Entering the 2013-14 NBA regular season, few teams were garnering as much hype as the Golden State Warriors. Fresh off of a stunning appearance in the 2013 Western Conference Semifinals, the Warriors’ explosive offense was expected to lead this organization to new heights as Golden State’s promising youth comes into its own.
Twenty-four games into the season, Golden State is an underwhelming 13-11 in a deep Western Conference. As a result, the NBA community has come to question whether or not the Warriors have enough in place to actually contend.
As one might expect, trade speculation has arisen. David Lee has been at the heart of it.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss of ESPN True Hoop recently recently wrote a piece questioning whether or not Lee is what’s holding the Warriors back. Marcus Thompson II of The Bay Area News Group published an article that raised another question: should the Warriors trade Lee?
The question is, should they?
In case you’re unfamiliar, Lee is one of the least reliable defensive players in the NBA. His effort isn’t always an issue, but his ability to defend both his man and the rim have limited his consideration for the label of, “Elite.”
In 2013-14, it’s getting ugly.
According to NBA.com, opponents are shooting 48.9 percent when they meet Lee at the rim. That’s especially concerning considering Lee is defending 6.0 shots per game at that point of the floor, meaning that teams are consistently attacking him and he’s routinely failing in his attempts to stop them.
To make matters worse, Lee has never averaged more than 0.5 blocks per game in his entire nine-year career. Furthermore, he hasn’t averaged at least 1.0 steal per game since 2010-11.
He doesn’t block shots, he doesn’t force turnovers and he can’t protect the rim. Lee is officially a defensive liability.
Lack of Interior Scorers
The Warriors have one of the best offensive units in the NBA. A major reason for their success is the lethal nature of the 3-point shot. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson ranked No. 1 and No. 3 in 3-point field goals made in 2012-13, Andre Iguodala was shooting 47.9 percent from distance before he went down with an injury, and both Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green have improved their respective jumpers.
Without an interior presence to collapse the defense, however, the 3-ball can only work so well. Even for this team.
That’s where Lee comes into play, as he’s made a career out of being one of the best offensive big men in the world. He’s averaged at least 16.0 points in every season since 2008-09, and has topped 20 points per game in two of his past four seasons. In 2012-13, he put up 18.5 points per game.
Most impressively, he’s done all of this on a career field goal percentage of 53.3 percent. In 2012-13, he’s averaging 17.0 points and 9.4 rebounds on 48.6 percent shooting from the field.
No other big man on the roster is averaging more than 7.5 points per game.
By trading Lee, the Warriors would be risking the damage of their offensive rhythm, albeit by improving their defense. Andrew Bogut is a defensive menace, Green is constantly improving and Marreese Speights is dangerous with his jumper. That simply doesn’t tell the full story.
Bogut has a career average of 12.0 points per game, Green is still discovering his inside game, and Speights has yet to average double-digit scoring numbers over the course of a full NBA season. With this in mind, Golden State simply cannot afford to risk a deal unless a strong offensive big man would be coming back in return.
For that reason, the Warriors only have one option at this juncture: hold onto Lee and hope for the best.