But, like their victory over the Clippers last night, Lee has been borderline solid on defense, at least in terms of the team’s overall production when he’s on the court (he’s still not someone they want guarding Blake Griffin if they can help it). This year with Lee on the court, the Warriors are still scoring more as a whole. They put up nearly eight points more per 100 possessions, via 82games.com. With Lee on the court, the Warriors averaged around four points more per 100 possessions in 2010-11 and 2011-12, so he’s helping them score even more this year as well. But, again, scoring was never David Lee’s issue. Defense was, which is what makes this year’s numbers so stupefying, at least for those of us used to seeing Lee burned on the defensive end. For the season, the Warriors are holding opponents to 105.8 points per 100 possessions with Lee on the court, and 106.5 with him off. That means they’re actually giving up less on defense when Lee is playing! Golden State fans are now collectively screaming “HUZZAH!” The Achilles’ Heel of David Lee’s game appears to have been circumvented, at least for now.
This a great sign for Golden State fans, and it should presage continued excellence moving forward. But Lee is still not a very good defender. He’s slow on his rotations, and that’s because he’s just not that fast, laterally. Opposing bigs can get around him with relative ease. He gets his buckets on the offensive end with deft footwork, size and a really soft touch around the rim, not because he’s lightening quick. Opposing teams are still shooting a higher effective field goal percentage when he’s on the court, too, and those same opponents still rebound at a slightly higher rate while he’s playing. But it’s nowhere near the discrepancies of previous seasons.
Whether it’s Mark Jackson‘s defensive gameplanning to hide Lee on defense, sort of like how the Clippers do with Jamal Crawford (who wanted no part in defending Harrison Barnes on the block last night), or it’s that Lee is making a more concerted effort on the defensive end. Whatever it is is working because the Golden State Warriors are actually giving up fewer points when David Lee is playing and they’re still scoring a lot more with him too.
For a player that struggles so mightily on defense, those defensive numbers with Lee on the court are a huge part of the reason the Warriors are 22-10 and in the thick of the Western Conference Playoff race. The Warriors are a much better team than many predicted entering the season, and David Lee is a big reason why.
Now go ahead and vote for him for the All-Star Game this February. He deserves it.
Should Lee make the All-Star Game?
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