David Lee must transition from a tumultuous offseason to be even more effective for the 2013-14 Golden State Warriors. He is a team-first guy with a positive personality, so the progression should not be difficult.
He started the offseason by having hip surgery on May 30. A month later, his name was being bandied about in trade rumors. As Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted, the Warriors were looking into the possibility of unloading the $44 million left on his contract.
Lee was later informed by co-owner Joe Lacob and general manager Bob Myers about the rumors, but they told him he wasn’t going anywhere. In the meantime, he had been working out and training to get in the best physical condition of his career.
His recovery has gone swimmingly. He is in better shape than years past and feels like he can apply that advantage to his weakest link, defense. As the Bay Area News Group’s Marcus Thompson tweeted, Lee is excited about his current stage of rehabilitation.
Lee was the forgotten man in last season’s successful playoff run.
He made emotional appearances after the hip injury, but he couldn’t sustain his normal playing time during his long-awaited first playoff appearance.
Harrison Barnes took full advantage of the opening that Lee's injury created and showed the potential that was missing during the regular season. The Warriors realized that they could win, and they could win without Lee.
Lee now finds himself surrounded by an even deeper squad than last year with the addition of Andre Iguodala, Marreese Speights and Jermaine O’Neal. Harrison Barnes is now the sixth man and will play both forward positions.
Lee will need to bring his double-double game to the floor each night, but he will need to expand upon his responsibilities. The team will still need his ferocious rebounding abilities, but he will also have to use his ball-handling skills to get more of his teammates involved.
Lee will not have to overproduce, like when last season’s frontcourt was primarily made up of rookies Barnes and center Festus Ezeli. He will be surrounded by a finally healthy Andrew Bogut and Iguodala.
He will need to pass, screen and move effectively without the ball. When he does have the rock, he can use his go-to moves or step back to hit the 17-foot jumper that he worked so hard to perfect this summer.
As you can see from the highlights, Lee can step back to hit that shot, while he can also handle the ball and finish with either hand. By stepping out for the mid-range jumper, Lee earns the extra space that can be used for more offensive opportunities.
As good as his offense has been during his time with the Warriors, Lee has not earned any accolades for his defense.
His fallback approach is to foul when he gets beaten; he has averaged 3.1 personal fouls per game the last two seasons.
Here is an example of what David Lee has done in the past on defense.
He is in good position to defend the ball at first, but then becomes lazy with his feet and cannot move over to stop the easy basket.
Lee had better hope that the post-surgery conditioning will keep him light on his feet and fast in the lane. He needs to be a lot quicker defending his man and start anticipating on the defensive side.
He will benefit from having a healthy Bogut behind him at center and swingman Iguodala to help him on the perimeter. If Iguodala could help him with small defensive improvements, Lee would be that much better of a player.
Yes, Lee was the Warriors’ first All-Star since Latrell Sprewell in 1997, but he will have a tough task at hand returning to that game. He will definitely be overshadowed by the progression of Stephen Curry, who is considered a front-runner for next year’s tilt.
Lee is very excited to see the Warriors progress to being legitimate contenders in the West compared to where the team was when he signed in 2010. Now, he has to prove that he is still an instrumental piece on this upward-trending team.