David Lee: Where Does He Fit on This Warriors Team?


The red hot Golden State Warriors have been without their power forward David Lee for the whole season, other than the November 5th game where he played about seven minutes before aggravating a hamstring injury.

Despite Lee’s absence, the Warriors have gotten off to their best start in franchise history with an outstanding record of 18-2. Of course, there have been major improvements from Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Marreese Speights this season, who have all been able to pick up the pace in Lee’s place.

Dec 8, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) drives around Minnesota Timberwolves forward Thaddeus Young (33) in the first quarter at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Barnes and Green have been starting for Golden State this season, and it has worked out most effectively for them. Barnes has slowly been returning to his 2013 form, averaging 11 points and six rebounds. In 13 of the Warriors 20 games so far, Barnes has scored ten or more points.

Green has dramatically improved this season on both ends of the court, and he is averaging about 13 points and seven rebounds a game. Green scored a career-high 31 points, including seven threes, in a game that the Warriors would win by ten over the Chicago Bulls. Like Barnes, Green has also had 13 games in which he scored ten or more points.

And then there’s the unlikely hero in Speights, or as fans call him “Mo Buckets,” who is by far having the best season of his NBA career. Off the bench this season, Speights is giving the Warriors a solid 15-16 minutes and contributing roughly 12 points and five rebounds a game.

With this in mind, two questions arise, what happens when Lee comes back? Do the Warriors still need him?

January 15, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee (10) dunks the basketball against the Denver Nuggets during the fourth quarter at Oracle Arena. The Nuggets defeated the Warriors 123-116. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Since joining the Warriors in 2010, Lee has given Golden State consistent contributions in terms of points and rebounds. In Lee’s four seasons with the Warriors, he has averaged about 18 points and about 10 rebounds. However, Lee has had trouble getting healthy this season and, as mentioned before, has missed almost the whole season.

Back to the questions: What happens when Lee comes back?

Do the Warriors still need him? Yes, and here is why.

When Lee returns to the Warriors’ rotation, he should come off the bench and either play alongside Speights and Andre Iguodala or split minutes with Speights in the rotation. Lee needs to come off the bench, because it will allow him to get back into the swing of things, and most importantly, it will keep Green and Barnes in the starting line-up.

Having Barnes and Green in the starting lineup has been a key factor to the Warriors’ dominant success this season. Barnes and Green have had exerted their full potential and confidence since becoming starters, and that’s why their average points per game have improved from their first two seasons.

With Lee on the bench, Coach Steve Kerr has three prime options in Lee, Speights and Iguodala. Should Lee come in with both Speights and Iguodala, that will give Andrew Bogut, Green and Barnes all adequate time to rest, and Kerr can also use Lee and Speights interchangeably now that they provide about the same amount of offense.

Dec 4, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut (12) blocks the shot by New Orleans Pelicans center

Omer Asik

(3) during the third quarter at Oracle Arena. The Golden State Warriors defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 112-85. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The last reason Lee can still be beneficial to the Warriors off the bench is that his teammate Bogut is fragile and will probably not be able to play in every game. With Bogut out, this pressures Warriors’ back-ups Festus Ezeli and Speights to play more minutes. Lee gives Kerr a third option when Bogut is unavailable to play, so he does not have to constantly substitute Ezeli and Speights for each other.

Ezeli might also play limited minutes due to his injury that kept him out all of last season, so it is important the Lee can fill those extra minutes Ezeli can’t play.

It may seem like the Warriors do not need Lee at the moment, but in the long run, it will be vital to have him in order to maintain the elite status the team has achieved thus far.