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Best case/worst case: Damion Lee

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What can the sharpshooter on a two way contract provide this year?

Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images

With the NBA season starting this week, we’re running through mini previews of the Golden State Warriors’ 16 players, focusing on what their best and worst case scenario is for the upcoming year. Next up is sharpshooter Damion Lee. You can check out the other best case/worst case articles below:

Ky Bowman
Alec Burks
Willie Cauley-Stein
Marquese Chriss
Stephen Curry
Jacob Evans III
Draymond Green

Preseason stats

5 games, 9.2 points, 3.6 rebounds, 0.8 assists, and 2.0 steals per game

64.7% 2FG, 21.4% 3FG, 78.9% FT, 58.4% true-shooting

2018-19 stats (Warriors)

32 games, 4.9 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 0.4 assists per game

49.2% 2FG, 39.7% 3FG, 86.4% FT, 57.8% true-shooting

Role on the 2019-20 Warriors

Until Klay Thompson returns, I would make the claim that Damion Lee is the Warriors second-best shooter. Sure, D’Angelo Russell is the more accomplished sniper, and yes, rookie Jordan Poole will let them fly, albeit with mixed results.

But as far as just pure shooting? Give me Lee over every healthy Warrior not named Steph Curry.

With Thompson sidelined, and Kevin Durant gone (not to mention Quinn Cook and Jonas Jerebko), the Warriors are desperately thin when it comes to shooters. Enter Lee, who not only shot 39.7% from distance last year with Golden State, but 39.8% on high volume with the G League’s Santa Cruz Warriors. His role, when he’s with the team, is to space the floor, knock in some triples, and provide an offensive threat. We’ll likely see a bit of him early on, as the G League season doesn’t begin until November 8, meaning Lee can suit up for Golden State until then without it counting against his 45 days of service time.

The Warriors are lucky to have him. After somewhat surprisingly not offering Lee a guaranteed contract, Golden State was cash-strapped, and only able to give the guard a two way contract. It seemed like another team would come calling with a more lucrative offer, but it never happened. Now the Warriors get to reap the rewards.

Best case scenario

Preseason performances should always be taken with a gigantic grain of salt, but what we saw from Lee was highly encouraging. We know he can shoot well, but the aggression he displayed in the preseason would do wonders in the Warriors offense.

Rather than floating around the three-point line, Lee was cutting regularly, moving endlessly, and penetrating the defense off the dribble. He got a lot of looks at the rim, shot 64.7% on two-pointers, and earned 19 free throws in just 83 minutes of play.

That gave him a notably above-average true-shooting percentage, despite his three-pointer not falling in the very small sample. If Lee can carry that efficiency and aggression into the regular season, he’ll provide an offensive spark off the bench, for a team in dire needs of one.

The best case scenario becomes a 40% shooter who gets out in transition, back cuts to hell and back to keep the offense running fluidly, puts in 10-12 points a night off the bench, and plays passable defense. And if we see that version of Lee . . . well, General Manager Bob Myers may have no choice but to find a way to guarantee the shooter’s contract.

Worst case scenario

If it isn’t clear from the above paragraphs, I’m in the camp that thinks Lee is much closer to being a rotation player on a good team than a two way contract. He’s a player, to use the parlance of a generic sports broadcaster.

But things can still go awry. Lee could struggle with his jumper, as he did in 2017-18, when he shot 25.0% from deep for the Atlanta Hawks, and 30.5% on threes for the Santa Cruz Warriors. When shooters struggle with their shot, they sometimes get hyper-focused on shooting, and that offensive aggression that Lee has displayed this preseason could evaporate. Couple that with some below-average defense, and the Warriors would be left with a guard who contributes to their lack of depth in the backcourt, rather than solving it.