How David Lee Is Thriving Playing with Traditional, Competent NBA Centers

Scott BurnsCorrespondent IIINovember 13, 2012

October 17, 2012; Sacramento, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee (10) controls the ball against Sacramento Kings forward Chuck Hayes (42) during the first quarter at Sleep Train Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

David Lee is now in his third year with the Golden State Warriors and finally has a big man to complement his talent.  Although Andrew Bogut is currently still rehabbing his ankle injury, Lee has thrived, even with rookie backup center Festus Ezeli clogging the lane. 

With Bogut eventually tying down the center spot, Lee shouldn’t have as many scoring opportunities, but he will definitely have a lot more quality opportunities. Lee can now move around the floor more often and hit the step-back jumper when he is not crashing the boards.

Lee has been an offensive stalwart at the power forward position by averaging almost a double-double and posting a career line of 14.3 PPG, 9.6 RPG and 2.2 APG.  He has averaged at, or close to, 20 points and three assists per game in his last three seasons.


Remember This

David Lee versus everyone’s frontcourt was a common scene last year as the Dubs didn’t have the surrounding talent to help him thrive in the post.  With Bogut currently taking longer than expected to return and Ezeli, still a work-in-progress, Lee still might face situations such like that which occurred when the Warriors rolled into Staples Center to play the Los Angeles Lakers.

However, this is now the 2012-13 season and even though the Warriors are carrying on the injury bug tradition of recent years, they should eventually be able to use all of their players on a squad deeper than in years past. 

Lee will work hard to make sure a repeat of last season doesn’t occur on his watch.

Lee averaged 20.1 PPG last season and was literally the main option on the floor following the trade of ball-hungry Monta Ellis, and injuries to Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut.  Klay Thompson was the only other starter left on the floor with Lee.


Freedom to Move

This year is a new season and Lee will be teamed with a legitimate center for the first time with the Warriors.  Festus Ezeli is currently learning on the job, until Bogut becomes healthy enough to not have to ice his ankle while sitting on the bench during games.

As you can see in this play, Lee knows how to handle the ball well as he takes it from almost the three-point line to the rack.  Lee uses his strength and agility to draw in DeMarcus Cousins and James Johnson of the Sacramento Kings, leaving the rest of the Kings players standing around waiting for a rebound.

Lee spots a wide-open Harrison Barnes approaching from the wing and tosses it to him for the easy dunk.  Lee’s aggressive action opened the floor while Tyreke Evans stood there flat-footed, watching while Barnes made the smart move running to the basket.

Lee is no longer the player who has to man down the center position and the power forward position at the same time.  One of Lee’s strongest assets is his ability to pass and handle the ball, especially for a big man.

Lee can dribble and bait the big men to come at him while he looks for the open man.  With the amount of players the Warriors have who can shoot, Lee will definitely enhance their game.


The All-Around Game

Lee’s best game this season was a game that he might not have even played because of pre-game, flu-like symptoms.  It also was the last game center Andrew Bogut played in before sitting himself down to completely rehabilitate his ankle.

Lee put up 22 points, six assists, three steals and 14 boards in the win against the Cleveland Cavaliers.  The highlights show impressive moves off the ball—note the play in which he completely faked out Tristan Thompson with his pump fake and drove to the bucket for an easy slam.

Lee needs to use this technique more often and share it with teammates; the Dubs are known for catching the ball and shooting from the perimeter.  Their lack of free throw attempts in the past couple of seasons is proof of that mindset.

Lee also made a nice move when he received a pass from the top of the key from Stephen Curry, drove toward the basket until the defense converged on him, and found Harrison Barnes for the open three.  Barnes and Lee are becoming a nice combo.


Becoming A Team Leader

Everyone knows this is Stephen Curry’s team, but the way that David Lee was barking at Blake Griffin to stop flopping indicates that he is trying to assume more of a leadership role. 

Lee no longer has to rely on players like Andris Biedrins, Mickell Gladness, Mikki Moore and Jeremy Tyler at the center position who filled in that spot last season.  Even with just Ezeli starting, his big body and physical presence have let Lee focus solely on his counterpart at power forward.

Lee knows that he has to do a better job rebounding with Bogut out and Ezeli still learning the NBA game.  Lee has to finish, especially getting the clutch rebound in crucial late-game situations.

Per a report by Matt Steinmetz of, here is what Coach Mark Jackson said about Lee:

“And I’m going to put pressure on him to be that go-to guy, finishing out possessions by rebounding the basketball. I would definitely say he’s not playing his best basketball. But I’m not concerned. Because I know how hard he works, he’s not pointing the finger at anybody else and he will respond.”

Lee is a hard worker and will continue to improve until the return of a fully recovered Bogut.  Once that happens, Lee won’t have to carry as much of the load and will be able to show the real talent that he possesses.

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