http://blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami/2 ... -its-true/
It’s quantifiable, it’s palpable and it’s only deniable if you view all things through the prism of David Lee’s All-Star reputation.
It’s a real thing, though: The Warriors are a more dangerous playoff team without Lee than they ever were when he was healthy.
OK, let me also point out that Lee was absolutely necessary during the regular season when Andrew Bogut was out or limited and the team’s younger players were playing young.
The Warriors don’t win 47 games without him, his work ethic, his ability to pile up double-digit rebounds and points (the much-publicized “double-double”) and his true vocal leadership.
But at this advanced stage of Warriors activity—tied 1-1 with the Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals—there just isn’t much doubt that Lee’s torn hip-flexor in Game 1 of the first round hasn’t hurt them.
It freed the Warriors to be more of who they truly should be, actually.
They’re faster, more flexible, more aggressive, tougher, more balanced, better on defense and now they’re built around a powerful three-piece axis:
Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Andrew Bogut, a straight line of influence, and just ask the San Antonio Spurs how imposing that is.
Before I get into the specific reasons, a few statistics on this issue:
* The Warriors are 5-2 in these playoffs when Lee plays less than 2 minutes in the playoffs, and 0-1 when he plays more than 2 minutes. (He had the short cameo in Game 6 against Denver.)
Small-sample size, yes, but the entire playoffs are small-sample sizes and that’s how you decide champions.
* Lee is credited for being their rebounding force and offensive maestro, yet mostly without him the Warriors are have the second-best field-goal percentage (behind Miami) and third-best rebound—percentage in this
All this raises issues, of course, about the logic of keeping Lee into the future, but we’ll all deal with that once this playoff run is over.
As it stands, Lee is co-owner Joe Lacob’s hand-picked favorite, one of coach Mark Jackson’s untouchables, owed $44.4 million over the next three seasons, and beloved by much of the Warriors’ fan base.
He’ll be tough to trade, if ever the Warriors could bring themselves to try.
But here are five reasons the Warriors matched up better against Denver and are currently bedeviling the Spurs without their sole All-Star:
1. Double-doubles just aren’t as valuable as so many Warriors fans—and Warriors officials—think they are.
Lee led the league with 56 of them this season. And that meant… what?
Bogut has only two double-doubles in eight playoff games and do you think he hasn’t been valuable enough?
Value is about two-way team efficiency, not individual stat categories, and without Lee, the Warriors are operating at their highest level, on both offense and defense, possibly since the mid-1970s.
2. The Warriors’ defense is more athletic without Lee, who is a poor individual defender and a slow help defender.
Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green were far better suited to chase Denver’s quick forwards and those two plus Carl Landry match-up well with San Antonio’s assortment.
The new forward-rotation covers more ground, switches better and attacks opponent penetration much more nimbly.
3. Bogut is better and plays more freely without Lee. Now he owns the lane, period.
Bogut can deal with Tim Duncan one-on-one and the offense runs more smoothly when Bogut isn’t shunted over to the weak side to put Lee on the ball side.
4. The extra shots in Lee’s absence have gone to Thompson and Curry, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Think of Allen Iverson, Monta Ellis, Amare Stoudemire, Rudy Gay… high-volume shooters get stats that their teammates often can replicate at a more efficient rate with better ball movement.
Now, the Warriors are thoroughly a three-point shooting team–they’re very good at it; they can blow teams away with it; and they don’t need Lee for it.
5. Lee’s greatest value is as a pick-and-roll partner with Curry, but Curry has elevated has game so high that he now can play that game with anybody the Warriors choose.
Really, the Warriors have moved beyond a dependence on Lee, a good thing.
Before the playoffs started, they were 3-18 over the last three seasons when Lee wasn’t in the lineup.
But there were a lot of reasons for that, mainly that the Warriors weren’t very good for a very long time.
They’re better now, and they’re proving that they went about as far as they could go with Lee as a centerpiece.
He’s not a centerpiece now, and they haven’t come close to hitting their playoff ceiling yet.