The Warriors have their eyes on one of the big-name free agents out there: New York Knicks all-star power forward David Lee.
Multiple sources confirmed the Warriors are looking into acquiring Lee, who averaged 20.2 points and 11.7 rebounds last season. Getting Lee may require the Warriors to give up guard Monta Ellis.
The Knicks — who reportedly have offered power forward Amare Stoudemire a five-year, $99.7 million deal — are currently focused on LeBron James. But if Stoudemire becomes a Knick, that would effectively end Lee's tenure with the Knicks. If James signs elsewhere, the Knicks will be looking for sidekicks to play with Stoudemire.
That's where the Warriors come in.
But quite a few obstacles stand in the way of the Golden State acquiring Lee. Perhaps the biggest is getting Lee to agree to a contract. Lee is considered one of the best big men available, along with Chris Bosh, Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer. So he'll have options, some — like New Jersey — arguably more desirable than the Warriors.
Since the Warriors don't have any money available under the salary cap, they can acquire Lee only via a trade. Lee, an unrestricted free agent, would have to agree on terms with the Warriors, sign for those terms with New York, then be traded to the Warriors.
That brings up the next obstacle: Whom do the Warriors send to New York?
Lee figures to command around $12 million per year, if not more. That likely means the Warriors would have to send guard Monta Ellis or center Andris Biedrins, maybe more. Is that too much for Lee, who is a rebounding machine but not the back-to-the-basket scorer the Warriors need? Not to mention the Warriors have three power forwards, though Lee is considerably more accomplished than any of them: Brandan Wright, Anthony Randolph and Ekpe Udoh.
Certainly, Golden State can acquire Lee and use its excess at power forward to address other needs. But even if the Warriors get Lee to agree to terms, and get the Knicks to agree to a trade, the Warriors still have the pending sale of the franchise complicating matters.
General manager Larry Riley, who declined to comment on Lee speculation, has said owner Chris Cohan has not told him to cut salary or avoid major moves. But it would seem a transaction as big as trading fan-favorite Ellis, or taking on a fat long-term contract, would need to be approved by the new ownership.
Cohan and Galatioto Sports Partners, which was hired to execute the sale of the franchise, are currently waiting on binding bids from prospective owners. The Warriors are weeks away from an official sale agreement. It is possible the new owner could be identified as early as this week, if one of the groups submits an offer that stands out from the other bidders. At that point, it is feasible the owner with the winning bid could be consulted on the matter.
The New York Post reported Sunday that Golden State could be involved in a three-way trade with New York and Minnesota. The Warriors would get Timberwolves center Al Jefferson, the Post reported, the Knicks would get Ellis and Minnesota would get Lee.
But multiple sources said Golden State has no interest in Jefferson. One of the better low-post scorers in the league, Jefferson averaged 17.1 points and 9.3 rebounds last season. But he is better suited for half-court play, and he has a history of knee problems.