On David Lee and Defense
David Lee trade rumors are flying but it’s hard to buy the hype. Warriors management is likely doing what fans dally in: Impotent window shopping. At least that’s what they damned well should be doing—lameducks shouldn’t be raising ducklings.
Lee has been a comically bad defender despite all that brilliant guidance from Eddy Curry and Starbury. His brand of defense is the absence of it. David’s the napping security guard at the museum, wake me when he blocks a shot.
To say a man sucks at defense is easier than figuring out why. One year, Kevin Durant is ushering foes to the hoop; the next he’s a rabid pterodactyl on the wing. Ray Allen was the Sonics’ sieve but Thibodeau gave him another life in a different paradigm. He turned stingy. Sometimes performance about context, it’s easy to be a bad defender on a defenseless team.
Defense is more system-based than offense. The term “on a string” is often used to describe how five men should move at once, as though telepathically connected.
Offenses of the read-and-react variety certainly exist, but it’s just not the same. Offense is about plunging forth into a space, attacking when the opportunity arises. One man can sometimes find the space with minimal help. But when the D-string is sturdy, spaces are like Cohan’s accomplishments—few and miniscule.
What happens when there is no string? The New York Knicks happen. The Golden State Warriors happen. It’s chaos that gives way to points. In a chaotic defensive structure, doing right accomplishes about as much as loafing. If Player A makes the correct rotation, Player B stays home, Player C makes the incorrect rotation, Player D gambles for a steal and player E ogles crowd cleavage, then what the hell good was the correct rotation? There are holes all around, no matter what Player A did. He might as well have cleavage-gazed.
So David Lee has played for a bad defensive team his entire career. Blame might be on the system. Lee’s likely been part of the problem, though. As Rasheed Wallace probably once said, “Advanced metrics displayed on 82games.com don’t (expletive) lie!”
Matt Steinmetz argues that David Lee would actually help the GSW defensive attack because he grabs rebounds (reducing the opposition’s chances is part of defense). There could be something to that, but here’s where Lee really impresses: Despite being one of the best defensive rebounders in the League, the Knicks gave up 3.2 points more points with Lee on the floor. On D, DL’s awful everything else far outweighs his important rebounding.
As for Lee’s offense? Great touch, great vision, acceptable shot. He makes Biedrins look like a robotic facsimile. David Lee could combine with Stephen Curry to form a deadly pick and roll attack.
So here are my rules:
- If the Warriors are trading, they shouldn’t be.
- If the Warriors are trading, they shouldn’t be, but I can live with a Monta Ellis for David Lee swap.
- Don’t trade Anthony Randolph, please resist the idiotic urge.
I have some memories of watching David Lee play basketball from back when I lived in a Brooklyn litterbox. The Knicks trudged on in a grey, miserable winter. MSG network games were preferable to going outside into the dark sludge. But the only salient NBA memories from that year came from witnessing glimmers of Anthony Randolph’s talent. I stayed up to 1AM just to see Randolph play sporadic minutes in meaningless late season games. Doubt anyone will do that for David Lee.