Will Golden State Warriors' Small Ball Put David Lee Back on Trade Block?

Matthew SchmidtFeatured ColumnistJuly 28, 2013

When the Golden State Warriors signed Andre Iguodala this summer, things didn't seem to add up. The Warriors already had Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson on the wing, meaning that one of them would have to go to the bench to accommodate Iguodala.

That wouldn't necessarily be a bad move for Golden State in the short term, as it would give the team more depth and would provide it with one of the league's best sixth men. However, it could handicap the Warriors for the future, as placing Barnes or Thompson in a reserve role could stunt his growth.

Then you remembered that about a week-and-a-half before Golden State inked Iguodala, there was a report, per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, that the ballclub was shopping David Lee, and things began to make a bit more sense.

If the Warriors do in fact move Lee, they can go to a small-ball lineup where they put Barnes at power forward, allowing them to have all three of Barnes, Thompson and Iguodala on the floor at the same time. Plus, Lee has $44 million left on his deal. Let's be real here: Golden State is not the Los Angeles Lakers, so it will probably not be willing to pay a massive luxury tax down the line.

Based on that, you have to think that there remains a possibility the Dubs will put Lee back on the trade block.

Would that be ideal for the team, though?

The Warriors were terrific on the glass in 2012-13, ranking fourth with 52.3 rebounds per game. Lee deserves a large bulk of the credit for that, as the big man averaged 11.2 boards himself. Remove Lee from this club, and is Golden State nearly as effective in this area? Probably not, especially taking into consideration that you'd have Barnes playing the 4.

Not only that, but you'd also be placing a whole lot of eggs into the "everyone will stay healthy" basket. We all know how injury prone Andrew Bogut is, and Festus Ezeli is already out six to nine months after undergoing knee surgery. You then have soon-to-be 35-year-old Jermaine O'Neal who is no stranger to street clothes. That would leave the Warriors with only Marreese Speights to depend on up front.

Sorry, but trading Lee to go small does not seem like the greatest idea in the world for a team that just took the San Antonio Spurs to six games during the second round of the playoffs. No, Lee was not healthy for that series, but Golden State did not play small. It rolled with Carl Landry in place of the injured Lee.

As it currently stands, the Warriors are one of the best teams in the league on paper. You could even go as far to say that they are a top-two team in the West along with the Spurs. Unless they can get a great return for Lee, why mess with that?

That brings us to the next question. How much could the Dubs receive in a Lee package? With three years and that $44 million left on his deal, you'd have to think that they wouldn't get as much as they would hope. Lee is a very good player, but is he worth $15 million a year on average? Probably not, and trading partners would shortchange the Warriors for that reason.

So, you'd be trading a walking double-double—indeed, one of the few guys in the league who can routinely put up 20 and 10for what would likely be a fairly lackluster return, all of that just to play a style of basketball that makes you incredible vulnerable down low to begin with. Doesn't sound like such a good strategy, does it?

Take a look at the Indiana Pacers of this past year, for example. They almost beat the Miami Heat exclusively because of their size. Had they had a bit more scoring, they probably would have won that series. Say what you want about the growth of small ball, but good, traditional lineups are still the way to go.

Let's also revisit the point of stunting Barnes' growth. Yes, it would be a hindrance to his development to bring him off the bench, but wouldn't it be equallyif not moredamaging to have him play a position he is not suited for? Think about it: How in the world would Barnes deal with the Kevin Garnetts, David Wests and Paul Millsaps of the league? It would definitely take a toll on his body; that's for sure.

Finally, it's not just about rebounds and an interior presence with Lee. He is also a forward who can stretch the floor. The 30-year-old is a very reliable jump-shooter, and he is efficient, as well. Never in his career has he shot under 50 percent. That's tough to give up.

Unless the Warriors are given an offer they can't refuse, they won't be parting ways with Lee, nor should they. Instead, they'll rotate their trio of wings and keep opponents off-balance on a nightly basis.

Watch out for Golden State next year. It is a legitimate threat.