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.
THE SHORT VERSION
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