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Just The Sports: The White NBA Player Everyone Loves

Just The Sports

Monday, February 26, 2007

The White NBA Player Everyone Loves

David Lee's success in the NBA was anything but written in the stars. Lee first came to my attention during the 2001 McDonald's High School All-American Dunk Contest where he bested fellow University of Florida recruit James White among others, beating someone in White who claimed he had never lost a dunk contest; White should not have lost that one, either (see below and decide for yourself). Lee went on to appear in every game the University of Florida played from the 2001-02 to 2004-05 seasons, 127 to be exact, but he never seemed to me to unlock the potential his athletic ability suggested.

That is why his recent rise to NBA stardom has come as a surprise. Lee had a good rookie season, which would have been better if Larry Brown did not have a hatred for any NBA player who has not played at least eight seasons at the professional level. Now, in his second season, Lee is among the league leaders in both rebounding and field goal percentage.

All of Lee's exploits left me wondering whether or not I was wrong about his days in Florida and if they had actually portended the NBA player he has become in his thus far 122-game career.

In many ways what Lee is doing for the New York Knicks does reflect what he did for the Florida Gators. He put together a 61.8% true shooting percentage on 1.24 points per shot attempt for Florida and for the Knicks his counterpart statistics are a 63.9% true shooting percentage on 1.28 points per shot attempt. If those numbers are not identical, then they are at least fraternal with the only difference in his scoring averages (7.9 ppg to 11.3 ppg) being that he does not attempt as many field goal attempts per game now (5.1 FGA) as he did then (7.4 FGA).

Where Lee has been able to improve dramatically on his collegiate days, on the cusp of being statistically significantly better, is in the field of rebounding. Perhaps with less of a scoring load being hoisted upon his shoulders, Lee has turned to rebounding in order to avoid becoming bored on the court; whatever the reason, Lee has become a much better rebounder. At Florida, he had a rebound rate of 15.6 and right now he stands tall with one of 18.9, which is a rate Lee seems like he will be able to maintain if not increase as long as he continues to take advantage of rebounding opportunities.

In all likelihood, the reason why Lee's NBA numbers are doing such a good mirror job of his NCAA ones is because he stayed in college for four years, amassing enough of a sample set that it could have been used at the time to predict how he would perform once he was paid legally to show up to play basketball.



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