A player who the Warriors were rumored to be interested in acquiring has officially signed with another team.
There was some buzz that David Lee was going to return to the Warriors after spending a season with the Celtics and Mavericks, but Lee has ultimately decided to sign with the San Antonio Spurs.
According to Marc Stein of ESPN, the deal is for $3.2 million over 2 seasons. The 2nd year is a player option.
David Lee lands a two-year deal worth $3.2 million and a player option for Year 2 in San Antonio, according to his agent Mark Bartelstein.
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 28, 2016
Lee has a special place in Warriors lore for multiple reasons. In 2013, he became the first All Star for the Warriors in nearly a generation. It hadn’t happened since Latrell Sprewell back in 1997.
Interestingly enough, in 2010, he also became the Knicks first All Star since Sprewell and Allan Houston in 2001. He tends to give dysfunctional franchises their first experience with decent basketball in quite some time.
Perhaps Lee making the All Star game as a Warriors player was the very first tangible milestone the Warriors experienced that indicated they were back to being a relevant team in the NBA.
Somewhat more dubiously, though, the team really didn’t take off until Draymond Green replaced an injured Lee to start the 2014-2015 season.
The Warriors got off to a remarkable start that season, going 21-3 without Lee in the lineup. The year eventually culminated in a championship, and it’s really a shame that Lee became such an easy target to point at for why such a talented team didn’t reach their potential faster.
The main differences between the 2013-2014 team and the championship squad in 2014-2015 were Steve Kerr replacing Mark Jackson, Green replacing Lee in the starting lineup, Shaun Livingston taking backup point guard duties, Festus Ezeli coming back from injury, the acquisition of Leandro Barbosa, and Harrison Barnes being moved to the starting lineup over Andre Iguodala.
As talented as Livingston, Barbosa, and Ezeli are, they were complementary players not expected to play more than 20 minutes per game. Iguodala looked far more comfortable coming off the bench than Barnes did, but both were valued rotation players each year. Their roles were just slightly tweaked.
That leaves Kerr replacing Jackson and Green replacing Lee as the two biggest factors in the turnaround, in some order.
In a lot of ways, that’s Lee’s legacy with the Warriors, but it’s not entirely fair. For Lee’s defensive flaws, he was a double-double machine.
His 16-18 foot jumper was deadly, and he always showed great quickness around the hoop. His defense was always pretty bad, though. He was never a rim protector, and it was painful to watch him try to contain a guy like Zach Randolph in the post.
Of course, that was a tall order for any interior defender when Randolph was at the peak of his powers, but they were both 2x All Stars, and both coincidentally earned the distinction in 2010 and 2013. They were fairly assessed to be peers as star power forwards, and Randolph would continually feast on him whenever the Warriors played the Grizzlies.
I always felt uneasy about calling David Lee a “star” after watching games like that. Rooting for bad teams for so many years tends to distort your definition of what a great player is.
I’m embarrassed to admit that I once thought Troy Murphy was a great player. I was in 7th grade, and Murphy just came off a 15-10 season while shooting nearly 40% on 3-pointers.
I overlooked some of his blatant flaws, like his lack of athleticism and nonexistent defense, and really put him on a pedestal. In my mind, east coast bias was the reason that Murphy wasn’t ranked among the best power forwards in basketball.
This isn’t to say that Murphy wasn’t a solid player. He was good, but my point is that player evaluation can be affected through years of deprivation of anything resembling successful team basketball.
If we want to go a little farther back, there was a time when I thought Donyell Marshall was a great player. He averaged 14-10 for the Warriors during the 1999-2000 season.
Again, they were good numbers, but viewed through the lens of a fan who wanted to embrace amazing basketball so badly that he’d fool himself into thinking that mediocrity was exciting, and slightly above average play was actually greatness.
I don’t put Lee in the category as those two, or Monta Ellis for that matter (I’m really strolling down memory lane). Lee is objectively an All Star player when playing at his full potential.
Ellis isn’t an All Star, but his remarkable one-on-one midrange game makes him a special scoring threat in this league.
You can even put Jason Richardson in that same general category as Ellis. J-Rich was never an All Star in his 13 year career, yet holds a career scoring average of 17.1 points per game.
They’re both great players, but a team where they’re the best or even second best player is probably not going to be a very successful team.
Guys like Murphy and Marshall left the Warriors and settled into niches as solid complimentary players, but never guys who had any business being one of the top 3 players on a team.
That’s not to say that Marshall and Murphy were never a top 3 option on a team besides the Warriors, but it’s likely that the squad relying that heavily on them didn’t have a great record.
The one exception is probably Marshall’s 2000-2001 season with the Utah Jazz, but we’re splitting hairs here, especially considering that Byron Russell got more minutes than he did at small forward.
Perhaps I’ve gotten spoiled watching this team the past couple seasons, but I still hold guys like that in high esteem, because fans need to see greatness in their team’s players, even if it’s slightly hyperbolic.
Anyway, I truly wish Lee success with the Spurs. He helped return the Warriors to relevance in the NBA, and for that, I’m extremely grateful.
Even if Green replacing him lead to the team taking that next step towards transcendence, it doesn’t change the fact that he was a great teammate and put up very impressive numbers as the starting power forward for the Warriors.