OAKLAND -- If David Lee duplicated last season, he'd be doing pretty well. After all, he was an All-Star power forward who averaged 18.5 points, ranked fifth in rebounding and led the league in double-doubles. But Lee wants to be even better.
"I don't think anybody has said I want to come back and be the same," Lee said Thursday after Golden State's practice at Oracle Arena. "I think I had a pretty good year last year. But there are some things I can improve on, and I plan on doing that."
Lee needs to be better. Primarily because Golden State's plans for one-upping last season largely hinge on his taking his game to a new level.
Point guard Stephen Curry has a target on his back. The team's other stars -- Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes -- aren't best as lead horses. Iguodala can do it for stretches and Barnes might be on that route, but Golden State needs Lee to be dominant and take the pressure off others.
But there is another reason Lee needs to be even better: The Warriors have options.
Golden State has six capable starters and even more possibilities for finishing games.
A few of Golden State's young players, namely Barnes and Draymond Green, made a strong case for closing games in the playoffs because of their defense and versatility. Igudoala brings both at an even higher level. And if Bogut is as good as the Warriors are saying he is, his presence figures to be vital down the stretch.
Lee can make it a no-brainer with his play. No doubt he noticed the team's success without him in the playoffs.
Coach Mark Jackson already sees Curry and Lee as his best players, and if Lee is playing both ends of the court well, Jackson will almost assuredly have him out there. But Jackson no longer has to keep Lee on the floor just because there are no other options.
"One thing I have noticed is the versatility of our guys," Lee said. "We can go very big inside with having all our bigs healthy. We have so much flexibility around the perimeter now. Like Coach has been saying, it's a good problem to have. Quite a few guys are going to want to get those minutes."
To his credit, Lee came to camp prepared to take it up a notch. The biggest need for improvement is defense, though he said a more reliable midrange jumper was also a priority.
Being in the best condition of his life, Lee said, will help on that end of the court and make him even more potent on offense. He should be more explosive, exploit the transition game more and have the energy he needs on the defensive end.
"As a former player I will say this," Jackson said, "You can become very smart at when to cut corners or when to take a breather when you're running out of gas. Those moments won't happen as often with him because he's in better condition."
Perhaps the biggest hope is that the slimmed down Lee and the Warriors' added depth will allow him to be fresher toward the end of the season.
Jackson said trimming Lee's and Curry's minutes would be a priority this season. With the addition of power forward/center Marreese Speights and the development of Green, the Warriors no longer need 40 minutes from Lee.
But what they will need is for Lee to be a great player on a great team, a team with expectations. That's something he hasn't done before. Jackson said he thinks his star can reach that next level.
"He had a great season," Jackson said, referring to Lee's 2012-13 campaign. "It was a special year for him. But there are things that he knows and we know he can do better. And that's nitpicking, because he had an outstanding year. But our job is to push him even further, and his job is to not settle. I expect him to have a great year."
Warriors vs. Los Angeles Lakers, 7 p.m. in Ontario