When the Golden State Warriors acquired All-Star forward/center David Lee in a sign-and-trade deal from the New York Knicks last Friday, one of the first people that Lee contacted was new Warriors teammate Stephen Curry.
“About an hour later I texted Steph Curry and said ‘I hope you’re ready to run about a thousand pick-and-rolls next year’” said Lee, referring to one of his signature moves. “He said he was very excited.”
Warriors fans can only hope that Lee and Curry make good on that plan, as the two will form a strong nucleus along with guard Monta Ellis and center Andris Biedrins that puts Golden State in a position to make a serious playoff run for the first time since 2007.
The Warriors acquired Lee in a deal that sent guard Kelenna Azubuike and forwards Anthony Randolph and Ronny Turiaf along with a 2012 second round pick to New York.
Lee, who was an all-star last season with New York, averaged 20.2 points, 11.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists per game. He was one of only three players in the league last season to average over 20 points and 10 boards per contest, the other two being newly acquired Heat forward Chris Bosh and Portland’s Zach Randolph. Lee also tallied 53 double-doubles, finishing fourth in the NBA.
“David Lee is a terrific basketball player and an All-Star,” said Warriors’ General Manager Larry Riley in a press release on Friday. “His skill-set addresses two areas where we need to improve: rebounding and passing, plus, we know he will score. He is a proven talent in this league and we like the way that his talents fit with the other core players on our roster.”
The interesting aspect of a sign-and-trade situation is that Lee was able to select the team he wished to be traded to while making the deal with New York. The Warriors’ youth and strong group of core players were the most intriguing factors that led Lee to the Bay Area. The sign-and-trade agreement gave Lee more control and enabled him to ultimately sign with a team that is not “starting from square one,” he said.
“The biggest thing when we were talking about which team to go to and what situation to be in for the future was finding guys that were around me that I enjoyed playing with and also finding a situation where we’ll have a chance to win,” said Lee.
It may seem to some that the Warriors gave up a lot to get Lee. Anthony Randolph, 20, was the team’s first pick in the 2008 draft, 14th overall, and averaged 11.6 ppg last season; Azubuike, 26, averaged nearly 15 points per game in 2008-2009 before spending almost all of last year in the disabled list.
But Riley feels that the Warriors were able to acquire Lee without having to harm the team’s nucleus and that he will combine with Golden State’s other young stars to create a solid foundation for years to come.
“This decision was not easy, but, at the end of the day, we feel that this was the right move for our organization,” he said. “We are excited that David Lee is now a member of the Golden State Warriors.”
The core players that Lee and Riley referred to will be Curry (17.5 ppg, 5.9 apg), Ellis (25.5 ppg, 5.3 apg) and Biedrins (5.0 ppg, 7.8 rpg). In addition to Lee’s new six-year contract, which the team has yet to unveil in detail, the other three players are all signed through the 2012-2013 season with both Ellis and Biedrins having a player option for 2013-1014. The team also drafted forward Ekpe Udoh with the sixth overall pick out of Baylor in last month’s NBA draft. That could mean a very long run for the Warriors if everyone stays healthy, which has been a problem for the team the last few seasons.
Lee will also have the luxury of moving to his more natural position of power forward, with Biedrins playing center. At 6-foot-9, Lee was undersized for a center last season, yet still managed to pull down nearly 12 rebounds per game. Rebounding will be one of the greatest contributions Lee will bring to the Warriors as Golden State finished dead last in the NBA last season with only 38.4 rpg. They were out-rebounded by their opponents by an average of nearly 10 boards per contest.
“I think we have a chance to make the playoffs this year, but more importantly moving forward for years to come we have a bright future,” said Lee. “I think Warriors fans should be very excited about that.”