New York Knicks’ Courtney Lee is off to a torrid start. Here’s a closer look at his remarkable efficiency on the offensive end.A 32-year-old role player doesn’t fit on a young rebuilding (tanking) team. That’s what we heard about Courtney Lee before the season. He’s responded to your trade suggestions with a remarkably efficient season on offense; making him irreplaceable.
For some reason, Lee was reluctant to shoot last season. That hasn’t been a problem in 2017-18. The veteran swingman is averaging 10 field goal attempts per game. It may not seem like much, but that’s a full shot attempt per game up from last season.
Lee hasn’t averaged double-digit FGA per game since the 2011-12 season — his fourth in the league. He’s averaging 12.8 points per game — a career-high. That number makes him fourth on the Knicks in scoring.
Lee’s shooting is on another level this season. He has a true shooting percentage (FG%, 3P%, FT% combined) of 60.7 percent. That puts him in the top-20 for all non-big men who average more than four shots per game (via NBA.com). He’s ahead of noted sharpshooters like Lou Williams and J.J. Reddick.
That elite number isn’t surprising considering Lee’s incredible slash line. He’s posting averages of .490/.451/.927. That’s helped along by how great Lee’s been off the catch. 71 of Lee’s 90 threes have been catch-and-shoot attempts. He’s shooting 46.5 percent on those tries (via NBA.com).
When Lee’s open he’s automatic. The veteran is making his “wide open” threes at a 49.2 percent clip through 26 games this season. He’s made 29 of his 59 attempts from the outside while being wide open. But it’s not just the jumper that has Lee contributing on offense.
He’s been attacking the rim and scoring at a not-so-surprisingly efficient rate. Lee’s third in the league in points percentage among players who average at least four or more drives per game (via NBA.com).
Lee is feasting in the paint in general. Especially for a spot-up shooter. He’s made 46 of his 66 attempts (69.7 percent) in the restricted area and 38 of 60 (63.3 percent) of his layups.
One of the most impressive parts of Lee’s season is how little he needs the ball in his hands to be successful. It’s the exact mark of a knockdown shooter. He has a usage percentage of just 16.3 percent. That makes him 11th on the entire roster.
According to NBA.com, he’s sixth on the team in touches per game. He’s fifth in a time of possession and sixth in seconds per touch, but third in points per touch behind the team’s leading scorers Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr.
Lee’s tied for second on the Knicks in win shares with Porzingis behind only Enes Kanter. Kanter is the only Knick playing at a more efficient rate than Lee. Lee leads the team in VORP, and he’s third in box plus-minus. Going by the metrics, Lee’s having a top year despite playing out of position.
His move to the small forward position — despite spending little time there beforehand — was undersold in its unselfishness. Lee was a starter at shooting guard in 74 of New York’s games last season.
Lee’s been a shooting guard his entire career, so Hardaway coming into the fold at such a high price fueled those pesky Lee trade rumors. Fortunately for Lee and all his supporters he’s adapted to the small forward role nicely. A big part of that is due to his strength on the defensive end.
But Lee finds himself in a situation that is unique to the NBA and sports in general really. The better he plays, the more likely it could be that he’s going to be playing somewhere else by the trade deadline. Regardless of their current record, the Knicks need to look toward the future and decide whether or not Lee is a part of it.
The Knicks currently sit at the eight seed in the Eastern Conference. New general manager Scott Perry has vehemently spoken out against tanking (what’s he supposed to say), but if things go south, the trade talks surrounding Lee will undoubtedly start again.