Lee does not get the league wide recognition he deserves for what he brings to the Golden State Warriors. Not many power forwards in the NBA bring it every night the way like he does.
Lee is consistent as they come. He doesn't sell jerseys or garner All-Star votes, but is just as important to his team as any star. He puts up 20-point 10-rebound nights together so often and easily that they become mundane. Almost overlooked. There is no real flash to his game, just production.
That's what makes him underrated. He's got the substance, just no style.
And as far as being overpaid. OK fine, he is.
But hey, it could be worse. Amar'e Stoudemire is the fifth highest paid NBA player and he has yet to play a game this season. The New Orleans Hornets are paying more to Rashard Lewis to sit on the Miami Heat bench, and to Eric Gordon, who doesn't even really play basketball anymore.
Lee does make a lot of money, but it doesn't seem as much now, does it?
Lee is a tremendous rebounder on both ends of the floor. Nothing that will lead in SportsCenter, but his rebound totals show how undervalued his basketball smarts and athleticism is. Lee knows how to position himself to get the rebound and hit a quick outlet, and his athleticism stands out in his battles down low.
In any given NBA game, the one thing that doesn't have fluctuate is effort. With Lee it never does. He works tirelessly on the glass and every night is capable of grabbing 15-plus rebounds.
Lee does make rebounding seem rather easy. But if it were, shouldn’t Brook Lopez be grabbing at least five boards a night?
Offensively, there is really nothing that Lee isn’t capable of.
On a team that has Stephen Curry as its point guard, it is invaluable to have a counterpart that excels at the pick-and-roll. Lee is that man, as demonstrated below.
Lee rolled straight to the hoop here, but with his game he can adjust to what the defense allows. He could shoot mid-range jumpers all night long and the Warriors would be just fine with that.
He can also see the floor very well, making him a very underrated passer. Just look at what he is capable of.
Lost in one of the best Warrior dunks ever, Lee delivered an excellent pass. He could have easily shot a difficult turn-around, but had the awareness to spoon-feed an open Harrison Barnes for a vicious slam.
As a big man, Lee is one of the best distributors in the NBA. The league just hasn’t fully understood that yet.
That is a valuable asset in a power forward and makes his pick-and roll-game one of the best in the NBA. It's also a part of his terrific all-around offensive game. Lee can hit the open 15-footer with ease, hit any open man coming his way and take finish anywhere near the rim.
He can run the floor too.
Sure, that's not the way Blake Griffin would finish the break, but two points is two points. You can see here that Lee is much more athletic than he gets credit for.
Lee also doesn't turn the ball over much. Under two turnovers per game for his career is huge considering he has mainly played in systems with high turnover rates. He doesn't waste possessions. A valuable asset, albeit not a prolific one.
Lee's defense needs to be mentioned here as well. He is not the greatest defender by any means, but what Mark Jackson is preaching is for his players to play strong team defense. Lee is not going to lock down any defender, but he is capable of playing efficient team D.
A healthy Bogut will help Lee become a better defender as he provides more than adequate help on the weak side. Remember, Lee has had to be the lone defender in the post most of his career, not a great spot for him. Or anyone for that matter. But having a center like Bogut will ease the defensive pressure on Lee.
It will also allow Lee to generate more steals.
It's only been 14 games into the season, but having Bogut or Festus Ezeli to aid him, Lee is close too matching his career highs in assists, steals and rebounds.
His point per game total is down, but it will come back up as the season progresses. Even if it doesn't, he is now on a team with more talent than he has ever played with. By having his points per game drop, Lee can still be as effective thanks to his well-rounded game.
Lee can do it all on offense and you know you'll get a strong effort from him every night.
That can’t be said about a lot of the players in the NBA, and that's really what makes him underrated. Lee is much better than the league gives him credit for. Sure, he makes a lot of money, but at least he is earning it.
Going forward, the Warriors need to be playing more to Lee’s strengths. Allow for more pick-and rolls and put him in position to hit an open jumper or open cutter. Lee has all the tools to be a star and if the Warriors harness them correctly, he will eventually be mentioned among All-Star players. More importantly, he'll be playing for a winning team.