"MVP!" chants while a player is at the free-throw line don't really come about too often at Oracle Arena. However, on Wednesday night, as the Golden State Warriors took on the Los Angeles Clippers in a battle of the top two teams in the Pacific Division, the chant found its way into the building.
The chant wasn't directed at Chris Paul (someone who arguably could be in that conversation when the year is over). The person taking the free throws during a chant that is usually reserved for the Kobes and LeBrons of the world, was none other than David Lee.
In all likelihood, Lee won't be raising the MVP trophy at the end of the season, but there is no denying Lee's stellar play for the Warriors. He is a huge reason for the Warriors' 22-10 start and should rightfully garner some All-Star consideration.
However, the latest All-Star ballot returns don't have Lee in the top 15 among frontcourt players in the West. They do, however, have Blake Griffin listed in the top three.
Does Griffin really deserve an All-Star spot over Lee?
On name recognition alone, probably. Griffin has a few honors under his belt that have helped him become a household name. He's a former slam dunk champion, he's in those Kia commercials where he travels back in time to talk to himself, and he's quite literally ruined a few players' lives by dunking on them.
While Griffin is a solid talent and part of the reason the Clippers are one of the best teams in the NBA, David Lee is a much more deserving All-Star.
That statement may have been blasphemous heading into the season, but the numbers very much support this notion. Here are some of Lee and Griffin's numbers (and their rankings in those categories) among power forwards in the NBA:
Points—20.1 PPG (2nd)
Rebounds—11.0 RPG (2nd)
Field goal percentage—53.7% (2nd)
Free throw percentage—81.6% (2nd)
Assists—3.6 APG (1st)
Minutes—37.6 MPG (Tied for 1st)
Points—17.6 PPG (5th)
Rebounds—8.7 RPG (5th)
Field goal percentage—52.7% (3rd)
Free throw percentage—62.1% (27th)
Assists—3.0 APG (2nd)
Minutes—32.1 MPG (9th)
Double-doubles—13 (Tied for 5th)
Lee has always been capable of posting these numbers but whenever he did, he did it on bad teams; teams that were going nowhere. Now, he is still filling up the box score but he's doing it while making an impact for a winning team.
Are his numbers astronomically better than Griffin's? No. But he's doing more for the Warriors than Griffin is for the Clippers (CP3 makes that team click). And then there is Lee's ability to actually create his own shot with various post moves and drives to the basket, something Griffin does not possess.
I asked Stephen Curry what he thought makes David Lee an All-Star after Golden State's 115-94 victory over the Clippers:
His versatility and consistency, [He's] putting up huge numbers in fourth quarters when we need him to. Making plays down the stretch. He's done this before but I think you're noticing it more and it means more because we're playing such good basketball as a team and our record reflects everybody's work. He's been a stat stuffer.
Lee has been the go-to-guy for the Warriors whenever the team has needed a big play, and he's constantly delivered. He's the only player in the league right now averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game.
The votes may be coming in fast and furious for Griffin, but Lee is the one who truly deserves to be headed to Houston in February.
But what happens if Lee isn't named an All-Star?
"Maybe I'll hold my own game if these two guys (Lee and Curry) aren't in there," said coach Mark Jackson.
Warriors fans can only hope it doesn't come down to that.
Note: All stats are accurate as of January 3, 2012. All quotes were obtained firsthand.