The NBA free agent frenzy is at a all-time high. Everywhere there are different “insiders with knowledge of the situation” saying where Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson and another certain reigning MVP from Cleveland, will land. Starting yesterday at midnight, the rumor mill and go-time came together, all the way to the July 8th signing date begins.
There are so many different scenarios that have been placed into the mix at this point that it gets made to be a foregone conclusion on some players intentions. I’m looking at it from a totally open perspective from the information available from financial perspectives and player intent. For the next few days leading into the July 1 cutting of the ribbon for the free agent race, I will be breaking down individual players roles from THE CHEAP SEATS, continuing with a high energy All-Star that still has growing room….
The Basics: Power Forward, 27 years old, 6’9, 240 lbs
The Numbers: 20.2 PPG, 11.7 RPG, .5 BPG (2010); 13.0 PPG, 9.6 RPG, .4 BPG (Career); 1 time All-Star
Summary: One of the only players whose upside is clearly ahead of them in this free agent pool. Being in New York, he rarely plays with anyone of his talent level. Lee is one the best rebounders in the NBA which complements his aggressive scoring around the rim. He featured a game of 30 points and 20 rebounds in 09-10, and also landed 10 consecutive doubles once. For his entire interior prowess, Lee is not a banger on offense. His scoring arsenal is not based in post up moves, but more in face up drives to the basket. He exhausts opponents with his active rebounding approach, and can win out on talent over lesser skilled matchups, while using his motor to be more skilled opponents to the rim. He absolutely must be paired with another few players that can hold down the post defense responsibilities, as he is a sub par defender and almost non-existent shot blocker.
Best suited for….an established interior team. The team that acquires his services needs to have an established center that can play the interior, so Lee’s limitations inside are not detrimental to the payoffs he provides. Lee does everything you would want a scoring forward to do, but is a hybrid of sorts. His rebounding screams PF, but much of his offense is a small forward slashing style. He is most effective off the pick and roll where he can attack the rim. A point guard that can find him quick looks to the rim will bring out the best in his offensive arsenal as well.
Prime Candidates: Chicago Bulls, New Jersey Nets, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks
Chicago Bulls: Chicago is an interesting fit for Lee, as he would be able to find himself in another quick team that features several young talents that could free up Lee even more to get more scoring looks. If paired with fellow Florida alum Joakim Noah, he could form the highest energy interior in the NBA on the boards. Lee won’t command a max contract, so he is invaluable as a piece the Bulls could add after pulling in their desired two max contracts players as well. Lee could be the rare complement signing who has already reached All-Star status.
New Jersey Nets: He could cash in the most perhaps with a New Jersey team that is pushing for aggressive change and is going head up with their Manhattan based neighbors. Signing away the Knicks incumbent top dog would be big coup for the new look Nets. In Jersey he doesn’t have to be the inside threat due to Brook Lopez’s presence and could take his considerable pick and roll talents to the next level, paired with Devin Harris. Signings like Lee let New Jersey make the most of their free agent dollars to change their core as much as possible, while still bringing in a big haul on talent.
Phoenix Suns: Phoenix has their current shoot first, nothing later forward on the open market right now in Amar’e Stoudemire, so why not look into grabbing a similarly skilled forward with a little less offense, but much more hunger for the glass? Lee would work well with Phoenix’s up tempo approach, led by Steve Nash and would still be able play his same offensive game. It may take some maneuvering, but picking up Lee could save the Suns much money over bringing Stoudemire back for a similar player.
Minnesota Timberwolves: The Wolves are trying to add one free agent to the mix of past draft picks they have in mix that aren’t pushing them to the success they hoped for by now. Lee only works here if they move Kevin Love or Al Jefferson, both whom are the same types of players as Lee and both cannot share the floor with him. Adding him would show a change of course for Minnesota and gives a player who doesn’t have the bad health history of Love or Jefferson, but is not a radical departure. May not be the ultimate answer, but something’s better than nothing for the fledging Wolves.
New York Knicks: Staying home isn’t a bad option either, and may be the timeliest one. The Knicks are a comfortable situation that is willing to spend to better their roster. There are two scenarios that make this the ideal destination for Lee: 1) he resigns with a newly acquired star and is position to help lead a resurgent Knicks team or 2) he waits out the Knicks failing to land any of the better players on the market and scores a high desperate rebound payment from New York. Either way by staying he plays in system that lets him continue his current production, if not enabling him to better it.
He isn’t one of the biggest players in the market and won’t make the final difference in pushing a team to the next level himself, but Lee is an undisputable difference maker. With many players on the market you know what you’re going to get, but he presents a different scenario having never played with even one other comparable talent. He could be scraping the surface of what he can do with better company, and for that he is worth serious looks from teams trying to make a big splash who have their top guy locked up already.
Next: LeBron James