It's the offseason, when ideas we think have been discussed ad nauseum come back to live more often than corpses on "The Walking Dead." Ethan Sherwood Strauss, writing on ESPN's truehoop blog - a good source of info, but one that generally lacks the analytical chops of Grantland and Zach Lowe - has an article up suggesting that the Warriors move David Lee.
The playoffs, though, were different. Because when Lee was out with injury in the playoffs, Golden State tried something new, and, for an NBA team, radical. Coach Mark Jackson elected to slide rookie Harrison Barnes from small forward to power forward, something Jackson never tried during the season. The Warriors spread the floor with four 3-point shooters for the first time all year.
The results were astounding, and on a subjective note, aesthetically thrilling. The Warriors had been the NBA's most accurate 3-point shooting team that season, but only on 19.8 attempts per game. In round one against the Nuggets, the smallball Warriors hoisted 24.3 per game, while maintaining a sterling 40.4 percent accuracy. Like a Roman army unleashing flaming arrows, the Warriors flung volley after volley of long shots at their target. Suddenly, thanks to that offense, the Warriors looked like a team that ought to have won far more than 47 games.
And concludes by making the argument that we should be looking to move Lee. Read the whole article here.
I have to say that this article misses a huge part of why we didn't miss David Lee: Andrew Bogut. It's a mistake to look at the Warriors in the playoffs and see them as "The regular season team minus David Lee." Rather, it really was "The regular season team minus David Lee, plus Andrew Bogut."
Bogut is a better player than Lee, so you'd expect that to be an upgrade, and it was. Furthermore, the teams' stretch-the-floor-with-shooters smallball strategy doesn't work without a rim protector. A big part of what made the Nuggets unable to counter our strategy is that you normally punish smallball by pounding the rock inside, but Bogut was singlehandedly able to render that strategy ineffective.
Furthermore, I think Strauss underestimates the difficulty of playing small-ball all season. It's one thing to go small to exploit a matchup in the postseason, but a lot of players (even those as physically imposing as Lebron James) have talked about how playing four all season takes a lot out of you, compared to playing the wing. This goes double when you're undersized either by a little (a la Draymond Green) or a lot (a la Harrison Barnes).
A couple of other nice tidbits from the article. First and foremost, Lee has supposedly been trying to add a three-point shot this offseason. We'll have to wait and see if he can do it, but that could be a real asset this season when we have more minutes of a real center playing down low. This is another great example of Lee's smarts and work ethic which make him an easy guy to root for.
Secondly, it correctly points out how Andrew Bogut's excellent (if sometimes illegal) screens did a great job of helping our three-point barrage. This can't be overestimated. If Bogut could ever find his shooting touch again, replacing more Curry-Lee pick and rolls with Curry-Bogut pick and rolls could be a major asset - but hopefully Lee is working on his picks, too.
Lee was our second best playing heading into last offseason, and is our fourth best player now. By the end of the season, he could be our fifth or sixth. While this speaks to good things about the team's prospects, it does mean that they should be open to moving Lee if they can get a good piece in return. (For example, a lot of us were salivating at the prospect of upgrading Lee to LeMarcus Aldridge this offseason). But there's a world of difference between moving a player for value and moving them to move them, and therefore Strauss's article misses the mark.