There are a lot of stars at power forward in the NBA. You have your Nowitzkis and Gasols, your Amar’e Stoudemires and Paul Millsaps; your Josh Smiths and Zach Randolphs and the newer stars like Blake Griffin, Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge set to take the position into the next decade.
Some guys are tweeners between the four and five (like Chris Bosh and Kevin Garnett, who both suit up at the center spot for their squads), but all of them can rebound and score. Except not one of the aforementioned players is averaging over 20 points and 10 rebounds a game this season. There’s only one guy currently averaging those figures so far this year: David Lee. And you should think twice about nominating someone else as an All-Star starter in the West, even if you think you can score on him in the post.
A lot of the power forwards mentioned can play with their back to the basket and can mix it up in the lane. Not only that, but many of them have added three-point range to their arsenal to stretch a defense and open up driving lanes for teammates. Maybe he’s not a three-point threat, but David Lee has never had a problem scoring or even rebounding. He’s as consistent a 20-10 guy as you’ll find in this league, but like our own Sean Cochran wrote before the season started when evaluating the top power forwards in the game, “…his lackluster defense is what keeps him out of the top 10.” Yet this season, Lee’s not the defensive sieve we saw in the past, and that’s why he should start for the West in February.
Last night, going against a hot Clippers team trying to avenge their loss to Denver, the Golden State Warriors hung on after a 62-point first half to win going away, 115-94, with Steph Curry going for 31 and Lee going 9-for-16 from the floor for 24 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Not only that, but Blake Griffin was held to just two field goals all game. Yes, it’s true that Lee was guarding the less offensively inclined DeAndre Jordan in the first half, and Andris Biedrins plus Carl Landry did most of the post defense necessary to limit a force like Griffin in the block, but Lee was still plus-24 on the night, and it continues a trend for him this season: opponents score less when he’s on the court.
That fact shouldn’t be so surprising, but it is. In Lee’s first two seasons by the Bay, he was still getting a lot of minutes, but the team was giving up more when he was on the court then when he was off. In Lee’s first season after signing as a free agent before the 2010-11 season, the Warriors opponents scored an average of 113.1 points per 100 possessions when he was on the court (82games.com); that would be the worst defense in the league this year. Conversely, when he was off the court, they only gave up 108.9, which is still really bad, but less than when Lee was stuck guarding opposing power forwards and centers. During last season’s lockout-shortened season, the Warriors gave up slightly less with Lee on the court than the year before, at 111.4 points per 100 possessions (82games.com). But it would still be the worst defense in the league this year, and when Lee was on the bench, the figure dropped to 107.6 points. As you can see, Lee’s defense was lacking, and definitely unworthy of All-Star consideration, especially when combined with how awful those Warriors teams were.