This may not be the time and place to bring this unfortunate piece of information up, but the phasing out of David Lee got a steroid injection this postseason. The Golden State Warriors' lone All-Star representative since Latrell Sprewell is quickly becoming the elephant in the room.
Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News and Ethan Strauss of ESPN have documented this in the past couple weeks when the Warriors were busy handling the Denver Nuggets and dominating the San Antonio Spurs through the first two games.
With the emergence of a shot-taking Harrison Barnes, defense of Draymond Green, relative health of Andrew Bogut and the increased shot attempts of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, fans and writers have realized the potential of this team—which is as high as a Western Conference Finals berth—lies without the heavy presence of forward Lee.
Granted, this doesn't mean the Warriors release him or trade him for two cents on the dollar. Lee still has three years after this one with over $13 million tied up in each year, making him nearly untradeable and a cap-killer for a long time.
Lee is also an excellent scoring forward with underrated passing abilities. Those aren't traits one can find on the waiver wire.
There are two obvious options to fix this ongoing issue: Trade Lee to a team that can take his salary without caring about the luxury tax, or dial back minutes in favor of promising wings.
Both options are unlikely as we all know that management, especially Joe Lacob, has an affinity for Lee and won't let this happen without at least a fight—though we'd never hear of it.
However, there are a couple teams that can either afford his salary—and own an amnesty as well—or are looking for a veteran player to push them over the top.
The Brooklyn Nets are a team that can match Lee's salary without caring how much it puts them over the tax because of their rich owner. Although they used their amnesty, they do have a need to appease to fans after their pathetic playoff appearance this year.
With Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace all on their last legs, it's time for them to go all in—and Lee isn't a bad piece on a contending team.
A couple teams with amnesties that also might need to shed some salary include the Miami Heat in the future and the Memphis Grizzlies. I wouldn't rule out the Sacramento Kings because they're a mess and anything is possible with them.
While those are just conjecture and subjective, it's hard to argue against how well the Warriors have played without the defense-challenged veteran forward. The Warriors have shot more threes, made more and played much better defense.
Is this sustainable?
It would appear so, as Curry and Thompson are shooting about the same percentages and Barnes and Green are taking steps not only on the offensive end, but on defense as well. It's not the shooting of the wings that's been impressive, it's been the nasty defense exhibited against Andre Miller, Andre Iguodala, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan.
Let's not forget that Brandon Rush is on his way back from an ACL injury, and that would unleash more minutes in what could be a stacked rotation with Thompson, Barnes, Green, Rush and even Kent Bazemore (in place of Jack) vying for minutes.
Above is the shot distribution from the regular season and the postseason; with the postseason leaning far heavily toward the three-point line and the percentages staying relatively constant (40.3 in the regular season to 39.9 in the postseason).
To put it more clearly: The Warriors are shooting more three and fewer long twos while making the same number of shots. If three is better than two then the Warriors have raised the ceiling of their offense.
With that being said, the loss of David Lee changes the offense, but it ultimately raises the level of the defense by leaps and bounds. Because the Warriors can now switch on everything—besides Andrew Bogut—they can match up from anywhere on the floor, stay in front of their man and shuttle them toward the big Aussie in the middle.
The potential growth on offense and definite edge on the defensive end should curtail the David Lee problem in 2013 and beyond.
Statistical support for this piece provided by NBA.com, unless stated otherwise.
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