OpinionSeptember 1, 2010

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Why David Lee Will Be a Bust - 12 comments


David Lee will be a “bust” this year.

The purpose of this article will be to illustrate where Lee is being ranked and why I believe that Lee’s ranking is too high. Also, while there are a lot of good discussions here at the Café on the pros and cons of Lee and his ranking (some of which I will expand upon here), I feel strong enough about his bust potential to put together this article. Before I go on, please note that Lee was sent from New York to Golden State in a sign-and-trade this past July.

David Lee is ranked…

➢ Based on last season’s per-game value rankings, Basketball Monster has him ranked 8th overall.

➢ Here at the Café, a group of Café veterans are conducting a mock draft with Lee having been selected 10th overall (on August 3rd). There was a healthy debate about the pick that is worth a read.

➢ In a recent article here at the Café, “Top 50 Keepers for 2010-2011: Tiers 2/3” (dated August 15th) Lee is ranked 9th along with the following comment: “Moving from New York to Golden State can only help, as he goes from one high octane offense to another. He’s a lock for 20-10, with great percentages.”

➢ Also here at the Café, participants are constructing a “Consensus Rankings” where Lee was voted in at the 12th spot (he was voted in on August 16th).

➢ Matt Buser, on his latest “Big(ger) Board: Basketball” list at Yahoo! (dated August 26th) Lee is ranked 10th overall with this comment: “A bit more competition for production, but clearly it’s a very good fit.”

➢ In the “2010-2011 Player Rankings”, an article here at the Café published on August 30th, Lee is ranked 12th overall.

…11th overall?

Simply averaging a recent mock draft and rankings done by consensus and an individual (10th, 12th, 10th, 12th) it is clear that Lee is regarded as the 11th overall pick for the upcoming season. While David Lee is certainly a solid pick, I believe that his average ranking of 11th overall is too high. Below, I will briefly go over the case for, and the case against, Lee. Finally, I will include some questions that I have which lead to this point: I generally do not like to draft a player in the first round that is associated with so many question marks.

The Case for David Lee

➢ Lee had a great season last year.

➢ Lee has been relatively healthy; he has played in exactly 81 games in each of the past three seasons.

➢ Entering his age-27 season, Lee is essentially in the prime of his career. Also, since he has never made the playoffs, he can be considered a “young” 27-year old.

➢ In most systems, Lee will qualify at both PF and C.

➢ Over the past few seasons, both New York and Golden State were similar at both offensive and defensive aspects of the game.

➢ Golden State has a relatively thin frontcourt. On one hand, this means that Lee is virtually guaranteed a lot of playing time. On the other hand, this means that opposing teams will focus on him more.

The Case against David Lee

➢ On the Knicks, Lee was the primary option on offense. Now, Lee is probably going to be the third option behind Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis. This could lead to fewer touches and will, in turn, lead to fewer field goal attempts, points, assists, and turnovers. Also, with Ellis and Curry respectively ranked second and fourth in steals per game last year, there may be fewer steal opportunities for David Lee.

➢ Andris Biedrins is probably a better rebounder than anyone the Knicks have had in the past two years. Biedrins has averaged 8.1 rebounds per game over his career and placed 6th in the league in the 2007-2008 season in Total Rebound Percentage. This could lead to fewer rebounds for Lee when the two are on the court together.

➢ While Lee has had excellent rebounding stats, I prefer to draft big men who can also block shots. If that big man does not have shot-blocking ability, then I would like that player to be able to hit three-pointers. Lee does not possess either of these skills which could hurt flexibility when assembling a fantasy team.

➢ Lee’s per-game averages in field goal attempts, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, and points were all career-highs. Even if he were to stay in the same exact situation as last year, I would have to expect a slight reversion to the mean. With so many changes (new team, new season, etc.), I am even more uncertain about his ability to maintain his career-high averages.


➢ What effect, if any, will new ownership have on the team? The Warriors have made the playoffs only once in the past 16 years. Whatever they have been doing really hasn’t translated to winning. New ownership may demand changes in the way things are run which may include the style of play.

➢ Who will coach the Warriors? It is still not clear whether Don Nelson (and his fast-paced style) will return to the team this year. Since the fast-paced style really didn’t lead to success, I think that any change in coaching will probably end up slowing the team’s pace down.

➢ Why did New York want Amar’e Stoudemire instead of David Lee?

➢ Will the minor injury sustained during summer play have any affect? Probably not, but NBA.com notes that the injury “could impact his play during the NBA regular season” as Lee injured his right middle finger in a Team USA practice. Surgery was avoided.

➢ Will Lee bring anything new to the table like a three-point shot or an increased shot-blocking ability? Probably not. In 368 games played, Lee has never made a three pointer and with Biedrins behind him on defense, Lee probably isn’t working on his shot-blocking skills this offseason.

➢ To what extent was the increased production in the past two years a result of Lee playing for a new contract?

➢ How much did the Knicks’ plans (i.e. dumping/trading anyone of value to make a push for LeBron James) have an effect on Lee’s statistics last season?

A Quick Game

Using last year’s stats…

David Lee: 20.2 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 2.3 TO, ZERO 3PTM, 54.5% FG%, 81.2% FT%

Player A: 20.8 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 2.1 TO, 0.2 3PTM, 48.8% FG%, 77.8% FT%

Player B: 19.5 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 2.7 TO, ZERO 3PTM, 56.2% FG%, 74.2% FT%

First, all three players should be FC eligible in most formats. Last year, all three players scored about 20 PPG, grabbed about 11.5 RPG, and delivered 1 SPG and 0.5 BPG. Basically, all three contributed nothing in the threes category.

Lee and Player B have good assist numbers while Player A falls behind there. Lee is middle-of-the-pack in regards to turnovers and FG% while having the best FT% of the bunch.

While Lee had the better fantasy season, all three do have many similarities. In the Café’s Mock Draft, though, Lee went 10th overall, Zach Randolph (Player A) went 43rd overall, and Carlos Boozer (Player B) went 33rd overall. I think that the difference in stats does not warrant such a wide spread in drafts. The biggest advantage Lee has is his assist numbers which can be made up elsewhere on your roster.

Two other similar players to target with later picks are Al Horford and Luis Scola. Both profiles include good percentages, scoring in the mid-teens, rebounding near 9 a game, passing out 2 assists a game, and stealing just under a steal per game. Horford was picked 23rd in the mock draft while Scola went 89th.


After putting it all together I am forecasting a decrease in all of Lee’s counting stats (while holding the percentages similar to last season’s). This is due to Lee changing teams, playing with a better backcourt, playing next to a solid rebounder, the potential for coaching/style changes, and the concept that his stats in New York could have been inflated due to the Knicks’ plans for LeBron James. I am not sure that all of these have factored into his 11th overall ranking.

I am penciling in the following stat line: 55% FG%; 81% FT%; 18 PPG, 11 RPG, 3 APG, 0.8 SPG, and 0.4 BPG. In addition, Lee probably won’t hit any threes and his turnovers could decrease, slightly, should he get fewer touches.

If you end up drafting Lee this year, just be aware of the uncertainties involved. If you don’t reach for Lee or if you end up missing him for any reason, you could fill that FC spot with similar players such as Al Horford, Zach Randolph, Carlos Boozer, or Luis Scola later on in the draft.

SKIP has been participating in fantasy sports since the good old days (paper, pencil, box scores in newspapers, etc.). Basketball and baseball are his favorites though he's dabbled (without success) in football and hockey. You name it, he's done it (standard/custom, serpentine/auction, live/computer/message board, public/private/winners, etc.).
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12 Responses to “Why David Lee Will Be a Bust”

  1. Well done SKIP. I agree with a lot of this and am actually very curious as to how this will influence all the drafts that are starting up at the Cafe around now.

  2. Skippyoz says:

    @ Rounders – If it has any effect and if I am wrong, please don’t take away my Cafe privelages.

  3. User avatar RedHopeful says:

    Good article, Skip. I’m probably one of the few that will agree with you as I ranked him 16th in the consensus rankings. Really considered putting him below the Bosh/Lopez/Horford triumverate too…

  4. bucko158 says:

    The title states that he will be a bust, but you said you penciled him in with this statline.

    stat line: 55% FG%; 81% FT%; 18 PPG, 11 RPG, 3 APG, 0.8 SPG, and 0.4 BPG

    That qualifies as a drop in production and surely not worth a top eleven pick, but its not exactly a bust either. I actually see Lee’s points and assists dropping more than you do. I see him going back to his 08-09 scoring and assist levels of 16 Pts and 2.2 Asts, and even those could be on the high side.

    “On the Knicks, Lee was the primary option on offense. Now, Lee is probably going to be the third option behind Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis. This could lead to fewer touches and will, in turn, lead to fewer field goal attempts, points, assists, and turnovers. Also, with Ellis and Curry respectively ranked second and fourth in steals per game last year, there may be fewer steal opportunities for David Lee.”

    I agree with this statement completely. There is a huge difference between being the number one option and the number three. Take Ray Allen for example, he went from being the number 1 guy in Seattle scoring 26.4 PPG, to the number 3 in Boston scoring 17.4. Thats a 34% drop in scoring. If Lee took a similar drop his PPG would go down to 13.3.

  5. User avatar DVauthrin says:

    nice job skip.

  6. User avatar introspect says:

    Some great insights SKIP, appreciate the read!

  7. User avatar Nene says:

    interesting outlook, skip. While I don’t necessarily agree with you (as evidenced by my ranking of him 9th in keeper rankings), you gave me some food for thought.

  8. User avatar wildcat62 says:

    Great read skip

  9. User avatar Rizzo says:

    I saw a debate on who would be the better choice: Amar’e or Lee. I took Amar’e because he takes Lee’s seat as the #1 option in NY as Lee goes to being #3 in Oakland. You definitely laid out all the facts nicely. Great article!

  10. User avatar geodbear says:

    Nice article skip. You have a lot of good points, and I can certainly understand why one should be cautious about Lee’s ranking. There are a few things that point positively for Lee. In terms of touches and scoring, there is the argument that he’ll be the 3rd option behind Curry and Ellis. Last year, Maggette was the 3rd option and he still scored almost 20 ppg in just under 30 mpg. Maggette is gone so it’s not inconceivable that Lee takes that. Lee is also effective in pick and roll situations and I would say playing with Curry will give him more/better opportunities than when he was in NY. NY’s pace factor last season was 94 compared to the Golden States’ 100.4. Roughly 6 more possessions per game. Of course with the likely change in head coach, Golden States’ pace could drop, but given the timing and circumstances of the change, I would say that Golden State will stay retain a high pace. David Lee’s time on the court will not likely change from last season to this season.

    One thing to mention is that Lee could bring the 3-point shooting to the table. Maybe not significantly, but that is something he has been working on in the off season, as there were reports of him taking 500 shots per day in working on it. He has a good mid-range shot to begin with so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he adds it. I wouldn’t count on it, but if Nelson stays around for at least first month of the season, it wouldn’t surprise me if Nelson encourages Lee to take that at least in the preseason, as Nellie loves having a big man that can shoot from out there.

    I think in comparing Lee to Boozer, there isn’t much of a change, and I probably would move Boozer up in my rankings to a 2nd rounder rather than move Lee down a lot. In terms of draft value, I would say at 11, Lee is at a max but for 1st rounders, most are either on target at a high end since ther isn’t room to go up. For a late 1st/early 2nd, I think you look at guys who won’t drop further than a round. In the case of Lee, I still think, under the considerations presented in the article, that he still puts at worst 2nd round value. Boozer as a 3rd rounder could put up at best comparable value, so the take on passing on Lee to take someone like Boozer or Randolph makes sense. At the same time, I think that type of argument will hold for most late 1st/early 2nd picks.

  11. Skippyoz says:

    @ Everyone – Thanks very much for the nice feedback.

    @ Bucko – I guess the term “bust” is slightly different to anyone. Perhaps disappointment would have been more appropriate? Basically, I don’t feel that Lee will deliver Top 11 value this year, so picking him at number 11 is over paying for him.

    @ Geo – The Maggette concept is a very good point and one that I considered. He can certainly fill in, but the bottom line is this: Lee is going from the 1st option to the 3rd option. I don’t think there are any other 3rd options being drafted ahead of him in many fantasy leagues (not that it should matter for fantasy purposes) but I would like to see how Lee takes this role change before I invest my first round pick on him. In regards to the three-point shooting, it still remains to be seen. I wish he played in the world championships this summer so we could see this new aspect of his game. I am also unsure how taking three pointers would affect his FG% (currently at 55% or so) which was one of his strengths.

  12. User avatar geodbear says:

    Categorizing 3rd option is tough, because I think Lee will be the 2nd leading scorer on the Warriors. You go back to when Shawn Marion was the number 1 fantasy pick, you could say he was the 3rd option with Nash being the ball handler and Stoudemire the leading scorer. As you said, for fantasy purposes it doesn’t matter what option you are, it’s about output, and I can see a case where Lee’s wouldn’t decline much if at all.


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