Two days removed from capping their NBA title run, the Golden State Warriors are already looking ahead to the trade market and free agency starting with power forward David Lee.
The Warriors benched the two-time All-Star in favor of Draymond Green early in the season after Lee was sidelined with a hamstring injury. The rest became history, with Green morphing into one of the best defenders in the league and serving as the Warriors energy and hustle guy on both ends of the floor.
Lee was relegated to the bench, a very unfamiliar role, and now the Warriors are reportedly working with the 32-year-old and his agent to find a suitable trade so he's not stuck behind Green again next season, according to ESPN. The Warriors have said they'll match whatever offer Green gets as a restricted free agent next month, thus Lee's future with Golden State would be on the bench again.
Lee’s team-first mentality and understanding how well the team played with Green on the floor, play a part in Golden State’s gesture, but the squad does stand to benefit for a chance at repeating next season.
Lee’s entering the final year of a six-year, $79.5 million contract he signed with Golden State in 2010, and he’s scheduled to come off the books in 2016 at $15.4 million. Thus, the former New York Knick’s hefty expiring deal can be shopped for younger assets and picks to teams looking to hoard space for one of the more anticipated free agent classes in recent memory. The biggest name being Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant.
It’s unclear what the Warriors would ask for Lee, who proved his mettle by coming off the bench in the finals as the Warriors switched to a quicker small ball lineup against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. He first notched 11 points, four rebounds and two assists over 13 minutes in Game 3, a loss, but followed up with nine points, five boards, and three assists in the Game 4 victory to even the series.
Still, Lee’s a valuable veteran capable of commanding the glass and low-post, with career averages of 14.7 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 2.3 assists, and he’d fit in nicely with any squad next season.
Another athletic big man who could be on the move is Brooklyn Nets' workhorse Mason Plumlee. He finished up an excellent sophomore season with 8.7 points and 6.2 rebounds while shooting 57.3 percent from the field, but the Nets are reportedly eager to move up in next week’s draft even if it costs them a valuable young big, according to the New York Daily News.
Brooklyn did make the playoffs last season as the No. 8 seed, but it was a disappointing finish despite the presence of former All-Stars Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. But with the league’s highest payroll and a low first-round pick in the upcoming draft, the Nets have little choice but to be active in the trade market.
The Nets would have the No. 15 pick this year if not for the trade to acquire Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks in 2012, which gave the Hawks the right to switch places in a future draft. Instead Brooklyn has the No. 29 selection, where talent could be found but usually not the kind that turns a team into a contender.
Moving Plumlee could get the Nets some young assets or picks back, and helps break the logjam between he and center Brook Lopez. The 7-footer could be an unrestricted free agent this summer, should he turn down his $16.7 million option, and Brooklyn could either find complementary players to build around Lopez or find a decent replacement should he bolt.
Both Williams and Johnson have been linked to trade speculation for quite some time, but they're owed a combined $90.3 million the next two seasons making moves very difficult. Williams has an early opt-out clause that he can activate in 2016, or take $22.3 million in the final year of the deal.