2010 Report Card: David Lee

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):
Offense: 5
Defense: 1
Teamwork: 5
Rootability: 4
Performance/Expectations: 4

Final Grade: B+

Similarity Scores:

.000 David Lee 2010 NYK 22.2 58.4 54.5 19.6 2.7 11.3 3.5 1.0 0.5 2.3
.058 Carlos Boozer 2008 UTA 21.9 58.1 54.7 21.8 2.5 10.7 3.0 1.3 0.5 2.7
.112 Brad Daugherty 1992 CLE 23.0 62.9 57.0 21.3 2.6 10.4 3.6 0.9 1.1 2.5
.180 Jack Sikma 1982 SEA 20.6 55.9 48.0 19.0 2.6 12.3 3.3 1.2 1.3 2.5
.184 Terry Mills 1994 DET 17.7 55.2 52.1 17.9 2.5 8.7 2.3 0.8 0.8 2.0
.195 Brad Miller 2003 IND 19.3 57.9 49.7 15.1 2.9 9.6 3.1 1.0 0.7 1.9
.199 Shareef Abdur-Rahim 2003 ATL 20.0 56.6 48.7 18.8 2.0 7.9 2.8 1.0 0.4 2.4
.206 Mike Gminski 1986 NJN 19.0 59.4 51.7 19.0 2.9 9.5 1.9 0.8 1.0 2.0
.207 Otis Thorpe 1989 HOU 15.4 59.1 54.2 15.7 3.1 9.0 2.3 0.9 0.4 2.6
.215 Craig Smith 2010 LAC 16.9 59.9 57.1 17.1 2.8 8.4 2.5 1.0 0.7 2.6
.218 Charles Oakley 1990 NYK 15.9 58.0 52.4 14.6 4.2 11.9 2.4 1.0 0.3 2.7

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?

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of KnickerBlogger.net. His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

7 thoughts to “2010 Report Card: David Lee”

  1. It is unfortunate that Lee has had to play out of position — it would be nice to see how his stats would stack up against other PFs. Even the list above may be a bit misleading, since Lee has had to play C for most of his career while a guy like Boozer has primarily been at the PF position with guys like Z and Okur playing center. Same with Oakley.

    When comparing Lee to other notable PFs for the Knicks, he holds his own and certainly ranks near the top.


    However, when I compared Lee to some of the best Knicks centers, he still rates as an above average rebounder and passer for a big man, but his scoring and shotblocking are not on par.


    I expected Lee’s shotblocking to not stack up, but I was a bit shocked that his scoring did not compare favorably. I think both may be attributed to his lack of size for the position. For example, on his career, Lee only takes 3.2 FT per game. Even his best year, he got to the line 4.1 times per game. By comparison, Dwight Howard got to the line 5 times per game in his worst season, while his best mark was 10.9 FT per game. Even a guy like Bosh that often plays center but is not a traditional back to the basket big man takes twice as many free throws as Lee.

    If the Knicks re-sign Lee, they have to find someone to play center so that Lee can move to his natural position at the 4. It is unfortunate that the Knicks did not get a real center sooner so that they could assess Lee’s real value at his natural position. That said, this may work in the Knicks favor, because teams could be reluctant to give Lee big money to play PF when they haven’t seen a lot of tape from him in that position.

  2. Interestingly, Lee has the best WS/48 out of all comps at both positions, mind you DeBusschere and Reed have a lot of the advanced type measures only for the end of their careers but still. (of course he still has not had the downside of his career so maybe all were ahead of him at similar ages/stages)

  3. Lee played the 4 earlier in his career and the offensive role he played this season would not be much different from a PF on most teams: high post, dribble drive, pick-and-roll, 50% jumpers… I would assume most traditional teams (i.e. non-D’Antoni/Don Nelson teams) view him as a PF. The biggest thing that will change is his defensive assignment. It’s hardly a perfect measure, but his defensive +/- was better when he was a PF playing next to Nazr, Curry, Frye, James, etc.

  4. Good report! A bit surprised the grade was so low. Backlash perhaps, now that the rest of the league has fallen in love with KB’s indie-god?

    I’d give him an A-, and probably a 2 on defense. Bad, but not god-awful, all the time (like certain other Knicks we’ve had the displeasure of watching over the decade).

  5. “It’s hardly a perfect measure, but his defensive +/- was better when he was a PF playing next to Nazr, Curry, Frye, James, etc.”

    Unless I’m mistaken, I don’t think Lee ever played a game with Nazr. Nazr was traded to San Antonio in exchange for Rose and a pick that became David Lee. That said, I agree that not much can be taken from the fact that Lee’s defensive stats improved next to Curry, Frye and James.

    On another note, hoopsworld put together a nice analysis of the most desirable free agent destinations this summer. I still think the Clippers are a serious darkhorse candidate for the LBJ sweepstakes. Putting Donald Sterling aside, LBJ with B-Diddy, Eric Gordon, Blake Griffin and Captain Caveman would be a lock for the playoffs imo, and create a great rivalry in the Staples Center.


  6. TDM,

    Very true about Nazr.

    My point is not that his stats improved next to those guys, but that his defensive +/- was better when he played PF. He played primarily PF 2 out of his 5 seasons in the NBA (primarily C 2 and primarily SF 1), teams have plenty to go on with Lee as a PF. Defensively there is evidence–both statistical and subjective–that he was better at the 4, and offensively I don’t think the role he’s played for D’Antoni was any more C than PF.

    You can’t exactly put Donald Sterling aside. They would make the playoffs. If Griffin reaches his potential they might contend or win a title. I don’t think LeBron wants to go to LA to play for the B team (one of the worst run franchises in professional sports for several decades) in the Lakers’ shadow, but who knows? If LeBron signs with the Clippers I’m not quite sure what I’ll do, but something crazy.

  7. “If LeBron signs with the Clippers I’m not quite sure what I’ll do, but something crazy.”

    Ha. Too funny. Ironically, I received a call on my cell this morning from the Clippers trying to sell me season tickets. I told them I was a Knicks fan, but that if they got LeBron, I’d consider it.

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