A Look at David Lee’s Fit With the Dallas Mavericks

Dec 9, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics forward David Lee (42) reacts to the crowd after his basket against the Chicago Bulls in the second half at TD Garden. Celtics defeated the Bulls 105-100. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 9, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics forward David Lee (42) reacts to the crowd after his basket against the Chicago Bulls in the second half at TD Garden. Celtics defeated the Bulls 105-100. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

David Lee has officially joined the Dallas Mavericks. Let’s take a look at how he fits with a team fighting for a preferable playoff spot.

The Dallas Mavericks stayed on the sidelines as teams made moves ahead of the NBA trade deadline, but signed power forward David Lee once he cleared waivers in an attempt to bolster their front line and add some scoring prowess to the second unit.

For a five-year stretch in the not so distant past, Lee was a double-double machine, averaging 18.7 points on 52% shooting and 10.4 rebounds a night. He also is an underrated passer, chipping in over three assists a game for a season on three occasions. Injuries and the emergence of Draymond Green in Golden State ended his time there, and competing for playing time against a group of young big men in Boston ultimately led to the end of his tenure there just seven months into it.

He’s a veteran to be sure, but doesn’t have quite the wear and tear of Amar’e Stoudemire, the guy Dallas signed in similar fashion at this point last season.

Let’s take a look at how the 32-year old fits with the Mavericks, and whether or not he moves the needle for a team currently fighting for a preferable spot in postseason play.


David Lee’s biggest impact will come on the offensive end, as has been the case for his entire career. Lee is in his 11th season as a professional, but like another power forward on the Dallas roster, his game isn’t predicated on athleticism. He’s shown the ability over the years to knock down the mid-range jumper with some consistency, shooting almost 43% from 10-16 feet for his career. Lee didn’t shoot a whole lot from that range with the Warriors, as they and teams around the league really started to move towards systems that all but eliminated those shots from the game plan, but hit a career-high 56% of them in 2014-15.

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Lee should be able to get more of those looks with the Mavericks. According to NBA.com, Dallas shoots just 38.4% of their attempts from inside 10-feet, the second lowest mark in the entire league. The Mavs do shoot a lot of threes, an area in which Lee will not be involved, but almost a third of their shots come from between 10-feet and the three-point line.

That’s not to say that Lee isn’t effective as a scorer in the post, though. For his career just under half of his attempts have come near the rim, between 0-3 feet. He has connected on 66% of those attempts – not spectacular, but competent. Lee scored or got to the line on nearly 45% of his post ups this season with the Celtics.

Lee is crafty, possesses good footwork in the post, and moves well without the ball. He has good touch on his jump hook with either hand, is solid in the pick-and-roll, and is strong enough to finish through contact. A lot of his repertoire is showcased against one of his former teams in the video below.

Lee won’t be a savior offensively for the Mavericks, a surprisingly middle of the pack team on that end, but should be a consistent scoring threat in a variety of ways for the second unit.


Some guys are good on-ball defenders but not as sharp within the scheme of the unit. Others are good help defenders but a liability in one-on-one situations. David Lee is neither. To put it bluntly, Lee is an all-around poor defender.

An abundance of statistical evidence exists to support this claim. When Kirk Goldsberry wrote a research paper presenting “a new methodology designed to characterize the interior defensive effectiveness of NBA “big men” for the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Lee’s deficiencies in that regard were a big component of that report. Take a look at this representation of opponents’ success against Lee near the rim, using stats from the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons.

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 2.51.28 PM
Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 2.51.28 PM /

But you don’t really need the numbers. Simply watching Lee on the defensive end tells you all you need to know. Lee’s deficiencies in that area limit the ways the Mavericks can use him. Rick Carlisle, though expressing that Lee could spend some time at backup center, can’t realistically play him alongside Dirk Nowitzki. And he should be wary of using Lee in the middle when Chandler Parsons is manning the power forward spot in small-ball lineups, which has been effective for Dallas as of late.

However, while Lee’s Carlos Boozer-like matador defense isn’t ideal, he should be able to help quite a bit on the defensive boards. Eight times in his career has Lee averaged at least 6.0 defensive rebounds a night. He’s grabbed nearly a quarter of all available defensive rebounds while on the floor over his 10+ seasons. His per game averages have dipped in recent years due to his minimized roles, but he’s still right around 7.0 a night (10.0 total) per-36 minutes in his final year with the Warriors and his 30 games with the Celtics. The Mavericks give up over 10 offensive rebounds a night this season (18th in the league) and Lee should help in that regard.


Overall, signing David Lee was probably a good move for the Mavericks. Dallas desperately needs some scoring in the second unit, and Lee should be able to provide that to a certain extent. And when you look around at available options, Lee was probably the best player Dallas could have realistically obtained. He comes with some of the same concerns Amar’e Stoudemire did last season, but should be a much better fit in the Mavericks’ offense with his ability to hit the mid-range jumper and deliver on-point passes from the high post.

Lee is a veteran with experience in these types of systems, so he should be able to get up to speed rather quickly, and he’ll fit right in inside the locker room. The Mavericks didn’t upgrade the roster via trade at the deadline, but they could have done a lot worse than adding David Lee.

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