It’s been 16 years since Latrell Sprewell represented the Warriors in the NBA All-Star game, the last member in franchise history to do so. Certainly, the Western Conference has been stacked with talent in recent years, and while the team has produced some viable and deserving candidates, it hasn’t been enough to surpass the more bonafide and established stars in today’s game to earn an All-Star selection. But then again, the Warriors weren’t 15-7 in those seasons. They didn’t have the best record of any NBA team against opponents with a .500+ winning percentage. They hadn’t just won five-straight games to begin a road trip for the first time in 34 years, capped off with a thrilling last-second victory over the defending NBA champions. And they weren’t off to their best start since 1991-92, a year in which they sent two players to the annual All-Star showcase.
Could this be the year the drought ends? Could a Warriors player take the court in the All-Star Game in Houston come February 17th? Time will tell, but fans can do their part and #DubTheVote. In the meantime though, let’s take a closer look at which Warriors player(s) deserve a spot on the Western Conference roster.
We’ll start with the case for David Lee:
Perhaps it’s fitting that we begin with the only current member of the Warriors to participate in a previous NBA All-Star Game. Prior to being traded to the Warriors, David Lee made the 2010 Eastern Conference All-Star team as a member of the New York Knicks, a season in which he averaged 20.2 points and 11.7 rebounds. Coincidentally enough, the closest Lee has ever come to matching those stats was….you guessed it…this season. Through 22 games, his 19.0 points and 11.3 rebounds per game has placed Lee in some very elite company. When you add in his 3.5 assists per game, the list gets even shorter…in fact, there is no list at all. David Lee is the only player in the NBA averaging at least 19 points, 11 rebounds and three assists, something only Wilt Chamberlain (four times), Nate Thurmond (four times), Neil Johnston (once) and Jerry Lucas (once) have done in franchise history. All of them made the All-Star team in each of the seasons they averaged those stats, with the exception of Thurmond, who did not make the 1969 or 1971 teams, but did in ’68 and ‘70. Other Lee highlights include:
- Lee ranks fifth in the NBA in rebounding and has posted five-or-more assists in six games, which leads all power forwards.
- Lee ranks third in the NBA with 14 double-doubles, just behind Zach Randolph (16) and Anderson Varejao (15).
- Lee has a career-high five consecutive games with 20-points and 10-rebounds, tying LeBron James for the longest streak of 20-point/10-rebound games in the NBA this season.
- Lee also currently has six consecutive 20-point, 10-rebound road games, becoming the first player with a streak of six or-more road games since Dwight Howard did so from 3/13-3/28/11. He’s also the first Warrior to achieve this since Nate Thurmond had a six-game streak from 2/18/1972 to 3/17/1972.
- Lee is also one of only four players (Howard, Varejao and Tim Duncan) with consecutive 20-point/15-rebound performances this season (12/7 and 12/8).
But as Warriors fans are well aware of, stats alone don’t get you into the All-Star game. For the same reason you’ll never see a league MVP from a losing team, All-Stars are All-Stars because they are the best players on the best teams. And Lee has proven so far this season that he belongs in that group. Not known for his defensive prowess, Lee has improved his defensive positioning and rotations, resulting in a team-high +71 on-court point differential, and an NBA-high +51 in clutch plus/minus , which calculates a player’s on-court point differential in the final five minutes of a game. More importantly, perhaps, is that Lee isn’t just producing big numbers in huge blowouts – he’s doing it night-in and night-out, and the team is winning as a result. For instance, the Warriors are 12-3 in games in which Lee grabs double-digit rebounds, 12-5 when he scores 17 or more points, 11-3 when he shoots 50 percent or better, and when he reaches his averages of 19 points and 11 rebounds in the same game, the team is 7-0. Read that again. That’s right, when David Lee produces his average performance, the Warriors are undefeated. If that’s not an example of one of the best players on one of the best teams in the league performing at an All-Star caliber level, I’m not sure what is.
Next up: The case for Stephen Curry