With the season over and the draft still more than a month away, we're taking a look back and assessing the season that was. That's right - it's report card time! Seventh in the series - Courtney Lee
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Stat line: 7.8 ppg, 1.8 apg, 2.4 rpg, 1.1 spg, 24.9 mpg, 46.4 FG%, 37.2 3P%, 86.1 FT%
It was an up and down year for Lee, and ended on a decidedly “down” stretch, whereby he had played himself out of the rotation in the Celtics’ playoff series against the Knicks.
Lee appeared in all but three games for the Celtics, starting 39 of them and averaging nearly 25 minutes per. That was not exactly what Danny Ainge had in mind when he acquired Lee from the Rockets in the offseason.
The 27-year-old was brought in to play defense and hit three pointers off the bench – a sort of backup version of Avery Bradley. Lee arrived in Boston having shot better than 40 percent from behind the arc in three of his four seasons in the league, and he shot a respectable 37.2 percent in his first year as a Celtic but hit just 58 3-pointers total, a career-low.
Lee was pressed into starting duties 39 times thanks to Bradley missing the first two months, Rajon Rondo missing the final three months and Jason Terry being generally ineffective. The dual role seemed to have little effect on Lee however, as he averaged 29.2 minutes per game as a starter and 20.6 off the bench but on a per-minute basis his numbers were virtually identical.
For stretches, Lee and Bradley looked like an incredibly stout defensive backcourt, with Lee nicknaming the pair “the pitbulls,” but a closer look at the data suggests that, all told, the Celtics played better defense without Lee.
Via ESPN Boston: According to Synergy Sports data, Lee allowed 0.858 points per play, ranking in the 54th percentile among all league players. Inside the arc, Lee had solid numbers when he kept his man in front of him and forced to shoot over his size. But Lee struggled to defend the 3-point line (opponents shot 39.6 percent there against him) and was susceptible to dribble penetration. Despite running with the starters for much of the season, the Celtics had a defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) of 102.5 when Lee was on the floor (and it dropped to 98.3 when he was on the bench.
Needless to say, for a guy whose specialty was supposed to be defense those are particularly damning statistics. So damning, in fact, that Lee was knocked out of the rotation for much of the Celtics’ playoff series against the Knicks. Despite Raymond Felton torching anyone in green trying to guard him, Lee didn’t make a single start in the series and after scoring four points in 20 minutes in Game 1, played just 18 minutes the rest of the series.
Like Bradley, Lee’s offense probably suffered from not sharing the floor with a playmaking point guard and being asked to assume ball-handling duties he isn’t really equipped for. Still, he averaged career lows in field goals and free throw attempts per 36 minutes and has also vowed to work on reducing turnovers, which he also committed at a career-worst 1.6 per 36 minutes.
Now what? Lee is signed through 2016 and is scheduled to make about $5.5 million per year. From all accounts he was a good teammate and since the season ended, has said all of the right things about trying to improve for next year. He’s young enough to be a part of a rebuilding process around Rondo and isn’t enormously expensive so he may certainly be given another year to prove himself. On the other hand, his relative youth and decent contract make him an excellent trade chip as well.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments!