2016 FA Roundtable: Courtney Lee

PLUGH: This was a really strong signing. Lee has bounced around during his NBA career, but it seems to be one of those unfortunate situations where he has enough skill to be a starting role player on good teams, but not good enough to meet the loftier aspirations of the teams that thought they could be better. The “shooting guard” spot in the NBA is one of those sexy positions that teams think they can fill with a dynamic, star player. Teams want that creator, shooter, defender, alpha personality at that spot. It’s the way a team can carve out some sort of identity in the small ball world. The point guard has taken over that sex appeal in recent years, but there’s something still mythical about the two guard spot. Lee is called a “3 and D” player, which is mainly a fair label. It’s being oversold a bit in the contemporary NBA because the profile is in such demand. Those two skills, floor spacing and defense, are a premium for role players because the league is dominated by superstar, high usage characters. If you have one (or more) of those characters you’ll need to pay them, and you’ll need to surround them with guys who can shoot. If those same guys can’t play defense, you’re gonna lose. Makes sense.

Lee is adequate on defense. He’s athletic, active, and he can be a pest. Is he a great defender? That’s debatable, but he’s certainly an upgrade over Arron Afflalo and the 2015-16 crew. He’s a good basketball personality fit for a team that now has some primary contributors on offense. He could be in store for some really big nights for the Knicks, in the same way Afflalo was had he been able to put any arc on his three pointers. It was a great value signing that will undoubtedly make Phil look smart….kind of a Robin Lopez sneaky good signing.

FISHER-COHEN: The same timeline issues with Noah and Rose apply to Lee, who will be 31 this coming season. With the $105m cap pretty much already priced into this year’s contracts, Lee is making like $7.5m in 13/14 dollars. This is bench player money for a passable starter whose skillset makes him a nice fit with just about any lineup or system. I like this deal.

CRONIN: You shouldn’t, but if you’re going to commit to a decent team filled with veterans, then Courtney Lee is a very fine player. Honestly, besides Porzingis’ hoped improvement and whatever the new European guys bring, the spot where the Knicks really improved themselves from last year was adding Lee to replace Afflalo and Vujacic. That’s a huge improvement. But yeah, he obviously makes a lot more sense on a team with a more realistic chance to “win now,” but at least he is a good player without a significant injury history.

MA: He’s just OK, but he’s not oft-injured like the other shooting guard the Knicks were considering, Eric Gordon. So, good choice considering the options.

UDWARY: Courtney Lee is pretty much the definition of an average player, which is much improved from anyone the Knicks had in the backcourt last year. We’re not overpaying him for this year, or likely next year, but who know about year 3 and 4 when he is 33 and 34 years old. Early in this stint with the Knicks, Phil Jackson seemed to be walking the line between building for the future and building an immediate contender. It is obvious now that he is going all in on “win now” with these long term contracts for veterans, which makes us likely to continue the mediocrity we’ve seen under the past 4 GMs. At least we aren’t trading 1st round picks, though, so I guess we’re getting smarter in very small increments.

KURYLO: Finally the Knicks acquire a player without shooting efficiency questions (career ts% 54.6%) or injury concerns (77+ games played in 6 of 8 seasons). Lee is supposedly a strong defender, but I’m not seeing from a numerical aspect. According to 82games.com in 2015, the Grizzlies were 7.1 points worse on defense with Lee on the floor. He played 51 games the next year for them the next year, and Memphis was 5.6 points better. But in the second half of that year, the Hornets’ defense was 3.9 points worse. Of course shooting guards don’t affect team defense as much as big men, so perhaps that explains the poor numbers on/off the court.

I like that Phil Jackson is at least trying to pay attention to the defensive side of the ball. However I’m not sure if Lee fits the bill. I’d like this deal so much more if he were 2-4 years younger. I’m concerned that he’s on the wrong side of his career, although I don’t think he’ll still be in a Knicks uniform by the end of his 4 year contract.

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