Veteran shooting guard Courtney Lee was signed in the offseason to replace another veteran guard, Arron Afflalo. After posting a decent season in Charlotte a year ago, Courtney immediately slid in as the starter at the 2.
His season was essentially a reflection of the rest of his career, as he proved a pretty capable shooter who kinda, sorta does some other things. And lo, he actually improved in a couple of those important offensive categories from last year!
He's still a supremely average 31-year old player in the first year of a fairly pricey four-year deal.
Let’s take a look at his season:
Courtney Lee was given a rather large four-year, $48 million deal this offseason to replace Afflalo, who departed to the greener pastures of Sacramento.
If you look at the numbers, Courtney Lee actually outperformed his career averages. He scored close to 11 points per game—10.8 to be exact—a full point higher than his career average of 9.8. He grabbed 3.4 boards per game compared to his career average of 2.7, 2.3 assists compared to 1.7, knocked down 45% of his shots which is right at his career average, went 40% from deep compared to 38%, and had a player efficiency rating of 12.1 which is his exact career mark.
He never went off—his season high was 25 points in a late-February L in Cleveland. One thing you’ll notice in analyzing his game-by-game numbers is that he always played lots of minutes, but often scored very few points considering the amount of time he was on the court. He was never a primary scoring option for the Knicks, but he was mostly a starter, and his lack of consistent scoring production at times was worrisome.
I should mention that early on in the season, he was among the league leaders in 3-point shooting percentage, hovering around the 46% range before ending up at 40% when all was said and done.
Are these good numbers? Sure! For a starter making $11 million a year? Meh.
His numbers are similar to those of Seth Curry, who made 8 million fewer dollars than Courtney Lee did this season and was actually the superior performer in several key statistical categories. Now, Courtney may prove to have a better career than Seth Curry, but Lee is a player approaching the back end of his NBA shelf life. His 2016-17 season was an OK one on a bad team, which isn't an encouraging sign for him considering the amount of money the Knicks are scheduled to pay him over the next four seasons. Barring a trade or whatever, they’ll owe a 34-year old incarnation of Lee over 12 millions bucks. yikes.
Would it be lazy of me to call his best game the quadruple OT game against Atlanta on January 29th? Probably, but I’m going to do it anyways. Honestly, can you think of anything else he did (Instagram not included) that stood out? I sure can’t.
He scored 17 points that game (which wasn't even a season-high, despite playing 52 minutes), grabbed 9 boards and added two steals, two assists and a block to his line. The lasting memory from that game will always be this line drive 35-foot shot to send the game to a third overtime:
COURTNEY LEE HAIL MARY FULL OF GRACE THE LORD IS WIH THEE— Chefen Curry (@World_Wide_Wob) January 29, 2017
(Listen to the reaction ) pic.twitter.com/pgiRddMnWr
I’m sorry, his shooting form is objectively ugly but hey it’s pretty effective.
The Knicks lost that game, but Lee’s performance was memorable and I don't think anyone can say that of any of his other games. Honorable mention: his 9-point, 8-rebound, 7-assist game in Jan. 18 win over Boston. Lee had a few big assist games, but he tended not to score in those games. It’s like he can only handle one or the other on any given night.
Were his Instagram sub-posts his most memorable moment this season? Shoot, they might have been.
Future In New York
I don’t know, what do you think? I mean, he’s 31 and may have peaked in 2016-17. An expensive (therefore difficult to trade) and regressing 31-year old guard on a guard heavy team. That situation sounds sub-optimal, right?
I think this situation is salvageable, though. Hear me out. He’s a veteran that could transition to more of a bench role as the Knicks roster improves through the draft (hopefully). He’ll provide some experience, leadership and quality depth which will (hopefully) help bring those youngsters along.
I’m sure that on his end, you could do worse than being generously compensated to play a diminished role on a (fingers crossed) rebuilding team as your career winds down.
And who knows, maybe some contender will be desperate enough to trade for him. It’s doubtful, but he has played in 50 playoff games in his career, which is more playoff games than Knicks have played this century.
I guess we’ll have to wait and see, but it’s hard to see Courtney Lee as anything but another overpriced Knicks’ free agent signing. Death, taxes, etc.