David Lee has been a good interior scorer and an incredibly strong rebounder (11.1 RPG) this season for the Warriors, often coming up with big scores or boards late in games. He creates easy opportunities for himself with his three offensive rebounds a game, which almost always turn into an easy basket. He’s making over 50% of his field goal attempts, and shoots a cool 80% from the charity stripe.
For all of his accomplishments on offense and his work on the glass, David Lee still gets put down for his defense, or lack thereof. Lee’s defense came into the question at The MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, where a report used statistics to conclude that he was the third worst defensive big man in the league.
It’s hard to disagree with the report while watching Warrior games. David Lee’s rotations are generally slow, he loses his assignment, and his positioning and spatial awareness aren’t great either. His lack of blocks by a big man is alarming as he averages less than half a game. My personal problem with Lee’s defense is his propensity to sit and watch the action instead of trying to prevent it. His by-standing often leads to his late rotations and bad fouls since he realizes that he’s actually playing the game too late.
But at the same time, I don’t fault him as much as others do. The reason is that there’s huge lack of defensive talent around him, and it’s obvious. There’s a reason the Warriors are ranked twenty-first in the league defensively, and even though David Lee is a part of it, it’s not entirely his fault. It’s also the job of the other four defenders on the court to support each other. When the guards get beat on the perimeter so regularly, it gets tiring to make that rotation. Although I do wonder what happens to that tiredness when he’s on the offensive end…
To reiterate, David Lee isn’t a strong defender, but at the same time, not many others are on the Warriors roster. He’s actually not bad in one-on-one situations, but his help defense is appalling. The post-season is looming closer and tends to turn good players into better ones as they put in more effort. I’m just hoping that Lee puts more effort into the defensive side of the ball.