This year the New York Knicks added a new wrinkle to their offense. A good portion of their half court set consisted of keeping David Lee on the perimeter with the ball, allowing him to orchestrate the offense. I’m not exactly sure why this was done, perhaps D’Antoni wanted to bring the opposing center on the perimeter to open the middle. Or perhaps the Knicks coach wished to experiment during a meaningless season.
In any case the General was up to the task, and notched the highest assist rate of his career (3.5 ast/36). Lee actually has a good touch passing the ball. He’s capable of the cross court pass, and near the top of the key he could hit an open teammate on a diagonal. In 2010 he was basically playing the point guard role in the half court set, selecting where the ball would go. He complemented this move to the exterior with his jump shooting, which seems to be ever improving.
The numbers above are from HoopData, which doesn’t include Lee’s rookie year. Lee’s mid-range game appeared in 2008, and this year he’s added the deeper jump shot. From the chart above, he’s about equally proficient anywhere inside of 23 feet. The ability to hoist it up has allowed Lee to become a more voluminous scorer, as his pts/36 is almost double his rookie year output (11.0 to 19.6 pts/36).
But these positives did not occur without any drawbacks. First is Lee’s offensive rebounding, which dropped for the 3rd straight season to a career low of 2.7 reb/36. Secondly, playing Lee as the center instead of power forward hurt the team’s interior defense. The paint might as well have been in the Delta Quadrant for Knick defenders, because on most nights resistance was futile. Lee had a Zach Randolph-esque rate of blocked shots (Lee: 0.5, Randolph: 0.4 blk/36) which would be more livable from the power forward spot. But from the center position it was a clear detriment to the team.
Nonetheless Lee’s season was overall a success, especially when you consider that he made his first All Star appearance. Granted Lee isn’t an All Star caliber player like LeBron James or Dwight Howard are, but he showed that despite his flaws his strengths make him one of the league’s best big men.
Report Card (5 point scale):
Final Grade: B+
After last year’s similarity scores (Jerome Whitehead? Loy Vaught?), I was a bit afraid of what Lee’s future may hold. But this year he seems to be on the right track with that high correspondence with Boozer. The list seems to be an accurate representation of Lee; players who score efficiently and can handle the rock, but with questionable defensive skills. Since his high assist numbers are partly a function of his role D’Antoni’s offense, it’ll be interesting to see how he is used on another team should he bolt via free agency. Will another coach give him the freedom to manage the offense, or will he go back to his role as a pick & roll/pop power forward?