The Golden State Warriors are unquestionably a team on the rise, boasting a roster jam-packed with young talent and shiny new toys.
The emerging trio of Stephen Curry, Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson is one that will only get better with age. Fans are giddy about the prospect of what they might do next season, and for good reason—they represent the future, one that looks very bright.
Andre Igoudala was the big addition during the offseason, an addition that adds mouth-watering dimensions to an already potent offensive team. His contributions could help determine just how high the team might climb.
With Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack departing, the Warriors found a need to replenish their bench, a need that was quickly filled through the likes of Toney Douglas, Marreese Speights and Jermaine O’Neal. Their biggest weakness has now become a strength, a once-depleted bench morphing into a top-notch unit.
Andrew Bogut is another key piece to the puzzle. Although he has technically been on the team for over a year, this will be the first time where injuries will be of no concern entering the season. The fully healthy defensive lynchpin seems like a breath of fresh air as well.
It’s mind-boggling, really.
Lee put up one of the finest stat lines of his career last season, finishing third among all big men last year in scoring at 18.5, fourth in rebounding at 11.2 and third in assists at 3.5. The fact that he shot over 50 percent from the field and nearly 80 percent from the line didn’t hurt either.
Those numbers don’t exactly scream expendable. Sure, his defense isn’t great, and his contract is large, but other than LeBron James, a perfect basketball player doesn’t exactly exist right now. His few faults shouldn’t take away from everything else he brings to the table.
When the 2013-14 season finally begins, Lee will remind the league and his fans of who he is and what he can do. More importantly, he will prove that he does indeed fit into the even more up-tempo offense the Warriors will run.
Lee has proven to be one of the most diverse, efficient scorers in the league; his methods of scoring are limited only by the three-point line. He can score from the block, either facing up or with his back to the basket, take defenders off the dribble or knock down mid-range jump shots in catch-and-shoot situations.
He is also a monster on the offensive boards, ranking in the top 10 among all players in that category as well.
Quite simply, he carves up opposing defenders.
It won’t be just his scoring, however, that will help elevate the Warriors to true contender status. As stated above, Lee is an excellent passer, a skill amplified even more on a team boasting the elite-level sharpshooting Golden State possesses.
Scorers as dangerous as him tend to get double-teamed. Against these Warriors, that is a strategy that could prove fatal to other teams because Lee will find the open man.
It essentially becomes a pick-your-poison affair—either throw an extra defender on him and watch him beat you with an assist, or leave his defender on an island and watch Lee put him through the gauntlet.
At the end of the day, however, the Warriors are and will continue to be a run-and-gun team, even more so with the addition of Iguodala. The small-ball dream scenario, with Iguodala at the small forward position and Barnes at the power forward spot, is one envisioned with Lee on the bench.
That, though, does not need to be the case. While a lineup that features Lee at the Center position would obviously not be world-beaters on defense, it is one that would instantly become the most explosive offense in the league.
To be sure, it is one that should be used in doses, but no more so than any lineup that features Barnes at the power forward spot. If used correctly, it is must-watch television, offense oozing out of every player in that particular lineup.
The new-look Warriors will be fun to watch, but the play of the veteran Lee will be a big reason for that. The forgotten man in the organization will remind everyone of what makes him so special. The heart he showed in the 2013 playoffs, creating his very own Willis Reed-type moment by taking the court despite tearing his hip flexor, will once again emerge.
Young guns and new toys are nice, but at the end of day, sometimes old reliable is what holds it all together.
All stats courtesy of ESPN.com