Why the David Lee Trade Was a Brilliant Move.

Ashwath KrishnaContributor IJuly 10, 2010

Like seemingly everyone else, I was turned off by the utter narcissism and grandiosity of LeBron James' "Decision" special on ESPN.

And like everybody else, I tuned it to watch it.

However, I wasn't just watching to see what the "Man Who Will Never Be King" would do on an intellectual level. I had a dog in the hunt. I knew that LeBron's decision could impact the future of the Warriors, and more importantly, could impact whether I would quit on them as a fan for good.

When James announced he was going to Miami, I screamed out, "YES!" I knew what this meant. We would get David Lee from the Knicks. Halle-f***ing-lujah!

While I feel for the city of Cleveland, I had to celebrate. I drank to them and to everyone burning the No. 23 Cavs jerseys last night. Think of it as my "donate proceeds to the Boys and Girls Club" move.

However, I got on the internet this morning and I realized that not all Warriors fans love this move as much as I do. So I decided to end my self-imposed hiatus from writing and explain why I love this move.

What did we give up?

I'll start with Turiaf and Buike here because they'll be quicker to cover.

In Turiaf, we gave up an energy big man/bench shotblocker. While I loved him and I'm going to miss seeing him in a Warrior uniform giving it his all every night, guys like him aren't hard to find.

Same with Buike—good shooters aren't exactly rare. Plus, this surely means that my favourite Warrior (Anthony Morrow) will be re-signed. While Buike leaving strips Golden State of all SF depth, we still have our MLE. Overpaying for a Ronnie Brewer-type sounds pretty sweet to me.

I've heard some claiming that Buike leaving will mean he becomes a 15-20ppg scorer and even an All-Star. To which I'd like to point out that if you can't put those stats up playing 30 minutes a night in the ultimate stat-inflating system, you're not gonna do it elsewhere. (I know D'Antoni Ball inflates stats as well. But he's not gonna play those kind of minutes in NY).

Now it's time to tackle Randolph. I've learnt by now that discussing him is an extremely thorny subject in Warrior Nation.

However, I have always been firmly of the belief that it's more than likely he's not gonna make it. Not just because he's a head case—that can improve with age and maturity—but because he has the basketball IQ of a garden gnome.

Basketball IQ is something you develop in your early stages of playing basketball. It's not something that comes with NBA experience. 

When guys like Duncan or KG came into the league, everyone knew they were going to be great not just because of their physical abilities, but because they had great basketball IQ. When you watch Randolph on the court, you see he doesn't.

His play without the ball is awful, and when he has the ball he very rarely makes good decisions with it. In fact, in his short playing career I've hit myself on the head at his boneheaded shot selection more than I've been wowed by his physical gifts.

Plus, he's going to New York. If there could be a worse place for a guy with his maturity issues to go, I can't think of it. The NY fans are not only incredibly tough on their players regularly, but they're gonna be riding his back like no other because he and Amare are their main acquisitions from what was supposed to be the off season that saved them. 

I don't like the odds that his skill ever catches up to his athletic ability in that environment.

Plus, let's look at what we didn't give up. We didn't give up Monta Ellis. We didn't give up Andris Biedrins. Get in a 

What do the Warriors get in return?

There are many reasons why I love this deal, so I'll just start listing them.


  Last year the Warriors were the worst rebounding team in the league. Lee's averaged 10 rebounds per game over his whole career (including his first three seasons where he was a bench player).

Last year, he was the second best defensive rebounder in the league (behind the big guy who wears No. 12 for the Magic) and one of three players in the NBA to average 20/10 along with Chris Bosh and Zach Randolph.

In a system like the Warriors, you need a guy who can pull down boards at both ends and start the fast break. With Biedrins coming back fit and confident, we have two.


Lee has a far more polished offensive game than anyone else on our front line right now. He's got a good mid range jumper and knows when to use it (unlike Randolph) and has a decent (if not great) post game.

For a white guy, he's also remarkably athletic. Don't forget he won the All-American Dunk Contest in his senior year of high school against James White - even figuring in "white guy dunking" bias, that's a pretty impressive achievement.

This makes him very effective finishing around the rim. We saw how dangerous he was running the pick and roll last year with Chris Duhon, who can't shoot at all. Imagine how much of a threat he'd be with Stephen Curry. 


One of the things I noted most of all was the reaction of NY fans to his departure. As we all know, Knicks fans have high expectations and aren't easy to please.

I haven't come across a Knick fan on the internet who wasn't sad to see him leave and letting Warrior fans know how lucky we were to have him.

Not just from a playing point of view—they all spoke about how great a guy he was, both to the fans and to his teammates.

So basically we traded a head case and a couple of lower-level good guys for an All Star who also happens to be a good guy. 

Bill Simmons put it best when he pointed out that you can have one head case on the team (in our case, Monta) and get away with it, but if you have two then problems start to occur.

Let's assume we're building around Monta, Curry and Lee. I have complete faith that the latter two can keep the former in check, especially as Lee is a current All-Star (and, with Amare heading east, don't write him off for another couple of appearances).

An All Star in his prime

Lee turned 27 in April. Generally, forwards tend to peak around their late 20s and early 30s. By the time his contract runs out he'll probably just be starting to head downhill.

Plus, it's also worth pointing out that he's played 81 games in the past three seasons. Considering the way the injury gods have ravaged the Warriors in recent seasons, I'm glad we're getting a guy who should hopefully only succumb to freak injuries (which are always a possibility) and sending away two guys who will probably only rack up more for various reasons (Randolph because of his body, Buike because knees rarely come back 100 percent).

A shot at doing well now

Look, I'm not saying we're going to win a title this year. Cause we aren't. But, with the changes that have happened in free agency this off-season, bringing in Lee for Randolph gives us a real hope at the playoffs this season.

You can tell me that Randolph could have gotten good enough to lead us there in the future. Even assuming that he could, I'd've still done this deal.

I'm 20 in August. The Warriors have made the playoffs four times since I've been on this planet. I was a fan for just one of them. I'm sick of waiting for potential. Ike Diogu had potential. Patrick O'Bryant had potential. Mike Freaking Dunleavy had potential. 

I'm sick of that word. I want to see another playoff series while I'm still young and stupid enough to celebrate like a crazy person. I'm tired of waiting in the hope that eventually we'll be led to the Promised Land, cause if there's one thing being a Warriors fan for 15 years has taught me, it's that the Promised Land doesn't exist for us.

Can Lee help us make the playoffs? Absolutely. He's the perfect partner for Stephen Curry, and as I mentioned earlier, provides an extra locker room presence/gravitas to make sure Monta behaves himself. If those three can stay fit and fire, along with Biedrins plus Morrow plus a MLE SF signing plus Reggie Williams plus other bench guys, we can totally be a seventh or eighth seed in the West this year.

And I'd be totally happy with that.

What aren't the Warriors getting?

A defensive presence. For all Lee's strength as a rebounder and offensive threat, he's not a great defender in the post. All the minutes he played at center for NY last year confirmed that.

If Don Nelson or whoever's coaching us next year plays him right (always an if with Nellie), he should match up better against stretch 4s but he's still not going to be able to stop Gasol/Stoudemire/Howard types down low.

But let's be realistic here—it's not like we traded away anyone who could. (When Ronny Turiaf is your best defensive big man, you got issues). So we lost a little defense. Big deal. It's like a fat kid putting on more weight—what difference does it make? We were a defenseless team last year and we're gonna be one this year.

Our We Believe teams weren't exactly the '04 Pistons either. If we can sign a SF who can defend the opposition's best wing player, then we'd at least have that problem sorted and we can go zone in the paint if need be.

Look, I understand that not all Warriors fans are as impatient as I am. I know that many of you will be pissed at the loss of Randolph's upside. But look on the bright side.

In my opinion, this is the best move the Warriors front office have made since we traded Speedy Claxton for Baron Davis. Although I wish him the best, I have no doubt that Randolph will melt under the spotlight of New York, and that David Lee and Stephen Curry will be the next Nash/Stoudemire.

For the first time since Baron Davis left, I believe. And so should you.


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