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If David Lee is traded, who can realistically take him on?

We extensively break down the David Lee trade market across the NBA pre-Free Agency. Who has the pieces to make the deal work?

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

NOTE: I have attempted to write this article many times, however with the free agent frenzy going on, the David Lee trade market changes by the minute. As I post this, I'm sure five transactions are going on that might change the possible suitors for Lee, but we are going to give it a shot.

With the free agent negotiating period going crazy this week, the Golden State Warriors currently sit salary cap-locked and dreaming about players outside of their price range.

They have put their attention toward singing their own players — the specifically Draymond Green - which will further control their finances for years to come. As has been discussed on this site many times before, whatever flexibility exists for this roster hinges on the ability to move David Lee from the clutches of the max contract that brought him to the roster in the first place from New York. As he has now become reasonably redundant and ultimately expendable on this roster with his playing time rightfully going to Green, the team has been actively trying to find him a new home. This would both free up cap space to sign potential upgrades to the roster and/or get the team under the dreaded luxury tax line that threatens to take their total bill for the year over $100M.

But who actually has fits with the Warriors trade-wise — offering salary cap relief or less short term money — and could provide a net-neutral talent swap that wouldn't actually hurt the team?

Lets look at David's breakdown:

  • Currently plays PF, but could play C and even SF in a larger lineup (though couldn't withstand most wing defensive assignments). His destination would probably have to have room for him as a starter, as he views himself as one.
  • He could potentially still be a double-double machine, but his scoring ability is dwindling by the day — a diminishing jump shot, which shortens his range. Last year he shot well under his career average outside of ten feet from the hoop, though he did increase his touch around the hoop. He has all-but-eliminated his value as a pick-and-pop player at this point, but could find his touch again in the right system.
  • His contract is rough: 1 year left on his deal, which will earn him $15.78M. A team would have to absorb the contract by getting value in return, equal money savings for the short or long term.
Let's take a look across the league, team-by-team to see where he could actually fit.


If you don't want to go through the full list below, here are the finalists:

  • Boston: Gerald Wallace for David Lee. Salary Cap relief and not much more. I'd give this the best long term chance of actually happening, as many rumors have already said. (Read more on this idea from a Celtics fan's FanPost.)
  • Detroit: Brandon Jennings and Anthony Tolliver for David Lee. Both teams get rid of sunk assets for short term benefit. Detroit needs a PF after losing Greg Monroe, and we can afford to take a chance on a shooter off the bench looking to recover his career.
  • Orlando: Channing Frye (long-term money, but much less of it) and Ben Gordon for David Lee. I break down below: Warriors get their stretch four off the bench, and we shave about $3M on the cap.
  • Minnesota: Anthony Bennett and Chase Budinger for David Lee. We take on the project and the Wolves get an NBA player to make them more competitive.
  • L.A Lakers & New York Knicks: David Lee for a bag of chips and a whole lot of salary cap relief. We can put these two as the fall backs in case nothing else comes up
My guess? I say David Lee ends up going to Boston in a boring salary cap relief trade. The Knicks and Lakers trades are getting the most spin on Twitter, but ultimately I don't think either team would take the bill on him knowing they won't win this year. The Pistons trade actually help us greatly, but I don't see them happening unless we have draft picks to help the deal out (which probably makes the Boston deal bad as well).

The reality? Lee probably ends up still on the team when the season starts, and we are looking to deal him at the deadline.


Cap Space: Not much left after signing their guys
Tradeable Assets: None that fit the bill
How can we help them?: We can't. They already have a power forward who can score in Al Horford.
Verdict: Not gonna happen

Cap Space: Still have room left after they signed Amir Johnson
Tradeable Assets: Gerald "Crash" Wallace 1 year @ $10.1 M
How can we help them?: I'm sure they would be happy for a Crash for Lee trade. It gives them scoring in the post to go with Olynyk, and Wallace is a sunk asset. For us, Wallace does... nothing. But it helps reduce the tax bill, so bonus points.
Verdict: There is a chance here!!

Cap Space: None... not even close
Tradeable Assets: None
How can we help them?: Since we can't take money off their hands, and they have plenty to give, we can't
Verdict: Bad fit - they can't take on more contracts, even though they have contracts to give. We would have to do them a favor, and we can't. Cross em off

Cap Space: Some! slightly over the cap but plenty before the tax line, even with their rookie deals.
Tradeable Assets: Marvin Williams 1 year @ $7M
How can we help them?: We could give them a low post scorer to balance out around with the pick and roll with Kemba, helping taking some of the pressure off of Al Jefferson to score. But that's a bad fit having Al and Lee on the court at the same time taking up the same space. Could be a good stop gap for Kaminsky before he becomes a start with Lee's short term deal
Verdict: I don't love Williams back, and the Warriors can't really use him. It would seem to be a step back for both. I call it a "no"

Cap Space: Some - over the cap but room to absorb before the luxury tax line
Tradeable Assets: Kirk Hinrich 1 year @ $2.7M,
How can we help them?: They could use another post scorer, right? Maybe?
Verdict: Bad fit - they don't need him, and don't have room for him. Plus they have their own SF to resign and have enough trouble finding room for their PFs currently on the roster

Cap Space: None left after passing out deals left and right
Tradeable Assets: Brendan Haywood 1 year @ $2.2M
How can we help them?: David Lee comes off the bench to help their second unit scoring, or can play along Mosgov or Tristian Thompson.
Verdict: The Cavs are assembling as much talent as they can, but simply don't have any money left. I'd say they are set

Cap Space: Less after the deal with the Suns for Marcus Morris, but still room the breathe
Tradeable Assets: Brandon Jennings 1 year @ $8M, Anthony Tolliver 1 year @ $3M
How can we help them?: Take Brandon Jennings off their hands recovering from a knee injury. David Lee helps fill in the holes where Ilyasova can't and Greg Monroe won't be there to help.
Verdict: I mean, why not? Brandon Jennings would obviously be a fit in the back court. Flipping Lee for Jennings and Tolliver gives the Warriors assets to let Jennings play out his final year and get big money on the open market while bringing scoring off the bench to go along with Shawn Livingston. Detroit would need to sign Reggie Jackson to a big deal for it to happen.. but I say this would make Warriors fans happy enough to save a few bucks and actually get value back in return.

Cap Space: Not much, less after signing Monta Ellis
Tradeable Assets: Roy Hibbert 1 year @ $14.89M
How can we help them?: They want someone to take Roy Hibbert off their hands and they will have some, not much, cap room with David West opting out
Verdict: Nope - we don't want Hibbert unless you take Bogut off our hands too. Unless its a complete money drop - Bogut and Lee for Hibbert and a collection of contracts, I don't see it happening. And it doesn't make us better - it's a small savings for a large loss in talent. 

Cap Space: After Wade and Dragic, not much left
Tradeable Assets: Luol Deng 1 year @ $9.7M, Chris "Birdman" Anderson 1 year @ $5.37M
How can we help them?: Post scoring with Bosh and McRoberts stretching the floor. Pick and Roll with Goran Dragic.
Verdict: It would be Deng for Lee, assuming the Heat make room in the cap and start to rebuild. Deng could give us another athletic wing, but right after he just opted in I'm guessing he got the promise he would stay around. I'd say it's a "no"

Cap Space: Nothing left after singing Monroe
Tradeable Assets: O.J. Mayo 1 year @ $8M
How can we help them?: Give them post scoring to go along with some nightmare defensive lineups. They can play D but they can't score. And O.J. is a large contract getting in the way of young development
Verdict: There is not much room left in the front court after Monroe signs. Thinking it takes the Bucks out of contention for a deal.

New York
Cap Space: None, but willing to take on money
Tradeable Assets: None
How can we help them?: We help them, and they have plenty of money to throw at anyone who can play basketball
Verdict: After losing out on... everyone, the Knicks will need names to keep putting people in the stands. Bring back the hometown guy David Lee? Sounds like our easy way out of the deal. For a second round pick and a wink wink for future considerations, Lee could be suiting up in New York by next season. I put it high on the list.

Cap Space: Lots and lots
Tradeable Assets: Ben Gordon 1 year @ $4.5M, Channing Frye 4 years @ $8.6M
How can we help them?: They have cap room - enough to take on more short term money. And with a growing core, they would probably like to get rid of some longer money. Lee is a help to balance out the roster as Channing Frye has done nothing for them so far. They also need an upgrade at PF, and David Lee fits the bill
Verdict: Hear me out - Frye is long term money, but better looking on the books at $8.5M than David's contract next year. The Magic clear a long contract for a short term David Lee season that could return some benefits with their young guys. We get the stretch four we have always wanted, and the two play about equal defense. Who hangs up first?

Cap Space: Tons
Tradeable Assets: Zero
How can we help them?: We could give them an NBA level player
Verdict: Doesn't really fit into the Sixers' plans, unless you particularly hate David Lee and want to see him in NBA purgatory. Sure, a deal for Sixers' scraps would help with the cap situation, but that would be about it. I say it doesn't happen, but it would be fantastic for the Warrior's pocket book.

Cap Space: The Raptors made DeMarre Carroll their highest paid player. That pretty much gets most of their cap space gone.
Tradeable Assets: Not many bad contracts
How can we help them?: They could use a post scorer
Verdict: They seem to be going in a different direction. Just not a good fit anymore after Toronto has gone through free agency.

Cap Space: They have retooled with Jared Dudley already, taking up most of their space.
Tradeable Assets: Not many
How can we help them?: They need a true Power Forward as they Paul Pierce experiment is over, but Dudley seems to be that piece.
Verdict: We would help them more than they help us. Nene for David Lee saves a few bucks on the books, but Nene has no fit on the team. I'd say a wash, so "no" in my book

Cap Space: Good money coming off the books this offseason
Tradeable Assets: Raymond Felton 1 year @3.74M
How can we help them?: They continue to look for a splash with free agent money, so guessing they are looking elsewhere than for a trade for Lee. Lee could help with the front court,but we don't quite know how it that front court will look with plenty of options left.
Verdict: Not a great fit with so much up in the air with them. Thinking its a "no"

Cap Space: Surprisingly not as much as you think
Tradeable Assets: Danillo Gallinari 1 year @ $10.8M, J.J. Hickson 1 year @ 5.38M, Wilson Chandler 1 year @ $6.75M
How can we help them?: They could consolidate two oversized contracts into one, and pair up some good talent like Kenneth Faried with David Lee in the post taking every rebound possible. The problem is these guys have more question marks than one could count, and probably putting them in this spot is not ideal for them.
Verdict: They could be a great third team in another deal with some medium sized contracts coming and going. Getting a guy like Randy Foye or Gallinari is a reduction in money for us and not a huge step down in talent. Something to consider...

Cap Space: Not much to use, and some guys to resign
Tradeable Assets: Corey Brewer 1 year @ $4.7M
How can we help them?: Not much - they seem to like their current PF in Josh Smith basically playing for free
Verdict: Bad fit - David doesn't fit in the rotation and they don't have many pieces of short term money to use.

L.A. Clippers
Cap Space: Over the tax, with a lot of money still to spend on the guys that are already there
Tradeable Assets: Jamal Crawford 1 year @ $5.45M
How can we help them?: They seem to have their forward situation figured out after Paul Pierce joined the crew
Verdict: Not a great fit at all

L.A. Lakers
Cap Space: Holding onto that cap for themselves and their dream free agents
Tradeable Assets: None
How can we help them?: They need scoring anywhere they can find it, and David Lee seems like an LA kind of guy
Verdict: Put them in the same boat as the Knicks. They will have money, and they need NBA caliber players who have a good resume. Could give us a 2nd round pick for our troubles and call it a day.

Cap Space: Pretty locked up with Marc Gasol coming back
Tradeable Assets: Jeff Green 1 year @ 9.2M
How can we help them?: Sure they have forwards but David Lee in there with Gasol and ZBo? Never too much front court right?
Verdict: Yea, not going to work. Just not a good fit between value and money. Memphis hangs up first, and quickly

Cap Space: Lots of room
Tradeable Assets: Chase Budinger 1 year @ $5M, Anthony Bennett 3 years $5.56M
How can we help them?: They need consistent players to balance out the roster. David Lee is a consistent player. Pick and pop with Rubio? Kinda sounds dangerous actually
Verdict: How does an Anthony Bennett and Chase Budinger for David Lee trade sound? We throw in a second rounder, and who knows? You take on Bennett's longer term money for a project in the post, and let the guys work with him. Maybe Budinger adds some more second unit scoring? Am I talking myself into this?

New Orleans
Cap Space: Money is locked up with Asik deal, they turn into a bad fit.
Tradeable Assets: Ryan Anderson 1 year @ $8.49M
How can we help them?: David Lee and Anthony Davis are nice, assuming Asik doesn't come back.
Verdict: Ryan Anderson is a dream stretch four for the Warriors, but it isn't happening. Too bad...

Oklahoma City
Cap Space: Over the cap already, and not much money going away
Tradeable Assets: Not much
How can we help them?: They have a log jam at forward. We can't really help them there.
Verdict: Not much to see here

Cap Space: No more room after Chandler and other deals
Tradeable Assets: Have give up all assets to clear room for Aldridge.
How can we help them?: They have spent the offseason shoring up their front court. David Lee was a fit before the Chandler deal, but now seems redundant and out of place with plans
Verdict: They have their own stuff to work out. Its a pass

Cap Space: Rebuilding and cap room after they lose LMA? Yes please
Tradeable Assets: Gerald Henderson 1 year @ $6M, Chris Kaman 1 year @ 4.8M
How can we help them?: David Lee feels like a very Portland type guy. Another scorer to help with he Aldridge sized hole going away.
Verdict: Let's dream of a Henderson and Kaman swap. The Warriors cut Kaman free but keep Henderson to help out the second unit. Portland gets another vet and scorer after they keep Wes Matthews and now we have to face David Lee a few times a year. Not a bad move actually... something to consider. Though Lee and Lillard make for a tough defensive pair. I actually like this deal - doesn't hurt the talent too badly and saves a few bucks. The problem is Portland is getting guys like Ed Davis and and Aminu. Thinking it could have been a fit but they went with other directions.

Cap Space: Plenty now after their crazy off season moves
Tradeable Assets: Not many left that they didn't trade away.
How can we help them?: Not a whole lot but who knows with that front office...
Verdict: The Kings have enough to work out. Not a good fit any way you look at it

San Antonio
Cap Space: They give their money to the vets coming back
Tradeable Assets: Not much - they keep a lot of short term money around and don't hold bad contracts
How can we help them?: We can't, and Pop's head would explode coaching David Lee
Verdict: Bad bad bad....

Cap Space: Lots of Cap Room, lots of flex
Tradeable Assets: All their talent is either locked up long term or on short contracts
How can we help them?: They seem just fine at the forward position
Verdict: Not a great fit here, they have a good system in place to add in extra talent would be a bad fit

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