After being mentioned in trade talks towards the draft, shooting guard Courtney Lee has become the odd man out. With newly signed Tim Hardaway Jr set to start at the two, where does that leave Lee?
The New York Knicks are headed into next season focused on the development of young talent, rookie Frank Ntilikina especially. To help move things along, they signed guard Tim Hardaway Jr.
Going forward, Hardaway is expected to serve as the starting shooting guard, previously filled by Courtney Lee. After starting 74 games last season, what role can he expect to play?
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Lee and the Knicks agreed to a four-year deal worth $48-million last summer. He had his best season in years, and posted 10.8 points, along with a career-high 1.4 three-pointers made per game.
Lee has received interest from several teams in recent months, going all the way back to the deadline. First, it was the Los Angeles Clippers, then the Detroit Pistons. A “three and d” player, the shooting guard would make his biggest splash on a contender.
So what does he do for the Knicks?
Last season, Lee served as a reliable place of offense, in light of Porzingis injury, and Carmelo’s inefficiency. He had several big displays, including a season-high 25 points in a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
He’s still a confident three-point shooter, and averaged 40 percent from deep for the sixth season of his nine year career. Lee made some impressive shots in crunch time, including this one to send a game versus the Atlanta Hawks into triple overtime.
Above his offensive scheme, Lee was the most consistent two-way player. Always met with the challenge of guarding the team’s best perimeter player, he excelled in locking down as a defender.
How does that translate into next year?
As it stands, Lee’s chances of starting are slim, barring any injury on Hardaway’s behalf.
So, that leaves New York with two options regarding their shooting guard.
One, the Knicks could trade Lee in exchange for a young talent, or future asset.
Prior to the draft, this idea made sense. He’s a player that could likely earn a back half lottery pick in return from the right team. Now, it’s hard to imagine what New York would receive, without packaging him next to Carmelo Anthony.
Contrary to popular belief, the Knicks’ roster is more balanced than not. Their current needs are unclear, and it will take seeing them take the open floor to find the gap.
Two, and most likely, he will serve as their sixth man and primary point of offense in the second unit.
This seems more likely, as his scoring could certainly give the Knicks lowly bench a boost in life. New York’s bench was ranked 25th in scoring last year, averaging only 31.9 points per game.
Lee’s three-point shooting will complement bench needs too, as the second unit ranked 21st in percentage from deep at 33 percent per game last year. A 39 percent career shooter, having more responsibilty on the bench will only sharpen his shot.
It’s also worth noting that New York signed Michael Beasley, an offense focused forward. Playing Lee next to Beasley is guaranteeing 20+ points a night from their bench, provided Lee adapts to his new role.
Furthermore, rookie point guard Ntilikina is expected to play backup point guard, and having an smooth scorer like Lee will only develop his court vision. For his first year in the league, it’s hard to ask for a better weapon in the second unit.
All signs point towards Courtney Lee serving as the New York Knicks’ sixth man next season. His scoring and defensive mindset will keep the second unit moving, and provide an extra target for rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina.