend. I realize this trade is risky, but lee isn’t the scrub some insist he is.

  • http://none bill

    David Lee is a good player with zero potential. He brings the warriors a good guy, and a legitimate nba player, but they are vastly overpaying for him because his numbers are inflated, and he gives them zero defense. Unless he was a piece to a championship team which is hard to imagine (and certainly not the case for the warriors), he is not worth the bucks they paid. Also, they really needed size in the front, and he is undersized and average athlete and has even less toughness so he can’t make up for lack of size like a paul milsap. I think this is a silly move salary cap wise. He’s not the guy, they should have waited for next year. Ultimately, the entire discussion is an intellectual exercise because, until the warriors are sold to a competent owner, no one good will stay with the warriors. Taxes are too high, and the ownership isn’t really supportive of the players. Also, in my opinion, Don Nelson drives people away with his interesting but ultimately silly rotations.

  • Dee C.

    Here we go….same ole story! Warriors trading away talent. What is the freakin rush? We have been horrible this long, why not wait until the new owners come in before making moves. This has been the story for the Warriors since Cohan took over. No patience!

    I hope the whole FO is cleared out before the ink has dried from the sale of the Warriors. Pathetic! Now we have started back over from the Troy Murphy/Dunleavey days. Less athletic, once again. Why? Why? Why?

    Next the Warriors will not match Morrow’s offer, then will trade Ellis, for Stackhouse and a bunch of aging wonders. Then we will be forced to watch other teams that have former Warrior players fit in just fine on their rosters. I am tired of watching former Warriors in the playoffs on other TEAMS! Keep our talent here in Oakland, and send the FO out of town quickly! Arrgghhhhhh, what FRUSTRATION!

  • ddog

    What bothers me most about this trade is that the management team executing the trade will likely not be here long term. Just in principle that wrong. Then add the *history* of that management team, and the issue is just exacerbated.

    I actually think that when both are fully developed, Brandan Wright has a chance to be better than Randolph. Wright also has length- and a chance of having a very effective game in the post. And with Biedrins (or someone else) filling a Marcus Camby type role, I actually can see the logic behind the trade (Kevin McKale once describe David Lee as a valuable and unique quantity: an All-Star role player).

    But it seems to me that the wrong people are make the decisions at the wrong time, and quite possibly for the wrong reasons. And that more than anything else is the main source of my frustration

  • immafan4ever

    Why do some posters complain about “Lee put up good numbers on a bad team”. The Dubs are a bad team so should Curry and Ellis numbers be downgraded? 20/10 on any team is good! I’m looking forward this season. I’m cool with an improvement of 10-20 wins. Sure, not enough to get into the playoffs in Pacific but good enough to build on.

    Also, for the posters who wonder why Riley is making deals while a sale in pending. The same reason the Rangers picked up Cliff Lee while they’re in bankruptcy. Business has to continue. Would you want your boss to stop paying you just because they’re trying to find a buyer or workout a way to pay their debt? Wait until the season gets underway to label this trade a dud for Dubs.

  • ddog

    Since 1995, the Warriors have made the playoffs once.

    The only business Warrior management appears to have been in is the business of Futility. With one aberration, business appears to have been good.

  • http://bostonist.com/profile/carolinegatesw Sabri Datta

    Great site!!! Im definitely looking forward to seeing more posts