Something happened in the Portland game, and it was glorious. We see it every so often, but not as often as we could or should. It’s a reminder of a dormant quality, one that might propel the Warriors to new heights. Witness David Lee grabbing a board and conducting the break like a maestro.
See how confused the opposing bigs are, soak in how amusing that fan’s Carl Landry flex celebration is. She’s roaring like a grizzly in a salmon farm, I’d bet. Behold, the power of Golden State’s weird fastbreak.
Lee played a lot of point guard growing up and it shows. He passes well for his position, dribbles well for his position, but only has so many opportunities to demonstrate either skill. The Warriors big man is at his best, creatively, when combining those qualities of passing and dribbling. It’s as though the quickened pace of a dribble-drive heightens his vision and imagination. When the Warriors offense is humming, you’re liable to see Lee get the pick-and-roll pass from Curry, drive towards the hoop, and skip it past the closing defender to Bogut or Landry.
That’s an important feature of GSW’s offense, but it would be nice to see them optimize David Lee’s oddly complete offensive skillset. While he doesn’t look like your typical floor general, Lee’s demonstrated a facility with directing open court offense. So he’s a power forward? So what? Positions are for suckers.
The advantage of Lee pushing the break a la Charles Barkley isn’t just the novelty of seeing it. Defenses get confused when a big man acts like a little one. When those defenses play the Warriors, they’re often keyed on preventing Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson from sinking transition 3’s, with the assumption that the former will bring up the ball. Lee on the loose is a good way to spill ink on their defensive blueprints, and force improvisation.
There’s also good precedent for this kind of effective whimsy. I asked current ESPN Insider, bitter frienemy, and former Phoenix Suns employee Amin Elhassan about Lee’s fastbreak potential. Amin responded:
“In Phoenix, Mike D’Antoni allowed Boris Diaw the freedom to push the ball up the floor after defensive rebounds and make plays in the open court, rather than the traditional practice of outletting the ball to a guard. D’Antoni recognized Diaw’s vision, ballhandling and passing ability in these ‘bust out’ situations, and how the team was able to take advantage of the unorthodox attack of a power forward handling against an unsettled defense.”
Golden State can do the same off the eight or so defensive rebounds David Lee snags. Right now, the Warriors are going to be an underdog against any playoff opponent they face. To win a series, something dramatic or drastic has to occur. They still have a trick up their sleeve, and it has the potential to turn a round against a shaky defensive unit like the Nuggets or Clippers. It’s time for the Warriors to bust out and get weird with David Lee’s abilities.