New York Knicks’ shooting guard Courtney Lee is looked upon as a potential trading chip, but dealing away the veteran would be a mistake.
Courtney Lee is the established veteran member of a rebuilding New York Knicks team which makes him a viable candidate to, in theory, be traded as the team looks to get younger. At the same time, trading away Lee doesn’t make sense for the Knicks based on his two-way play and the fact that management needs to begin putting a winning product on the floor.
It’s no secret that the future of the Knicks revolves around Kristaps Porzingis, Frank Ntilikina and Tim Hardaway Jr. The trio is capable of playing on both ends, possess intriguing skill sets and have produced. Simultaneously, success cannot be achieved without veteran leadership and production; enter the 32-year-old Lee.
This season, Lee has played well and endured arguably the best year of his ten-year career. Averaging a career-high in points (13.4), rebounds (3.5), assists (2.8) and steals (1.4) per game while shooting 45.8 percent from the field, 42.8 percent from beyond the arc and an NBA-best 95.5 percent from the charity stripe, Lee has answered the call in his second year with the Knicks.
Whether it be moving off the ball, hitting the outside jumper, finishing off fastbreaks, pickpocketing or playing lockdown perimeter defense, Lee has been a two-way presence. At the same time, Lee’s skill set and production make him an intriguing catch on the trade market.
Lee is the modern day “three and d” player–a skill set and the type of player that teams crave. In what has become a three-point driven, run-and-gun game, having sharpshooters and perimeter defenders is essential to the well-being of a contending team.
Currently, in the second year of a four-year, $48 million deal, Lee is an enticing acquisition based on his team-friendly contract and “three and d” play. The Knicks could easily get a first-round pick from a team and maybe even a young player, or, at the very least, some nice assets going forward in a trade for Lee.
What’s also important for the Knicks to take into consideration is this: when does the priority become winning instead of putting yourself in position to win the lottery?
Are the Knicks in position to challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics in the eastern conference or likely to be in such a state next season? No, but their young core makes for intrigue in the near-future. Plus, they’re .500 (18-18) and very much in the playoff picture for the time being.
With Porzingis, Hardaway and Ntilikina in the fold, the Knicks have the making of a promising young core. Would they be wise to gauge the market for Enes Kanter–who can opt-out of his contract this offseason–and/or their other impending free agents to potentially avoid running the risk of losing them for nothing in the offseason? Sure, but the line has to be drawn somewhere.
Lee is still playing out a very affordable deal and provides the Knicks with a two-way perimeter player. Getting young is a priority for rebuilding teams in sports, the NBA especially, but veteran leadership and production have to be in place too. Lee has been a big piece to the puzzle for the Knicks; he’s a glue guy, who is one of very few players in Jeff Hornacek’s rotation that consistently produces on both ends.
Trading him away to just get younger or adding assets for the sake of doing so would be a mistake.
The Knicks have been a lottery team–in terms of record–for the past four seasons and haven’t made the playoffs since 2013. At some point, the priority has to become acquiring talent and winning, as opposed to getting younger in an attempt to rebuild.
Holding onto Lee would be beneficial in the Knicks’ attempts to make it back to playing meaningful basketball in the Spring.