The New York Knicks are once again looking to move wingman Courtney Lee. What kind of package can they expect in return?
Looking to make a run for the playoffs back in 2016, the New York Knicks signed free agent guard Courtney Lee. While expectations were set at a potential sixth man, he’s easily become a top three player on the roster today.
Why? He’s a more than adept defender, with the three-point stroke to counter. Yet, in the last year, New York has failed on more than one occasion to trade the guard. So what is it that makes Lee so unmovable?
The answer is simple: His price tag.
According to Ian Begley of ESPN New York, multiple teams are interested in the shooting guard.
“Several teams have expressed interest in wings Courtney Lee and Lance Thomas, as has been the case dating back to the beginning of the season.”
If you’re asking me, New York’s reluctance to move Lee is actually a good sign. Knicks fans have long been tortured by the tumultuous nature of this basketball club’s front office, who have more often than not settled for leftovers on the NBA market.
Now, with Lee, New York sees an opportunity to bring back some real value, and they’re not going to blink at any low-ball offer. I decided to look around the league and try to put a price tag on Lee, who has found himself amidst a career year.
There are two pieces to every NBA trade: draft picks and players. So how valuable a pick or player can they get for him?
First Round Pick Between 18 and 25
Lee is averaging a career-high 13.7 points per game and is matching his career-high of 1.3 steals per game this year. All of this is done while shooting a .463 clip from the field and .431 from deep.
For a team looking to contend, those in the middle “gray space” of the draft, a pick just outside the lottery is a small price to pay for what he brings to the table.
Take a look at the Cleveland Cavaliers, who’ve found themselves in a very perplexing situation. Prior to the season, this team was thought of as a potential threat to win out in the Eastern Conference.
Now, due to some severe defensive and interpersonal woes, they’re looking at a first-round exit in the playoffs. At 27-19, the Cavaliers would draft with the 24th overall pick of the draft should it be held today.
The following players have all been drafted at 24th, or lowe,r in the first rounds of prior drafts: Kyle Kuzma (27th, 2017), Dejounte Murray (29th, 2016), Clint Capela (25th, 2015), and New York’s very own Tim Hardaway Jr. (23rd, 2014).
With Kristaps Porzingis as the number one option, and Hardaway as the second, New York doesn’t need a crazy return in this year’s draft. But they do need someone who compliments their current pecking order.
A Lee trade boosts their chances of getting just that.
Young Players Still Signed to Their Rookie Deal
If not a pick, the Knicks could target a young player who’s just found themselves in the wrong situation. Most importantly, a player still on their rookie deal.
The kind of players in question are only so valuable today because of the last five italicized words. That’s why a lot of teams are put together so well in today’s NBA. The guys they have leading the way are playing at a high clip on cheap contracts.
In their very own financial purgatory (I’m looking at you, Joakim Noah), the Knicks need another one of those guys more than anything. Ian Begley of ESPN New York reported that the Knicks would love to get a young wing ahead of the deadline.
“New York, according to opposing teams, is hoping to add a young wing who can contribute on both ends of the floor — something that all NBA teams crave.”
New York fans are going to hate me for saying this, but Stanley Johnson is an experiment I’d love to see take fold for the Knicks. He’s underachieved in Detroit, and the Pistons were rumored as potential suitors of Lee prior to the 2017 draft.
Johnson has two years left on his deal and is currently averaging 7.1 points and 1.2 steals in 35 appearances for Detroit. Though he’s battled injuries, his ceiling has yet to take shape, making him a worthy gamble.
Similar to Johnson, Miami’s Justise Winslow is an intriguing potential target. He’s failed to catch stride after injuring himself his sophomore year. Signed through the 2019-20 season, Winslow is averaging 6.2 points and 5.1 rebounds.
The Heat are having a great year, but they just don’t have the depth to make a true playoff run. Lee can help with that, especially in the absence of Dion Waiters, who underwent season-ending surgery.
It’s unlikely New York pulls down both a pick and young guy in exchange for Lee. But he’s a highly valued talent this time of year, and a trade now could benefit the Knicks even more later.
Sticking to their story and not settling will mean everything, so all eyes are on you, Scott Perry.