While the New York Knicks have their sights set on trading Carmelo Anthony, they should also weigh the possibility of dealing shooting guard Courtney Lee.
Despite the NBA offseason still being roughly six weeks away, the New York Knicks appear to have their priorities straight — their biggest one being trading Carmelo Anthony. After yet another losing season and a drama infested one, team president Phil Jackson and the Knicks appear destined to shop Anthony this offseason. However, one player who they should also look to shop is shooting guard Courtney Lee.
Last offseason, the Knicks inked Lee to a four-year, $50 million dollar deal to come play in the big apple. In his first year with them, he played well. Averaging 10.8 points, while shooting 40.8% from beyond the arc, Lee was a valuable weapon out on the perimeter. Lee though also made his mark on the defensive end. While his 1.1 steals per game, won’t wow anybody, Lee played tight perimeter and on-ball defense.
Doing so helped cement the notion of him being the modern day “three and d” guard. However, despite his proven skill set, the 31-year-old could very well become a valuable trade asset, instead of a building block.
While his veteran presence has its value, Lee isn’t the greatest fit on the Knicks going forward; it’s not because of his play though. The biggest reason for Lee not being a great fit on the Knicks going forward is due to the plethora of players they have and may have at his position in the near future.
With the Knicks having intentions of resigning both Justin Holiday and Ron Baker, they may very well have a logjam out on the perimeter. Also, being that they’re rumored to have interest in acquiring shooting guard J.J. Redick in a Carmelo Anthony trade, one must wonder what Lee’s role will be with the Knicks in the 2017-18 season?
If acquired, Redick would start at the off-guard, but who plays small forward would become a mystery. While they do possess defensive assassin, Lance Thomas, as well as forward Mindaugas Kuzminsaks, it’s unknown as to how comfortable the Knicks would feel plugging either one into a full-time starting role. Could that distrust potentially lead head coach Jeff Hornacek to move Lee to the three?
While he’s more adept to playing shooting guard, Lee could very easily move to small forward. Given his “three and d” skill set, Lee could be a nice piece out on the perimeter next to Redick, helping aid his mediocre impact on the defensive end of the floor. Lee and Redick would also provide the Knicks with some quickness, something they may need given the presence of their towering big man duo consisted of Kristaps Porzingis and Willy Hernangomez. The issue with Redick and Lee being paired together on the outside, though, is that they’re both players in their 30’s on a team who’s looking to get younger.
While both Redick and Lee are proven perimeter threats, such a pairing of the two makes more sense on a contending team, as opposed to a rebuilding one. Their pairing on the reeling Knicks would also present a perimeter logjam. If Holiday, Baker, Thomas, Kuzminskas and potentially Wesley Johnson (who would be included in the rumored Redick-Anthony swap) are all present, the Knicks would have too many guys to play a limited amount of minutes. With that in mind, shopping Lee makes sense.
When it comes to potential partners for a Lee trade, two teams come to mind – the Memphis Grizzlies and Detroit Pistons. In a trade involving Lee, the Knicks could look to acquire a first rounder from the Grizzlies, to reunite Lee with Marc Gasol and company. In a reunion with Memphis, Lee would help add some much-needed perimeter shooting. On the other hand, the Pistons could make some more sense for a Lee deal, if Kentavious Caldwell-Pope walks in free agency; Lee could slide right in and fill a void in their backcourt next to Reggie Jackson.
At the end of the day, Lee is a valuable trade asset for the Knicks, given his current skill set and team friendly contract. With the NBA salary cap going up for a fourth straight season, Lee’s $50 million dollar contract is a bargain. With that in mind, the Knicks should be able to get a first rounder for him in a potential trade. Given their potential perimeter logjam, and his age, the Knicks would be wise, to at the very least, look into shopping Lee this summer.