Friday, September 24th, 2010 at 1:00 pm  |  63 responses

Top 50: David Lee, no. 34

The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players.

by Jeremy Bauman / @JBauman13

“With the 30th pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, the New York Knicks select David Lee,” NBA Commissioner David Stern stated before handing the microphone off to Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver to announce the second round.

After peaking his senior year in college at Florida with averages of 13.6 points and 9 rebounds per game, almost every NBA General Manager saw Lee as any team’s average hustle player who would outwork opponents on the glass and score on the interior. From the day Lee was drafted there was some uncertainty amongst fans as to whether the Knicks took the best player thDavid Leeey could—but boy did that uncertainty fade quickly.

The player Isaiah Thomas (probably his best move as a GM) drafted in the summer of ’05 was a modest fellow who was expected to come into the League and be a solid role player off the bench by playing tough basketball. He certainly wasn’t expected to blossom into a consistent offensive threat or one of the League’s most steady power forwards, yet that is exactly what Lee has done since coming into the NBA five seasons ago.

His path to stardom hasn’t been the most conventional, but it has been an effective one. His first season in New York under head coach Larry Brown’s notoriously hard-on-rookies attitude combined with a team that featured chemistry-killers Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis were troubling times in NY and it was tough for Lee to find playing time, averaging just 17 minutes per game but showing flashes of being the type of player fans want on their team—he always hustled and never seemed to let up on any play, something NY Knicks fans were especially hungry for at the time and endeared themselves to.

The next chapter of Lee’s career was the breakout, or the “we believe,” era of his career. He played more minutes in these seasons and averaged 10.8 points and 9.1 rebounds per game in his much increased 29 minutes per game under coach Isaiah Thomas. During this period, Lee began to show flashes on the offensive end, hitting 15-footers (still looked somewhat awkward doing so), taking the ball strong to the rim, and still always playing with that constant night-in, night-out effort each time he stepped on the floor. During this time, David Lee was coming off the bench and at this point Knicks fans were practically begging for him to see even more PT.

The ‘08-09 and ‘09-10 seasons have been something else for the power forward, as he undeniably picked up an edge to his game while playing under the bright lights at MSG every night. He started to look much more comfortable and each time people expected his production to slow down, it simply got better.

Sure, he was playing in Mike D’Antoni’s signature system that doesn’t exactly concentrate on the defensive end. But dude has done exactly what was asked of him in the situation that he was placed in and there’s nothing more you can ask of somebody. The past few seasons Lee has noticeably improved his back to the basket game, pick-and-roll game and has become a more than reliable threat from as far out as 20 feet, especially near the top of the key.

While playing an average 36 minutes a night for the past two seasons Lee has averaged 18 points and 11.7 boards, in the process helping to keep the Knicks from slipping all the way to the cellar of the Eastern Conference, but most importantly giving Knicks fans somebody that they could count on showing up every single day.

Seemingly pushing a “Trade David Lee” button (thanks, Juice) the Knicks shipped David Lee to the Golden State Warriors immediately after they realized that LeBron had Punk’d them. The Warriors offered Lee the money he had earned over the course of his uphill career, a six-year maximum contract worth $80 million.

Heading out west, Lee will have a very similar role—trying to bring a bottom-dwelling franchise back into the thick of things while bringing the same energy and intangibles that he has been bringing for years.

But there is one difference: playing with the Warriors, Lee will have a rising star at the point guard position in Stephen Curry and another experienced guard in Monta Ellis, both of whom have a lot to prove in their own right. While Curry seeks to prove that he can lead a successful NBA team from the lead guard position and Ellis tries to shed his label of being a selfish scorer, David Lee could be the guy to bring it all together out in the sunshine state for the Warriors.

The production is going to be there. He’s going to do the dirty work and score some points, but the real question is whether he can impact a team enough to get to that next level and become a winning franchise. After all, shouldn’t that be why the Warriors just laid out $80 million on the table for him?

Player Team Position 2010 2009 2010 2009
Ray Allen Celtics SG 50 36 11 10
Gilbert Arenas Wizards SG 49 34 10 9
Lamar Odom Lakers PF 48 33 14 10
John Wall Wizards PG 47 NR 13 NR
OJ Mayo Grizzlies SG 46 46 9 12
Al Horford Hawks C 45 NR 6 NR
Jason Kidd Mavs PG 44 45 12 10
Joakim Noah Bulls C 43 NR 5 NR
LaMarcus Aldridge Blazers PF 42 39 13 12
David West Hornets PF 41 31 12 8
Monta Ellis Warriors SG 40 NR 8 NR
Andrew Bogut Bucks C 39 NR 4 NR
Yao Ming Rockets C 38 NR 3 NR
Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 37 NR 11 NR
Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 36 NR 11 NR
Stephen Curry Warriors PG 35 NR 10 NR
David Lee Warriors PF 34 NR 10 NR

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’10-11 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jeremy Bauman, Maurice Bobb, Erildas Budraitis, Sean Ceglinsky, Ben Collins, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Manny Maduakolam, Eddie Maisonet, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Charles Peach, Branden Peters, Quinn Peterson, David Schnur, Todd Spehr, Kyle Stack, Adam Sweeney, Dennis Tarwood, Tracy Weissenberg, Lang Whitaker, Eric Woodyard, and Nima Zarrabi.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.

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  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    Warriors have two very nice core players in DLee and Steph Curry. With Keith Smart at the helm, this team should be much better next season.

  • http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=100000580635564 Bryan

    My DUDE. Still mad the Knicks let him go.. If there is one player on the roster who played like a vintage Knick it was Lee. The kind of heart and hustle and rebounding ability USED to matter to Knick fans.. Now it’s all about flash and potential. Shame.

  • http://myspace.com/rsaenz24 RoG23

    WOW, not arguing against this ranking. but how shocking is it that 3 warriors are on the top 50?????

  • arjae828

    idk about this ranking. i expect Lee’s production to take a hit. Louis Amoundson seems like he’ll fit in a littler better and take some of Lee’s minutes. Amundson is essentially Biendriens’ doppelganger … both hustle and play decent defense. both good off the ball shot blockers. both have decent hands and length. Just see the holes in Lee’s defensive game causing him to fall out of favor. Also, with Curry and Ellis, there won’t be many shots for D.Lee. The other Warriors’ post players are much more satisfied being ancillary players.

  • ugly_fish

    Im guessing there is no way Andrea Bargnani makes the Top 50.

    David Lee, is overrated. No athleticism, no reliable jumper. Good stats on a bad team. He does not affect the outcomes of games like the some the aforementioned players. He just puts up good numbers cause no one else can. If this was a fantasy list than sure why not; but he should be at No. 50.

  • TrailBlazing&SportingLisbon

    Lee´s a very goof PF, but it became OBVIOUS THIS SHOULD BE “THE DEFENITIVE RANKING OF THE BEST OFFENSIVE PLAYERS IN THE L”..you guys just dont give a sh1t bout DEFENSE…Warriors should´ve 3 players here when they win more than 25 FU#KIN GAMES!

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Gotta give Lisbon a bit of co-sign.
    Defense does not appear to be that important, but that’s not so unusual.

  • http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=100000580635564 Bryan

    Why did my comment get booted?

  • http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=100000580635564 Bryan

    O ok it’s back.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Ugly fish
    If you think David Lee is “unathletic” then I question whether you’ve actually watched his games. True, his jumper could use work, but it’s vastly improved. My biggest beef is that as a scorer he’s kinda like Amare-lite with better rebounding.

  • http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=100000580635564 Bryan

    Co sign Allenp. Which is why the Knicks should have never gotten Amare, Lee provided better production at half the price.

  • reality


    1) Define “athleticism” please. Even if you don’t, the Draft Express scouting report in 04 cited his athleticism as a strength (suggesting he should be a better rebounder given it); and he beat James White in the 2001 HS All-America dunk contest. Is he Dwight Howard? No. Am I going to suggest that by “no athleticism” you mean “is white?” Perhaps.

    2) Check your facts. Lee is a very good jump shooter. As of January 2010 at least (sorry don’t have more recent numbers,) he was 5% above league average FG% for PF from 16 to 23 feet. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/10/sports/basketball/10lee.html

    If you’re going to hate, make it look like you’re trying.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    Damn, that’s 7 cats in a row who were unranked last year.

  • http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=100000580635564 Bryan

    I understand the defense comments, but dude was a legit 20 and 12 with about 4 dimes last year…that can’t be ignored.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    @Lisbon I have been pointing that out for 3 years man. But Lee is definately a top 50 player. And he is athletic, you don’t win the McDonalds Dunk Contest if you are unathletic.

  • JTaylor21

    Damn their coach Keith Sweat is talking bout playing D, I bet that doesn’t Last Forever. Dude must be Twisted and Nobody believes him.

  • MikeC.

    I’m gonna miss him on the Knicks.

  • onlyclipsfanonslam

    Not hating on this ranking, but not better than ZBO

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    Keith Sweat… that’s original, JT. Ha!

  • reflex

    cosign onlyclipsfanonslam

  • b

    That’s three in the top 50 for the bay area… now let’s see what they do with it… MAN I’M SO READY FOR THE SEASON!!!

  • T-Money

    What can David Lee do better than Zach Randolph? I have a problem with the fact that he only seems to hustle for boards (which is a tangible stat, which gets him paid) but never ever to close out on shooters or cut off penetration or take charges or anything that has to do with defense. You hustle or you don’t.

  • http://slamonline.com Matt Lawyue

    What do I do with his Knicks jersey now?

  • arjae828

    not saying d.lee is unathletic but lets be real..he didn’t deserve to win that contest. James White clearly won. IMO … and 2. D.Lee or Z.Bo?? I gotta go with Zach.

  • JTaylor21

    ZBo would eat Lee’s breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, and midnight snack without breaking a sweat. All Lee does better is hustle and with that ZBo is still a better rebounder and TWICE the scorer. Give me ZBo 365 days of the year over General Lee.

  • TrailBlazing&SportingLisbon

    for example Luol Deng prolly isnt here and hes a great defender, who puts 18,8 when healthy consistenly, thats unfair and shows lack of knowlege by who puts this togheder…I WATCHED NYK-MIL LAST SEASON AND BOGUT ABSOLUTLY DOMINATED THAT GAME AND LED THE BUCKS TO ANOTHER WIN BUT THIS SEEMS TO BE THE LIST WHERE 20 12 NO DEFENSE BETTA THAN 17, 13, 3BLK GREAT D.

  • Jdizzle

    So a team not expected to make the playoffs has three players in the top 50? If they are ranking based on projected stats I think Bargnani should be included.

  • reality

    So much bad info here. Jtaylor sez: “Zbo is…a better rebounder and TWICE the scorer.”
    Zbo last year: 37 MPG, 20.8 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 48% FG, 78% FT.
    Lee last year: 37 MPG, 20.2 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 55% FG, 81% FT.
    These are almost exactly the same player statistically, except that Lee shoots a higher percentage and had 3.6 Assists per game to only 1.8 for Zbo.
    How come no one is bringing any actual facts today?

  • reality

    Also, @ TMoney:
    Charges taken in 2010: David Lee, 8; Zach Randolph, 5.
    David Lee is a mediocre defensive player at best. But he’s a beast of a rebounder, top-class in not only scoring volume but scoring efficiency, and averages over 3 assists-per-game as a Power Forward, whether or not anyone cares to look at his actual production instead of some vague notion of what he is or isn’t.

  • JTaylor21

    If people really believe that General Lee chicken’s in the same sentence with ZBo in regards to scoring then there’s no hope for the human race. Most of Lee’s buckets come from broken and hustle plays while ZBo’s one of the BEST post scorers in the league and has been for a while. I still can’t believe that someone had the nerve to give a GLORIFIED hustler almost 15 mil a year.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    the issue with “real stats” is they are not adjusted for Pace or the offense the team runs. David Lee is not the offensive scorer Randolph is, but he is much more effective on the pick and roll and also outside 10ft because he has a lot more quickness then Randolph. He is also a better and more willing passer. On defense both are below average and not worth talking about. Their rebounding numbers are similar except David Lee gets his from hustle and randolph gets his from superior use of his body and the plethora of long jumpers put up by the likes of Rudy Gay and OJ Mayo. incase you couldn’t figure out how randolph grabbed like 5ORB every game.

  • http://www.twitter.com/TheDiesel Anton

    @Matt: wear it to the Draft and boo everyone the Knicks don’t pick?

  • http://thephotoriot.com davidR

    20 points is 20 points, whether it comes by posting up, or by hustling.

  • http://thephotoriot.com davidR

    plus, look at the fg%. lee gets his 20 at higher %. sure zbo has more moves, but can we really say he is the better scorer?

  • Reality

    “Most of Lee’s buckets come from broken and hustle plays while ZBo’s one of the BEST post scorers in the league and has been for a while.”
    a) You know, points count the same.
    b) Your “best” post scorer shoots 7% lower than Lee last year. And 9% lower for his career.
    a) You’re totally right about pace and offensive game plan, and that’s fair.
    b) But no, Randolph didn’t “[grab] like 50RB every game.” He grabbed 11.7. So did Lee. In the same minutes.
    c) The Knicks have no shortage of dudes jacking up long jumpers.

    Nowhere have I said that David Lee is massively better than Zbo. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find two more statistically-similar players. Which is exactly why I cannot understand all this nonsense that Lee is a “glorified hustler” and not “athletic” whereas Zbo grabs “50 [rebounds] every game” while being “twice the scorer” who would “eat Lee’s breakfast.”

    If you’re a GM and you want the more efficient scorer and better passer, who is also 2 years younger, take Lee. If you think Lee is too much of a defensive liability, take Randolph (whose defense I can’t say much about as a Knicks fan because all I remember is that play where he dribbled out the shot-clock at half-court…) But most of the assertions above are totally baseless.

  • j

    random stat geek interlude. Lee also has a more effuicient eff 58 vs. 54, but I really don’t think you can discount pace. It’s a huge factor in points and rebounds not too sure which one i’d prefer in general although lee’s pick and roll skills would be best for the hornets.

  • onlyclipsfanonslam

    Um Randolph has a better rebound rate and that means a lot when he has much better rebounders on his team. Game on the line, and you got a choice of David Lee creating his own shot or ZBO getting his, I’ll roll the dice with ZBO everytime.

  • NicktheQuick

    @ JTaylor…LSG in tha house. When R&B was still good before autotunes came back.

  • bob

    David lee is a better passer that randolph. A better dribbler than randolph. Is ambidextrous, finishes with both hands. Faster than randoplh and more athletic. david lee led the league in assists for all centers

  • gilford

    So three of the top 50 players in the NBA will be playing for the Warriors next season?

    Can we assume that they will also enter the playoffs next season?

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    How you get your points impacts how your teammates get their points and how your team plays.
    Dirk and Tim Duncan have had similar scoring averages for years, but everybody knows that Tim’s scoring has a much different impact because it comes in the post.
    It’s amazing that people praise Lee for scoring on pick and rolls, but castigate Amare for doing it. That Amare is criticized for not having a post game, but with Lee people say it doesn’t matter.
    Does anybody else find that strange?

  • http://thetroyblog.com Teddy-the-Bear

    Lee STILL doesn’t get the props he deserves for his offensive skills. He really has improved on every facet of his game and he continues to improve.
    Also, @ Allenp: “My biggest beef is that as a scorer he’s kinda like Amare-lite with better rebounding.” Considering Amare is one of the best power-forward scorers in the NBA today, THAT’s your beef?

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    For the record
    Is not 50 rebounds.
    It’s 5 offensive rebounds.
    I”m positive that’s what NBK meant if you use context clues and think about Randolph as a player.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    I think that it’s obvious that Amare needs more post moves.
    How often have people railed against him for not having more post moves?
    So, if Lee is less effective than Amare when it comes to scoring on faceups and pick and rolls, and he doesn’t have post moves, then I can see that as a beef.
    Lee is not that much different than Amare except he’s less effective as a scorer and much more effective as a rebounder.
    Yet, the amount of love and criticism he receives when compared to Amare is astounding. At least to me.
    Think about it.

  • JTaylor21

    My two cents is that Amare’s the way better offensive player while Lee’s TWICE the rebounder (yes, Amare’s that bad a rebounder). I guess it all depends on what you prefer; a player that can get “his” whenever and posses a superior offensive game or a player that excels at rebounder and that will do the “dirty” work. I would rather have a great rebounder because we all know that rebounding and defense are the MOST important things to winning a ring (ask the celts). On one hand, it’s not like Lee has ever won anything in the playoffs or even made the playoffs, while on the other hand, Amare has being an integral piece on a team that regularly made the playoffs. At the end of the day, both guys are excel at only one aspect of the game while they struggle MIGHTILY in other vital areas.

  • TrailBlazing&SportingLisbon

    JTaylor, you must be dumb…Lee did everything equal to ZBo except shooting a much better %..you can say you rather have Z-Bo(even though that would be dumb) but saying one´s awsome and the other´s trash is just stupid!

  • JTaylor21

    I’m not going to engage you into a name-calling match but any basketball fan in their right mind knows that ZBo’s better than Lee and has been one of the TOP PFs for a while.

  • http://thetroyblog.com Teddy-the-Bear

    onlyclipsfan: Don’t get me wrong–I think ZBo is a fantastic player. I’ve defended his game when people were clearly h@ting on his basketball skills. But ummm… You really want ZBo taking your last shot? Mr. Airball from 3 point-land?

  • It Hurts

    If David Lee didn’t play in New York he wouldn’t crack the top 50. Y’all are on crack.

  • It Hurts

    Sorry, should have said if Lee *hadn’t* played in New York he wouldn’t be on this list. Apparently I’m the one who’s crack.

  • http://www.kb24.com The Seed

    There is no way in HELL is David Lee in anybody’s top 50 list, let alone number 34. Slam this is pretty sad, but Zbo would eat David for lunch and I am tired of these dudes playing in the Dntoni offense getting numbers, but now are seen as top players. I vote to take this place away from David Lee and leave it blank like they did Reggie with the Heisman. BOOK IT!!!

  • http://250aspirin.blogspot.com DJ Leon Smith

    “The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players.” Wow. Just wow.

  • Shan

    so according to the disclaimer at the bottom of each article, this ranking is according soley to projections for the 2010 season. So, that must mean Al Jefferson will be in the top twenty since he is going to improve his stats in the Jazz flex O and with DWill as his pg. Maybe top twenty!? I agree with Lee at 34, his stats are going to be super inflated on Golden State, wait did Nellie dip?? Still.

  • http://hoopistani.blogspot.com hoopistani

    I love David Lee. So sad to see the Knicks lose him

  • http://www.slamonline.com/ niQ

    The man who gets it done. Just wish he got some blocks though…

  • http://thosefishtacosarethetits.blogspot.com Boston_Blogg3r

    But… he’s white.

  • Sean Ceglinsky

    Liking the lead. Then again I’m a D. Lee fan. Welcome to Cali.

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