With David Lee coming back from his strained hamstring relatively soon (one would think, anyway), the Warriors will need to figure out where he fits into their rotation.
The Warriors thus far this season have not missed a beat without Lee; they have jumped out to their best ever start and are currently riding a 13-game winning streak. Steve Kerr’s starting lineup has brought the best out of Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green. Taking a starting spot from either one of these two at this point probably wouldn’t be a great idea.
Barnes really struggled as the sixth man last year with the burden of leading the second string, but has found a niche as a rebounder and wing defender while Klay Thompson and Steph Curry handle the bulk of the offensive responsibilities. As for Green, he’s turned into the Warriors’ Swiss Army knife who fills so many roles for the team while providing excellent defense and a much improved offensive repertoire.
Coming back from injury and then immediately logging 30 minutes a game probably doesn’t make much sense for Lee, either. That points to starting Lee off the bench where he could bring a lot to the table and really help solidify the Warriors as serious title contenders.
Lee isn’t an all-star caliber player any longer, but he still has the skills to start for most teams and could feast as the offensive focal point of the Warriors second unit. This move could also help cut down on some of the minutes that Barnes and Green have played with the second unit, leaving them fresher heading toward the end of the year and in the playoffs.
The addition of Lee off the bench could lift the Warriors’ bench scoring, which is being carried by Marreese Speights at the moment. Speights has been amazing this season and even carried them to victory in Charlotte, but it’s probably unrealistic to expect him to continue at his current pace. The two of them together could offer plenty of offensive punch, with Andre Iguodala providing excellent perimeter defense and Shaun Livingston providing a matchup problem for backup point guards.
It might be tough to ask the team’s highest paid player to make such a huge role change and see his minutes cut so significantly. The Warriors have gotten Iguodala to buy into the same reduced role after being a starter last season, so perhaps he can be an example to Lee in sacrificing for the good of the team. If Lee is amenable to coming off the bench, the Warriors could have the deepest and most dangerous team in the league.