Now, after game 3 of the Warriors-Clippers Round 1, I realize that Tim Kawakami is right. I have always known that David Lee has serious issues defensively, but he is still a good player. The problem is if he is good enough for the Warriors to become a contender. I no longer think so. Marcus Thompson’s recent article, Win or Lose, Warriors Clearly Need to Find Help for Stephen Curry, revisits this issue.
So what can the Warriors do about it?
A year ago, there was a rumor that the Timberwolves had offered Kevin Love and Alexey Shved for David Lee and Harrison Barnes. The rumor continued that the Warriors rejected the offer because Harrison Barnes was going to be a superstar, Kevin Love was borderline injury-prone, and David Lee was pretty damn good (All Star and 3rd Team All NBA last year) himself. Alexey Shved showed some talent at the start of his rookie year, but had tailed off since then.
Now one year, later, is this trade still possible? I do not think so.
For the Warriors, I think they would have to do it. It’s becoming clear the Warriors need a #2 offensive superstar behind Stephen Curry, someone who can drive the team by himself. David Lee can get points and rebounds, but I do not think he can take over games. David Lee playing super aggressive with confidence in his mid-range jumper, which is quite good, is that player. The current David Lee, afraid of DeAndre Jordan, is not. Andre Iguodala does not seem to be the same player he was last year, at least offensively. He is not this guy:
Even if he were, Iguodala is an ideal 3rd option offensively. Klay Thompson could become it if he adds the ability to get to the line a lot like Kevin Martin, but he’s nowhere near that now. And Harrison Barnes…is lost.
Every championship contender has at least two of these players. Some examples:
Clippers: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin (this year), Jamal Crawford
Thunder: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook
Spurs: Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili (in spurts)
Heat: Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh
The Pacers actually do not have this – perhaps this is why they are having trouble right now with the Hawks (behind 2-1), but they have good offensive skill level at all the positions.
Unfortunately, there are some problems here about why the Wolves do this trade. David Lee is 31 this year, with 3 years left (3rd year is a player option which is guaranteed to be picked up) on his contract. He will be making the same as Kevin Love, thus 15M a year for a soon-declining player? Harrison Barnes, it’s hard to see what he can be now. He is not as good a shooter as he should be, and I don’t know if he can get his mojo back if he’s playing off the bench again next year.
A year ago, I thought he could be better than Jason Richardson, but now, is that really the case? Harrison Barnes becoming Jason Richardson is a best case scenario now, but Jason Richardson was much better at the same age.
Would the Timberwolves do this deal for a 31 year old David Lee and a young Jason Richardson? I cannot see it. The primary reason why this trade would even be considered is if they know Kevin Love will not stay with them long term. Love could leave in 2 years as he has a player option for the third. With a new coach coming in, perhaps its worth considering how to move forward. The reason why I add Alexey Shved to this deal is that it is clear the Timberwolves do not like him anymore. He is clearly trash for them. His salary allows the Warriors to add Barnes in. I think there has to be extra value to convince the Timberwolves, but the Warriors cannot trade a #1 until 2019. They can only offer their #1 pick from last year, Nemanja Nedovi?.
In addition, the Timberwolves have no trash they can offload to the Warriors to clear salary cap space, unless the Warriors find a way to take Nikola Pekovic, who is making 12M a year. If the Warriors dealt David Lee with Klay Thompson, I think the Wolves’ interest becomes much more substantial. Barnes could then become the new small forward, with Iguodala as the shooting guard. This would be extremely risky, however, which probably means this is a fair trade for both.
For the Warriors, Kevin Love gives them an elite talent. David Lee is the poor man’s Kevin Love, yet makes the same amount of money. They have the exact same games: David Lee can score, shoot, rebound, pass, and hit free throws well. Kevin Love does all those things, but much better. David Lee does not defend well. Kevin Love suffers from the same problem.
I don’t know if Love’s injury problems are over, but he is 5 years younger and can still get better. David Lee cannot. In another year, perhaps there is more pressure on the Wolves to find value for Love, but I doubt it will be for Lee, as Lee will be even older.
If the Warriors are going to find a trade for Lee, they have to find one this offseason.