Feels like a tricky question doesn’t it? For all intents and purposes, the best player on the Warriors is clearly a guard with exquisite ball handling skills and an aesthetically pleasing scoring ability. That last sentence was vague enough that depending on the reader, the player in question might be either Stephen Curry or Monta Ellis. Except, you were tricked. My apologies.
The best Warrior at this juncture is not a perimeter player, but rather the team’s starting power forward: David Lee.
The former Gator spent the first few games of the season playing the part of Don Cheadle while Curry and Ellis took the lead as Brad Pitt and George Clooney in Ocean’s Eleven. Lee was often the benefactor of all the attention that the Warriors’ backcourt attracted as a result of their scoring, shooting and playmaking. But once Curry went down with an ankle injury, the Dubs had to change things on the fly and evolve as a team. Thus, they signed Nate Robinson to help in the playmaking department, but let’s be honest, for all of his gifts, he is no Steph Curry.
Monta Ellis has essentially become the team’s number one ball handler as well as its top scorer. The added weight on Monta’s shoulders have led to him taking some tough shots late in the shot clock because he no longer has anyone capable of creating easy looks for him.
Given the additional burden on Ellis, Mark Jackson decided to tone down the amount of pick-and-rolls that the Warriors’ starting shooting guard has run with Lee, opting instead to simply giving the ball to the big man on the block. The end result? Production.
Lee has literally been a beast on the low block. He has been backing his man down with ease and then turning to his left shoulder and finishing with a strong right hook with regularity. But to throw defenses off balance, he also has been able to pull off the same move but instead of settling for the hook, he will drive all the way to the basket for the finish. In addition, the Florida product has shown a soft touch with his left-handed hook shot as well as the ability to explode to the basket for a thunderous finish over bigger defenders.
Most would be content with that kind of offensive repertoire, but the Warriors big man has also managed to regularly make his midrange jumpers. Indeed, according to Hoopdata, Lee is making 42 percent of his shot attempts from 16-to-23 feet. For the sake of perspective, Ray Allen is converting 38 percent of his shots from the same distance.
The array of post moves has helped David Lee score 19.1 points per game this season on 52.7 percent field goal shooting. Whenever the Warriors get into a rut on offense, they toss the ball into the big man and watch him go to work and score.
In seven games in the month of January, Lee is shooting 58 percent from the field.
Mind you, before we go putting the big man into the All-Star Game, it’s worth noting that other than the Clippers, Lakers and Bulls, he hasn’t faced any killer frontlines that could truly contain him. Also, with Monta Ellis getting most of the defensive attention of opposing coaches, the forward rarely sees double teams thrown at him and thus he often gets the advantage of facing single coverage without the fear of a second defensive player coming in to force him to give up the ball.
On the season, Lee is averaging 10.5 rebounds per game but has shown a little bit more activity on the boards in January. He is pulling down tough rebounds in traffic and even getting in on the action for second chance opportunities.
His individual defense needs work and he is doing a decent job of rotating on defense, mind you he is far from a stopper and opponents have little trouble finishing around the basket when he is camped out underneath the rim. He lacks the timing to be a good shot blocker and does not seem too fond of giving up his body to take charges in the way that say Udonis Haslem does.
Nonetheless, David Lee owns the second best PER figure on the team at 19.2, right behind Stephen Curry and also sports the 14th best mark of all NBA power forwards.
Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry are probably still the two most talented players on the roster, but considering that Curry is absent due to ankle issues and that Monta Ellis has been struggling with his shooting ever since he lost his backcourt mate; that leaves David Lee as the top dog on the Golden State Warriors…for now at least.
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