Lee, 33, split last season between the Mavericks and Boston Celtics. After Golden State traded him to Boston in the offseason, Lee struggled to find playing time on the Celtics' youth-laden roster. Boston reached a buyout with the disillusioned forward in February, allowing him to sign with Dallas for the stretch run.
Lee responded by turning into one of the best per-minute reserves in basketball, averaging 8.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in 17.3 minutes per game with the Mavericks. A foot injury limited him in Dallas' first-round playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, as he sat out for three of the five games.
Despite the early exit, Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle was complimentary about what Lee brought to the organization in a discussion with reporters during Lee's exit interview:
When you acquire a player like that that’s been a two-time All-Star and has been in some successful organizations, you know, you want him to have a great experience. He did, and he helped us get to the playoffs. We wouldn’t have got to the playoffs without David Lee, and the word spreads. You know, veterans like him know other veterans, and the word gets out that Dallas is a high-level organization. And we take great pride in that.
Lee was also pleased with his performance in Dallas and seemed to indicate that long-term security was what he desired most in his next contract.
"In my opinion, I'm playing as good a ball as I've played in a number of years," Lee said in March, per Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group. "After really getting back into shape, I feel great out there. I think I have three, four years left, one more deal, then we'll see from there."
Lee's contention makes some sense. The last two years of his career were washed down the drain because of circumstances and injuries. This is a guy who averaged 18.2 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game in the 2013-14 campaign and was recognized as one of the NBA's most skilled offensive bigs just a few seasons ago.
Times have changed, though. Lee has made only one three-pointer across his entire 11-year career, and his smooth mid-range game isn't nearly as valuable as threes continue to rain down at record paces. But Lee proved last season that he can be effective, and the Mavericks valued having him around.
The Spurs weren't going to find much better for the minimum at this point. They've already added Pau Gasol and Dewayne Dedmon to help mitigate the loss of the retired Tim Duncan. Lee's another ground-bound, offense-first face to add to the mix. The Spurs are going to struggle without Duncan manning the middle defensively, and their aging frontcourt does not match up well with the Golden State Warriors' fluid creators.
Still, if the Spurs get Mavericks Lee and not Celtics Lee, this is a no-brainer at minimum.
Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter.