He was a breath of fresh air. The Grizz were coming into a pivotal stretch of the season heading into the calendar year of 2014 and needed a boost in the backcourt. The Grizz made a trade that landed them the journeyman Courtney Lee in exchange for combo guard Jerryd Bayless who was logging minutes mostly at point guard. Lee, a 6’5″ traditional shooting guard was the first of such in a long time to wear a Grizz uniform, due to the fact that we were known for either having shorter shooting guards in the mold of an OJ Mayo or combo guards like Bayless, Selby, Wroten etc. Not to mention we have a Tony Allen, who is more so a shut down cornerback trapped inside of a shooting guard’s body.
Lee came in making an immediate impact. He shot the ball at a high level from the three-point line and flexed his muscle with his calling card, his mid-range pull up jumper which at times was automatic. Lee also began to show himself to be a high level on ball defender which caused Tony Allen to move to a reserve role upon returning to the team after a long bout with a hand/wrist injury. It was hard to argue against Lee who even though his defense was not nearly as good as Allen, had an offensive ability that clearly trumped Allen’s. All appeared to be good in Grizzly Land as the Grizz continued to improve with Lee in the starting lineup even after Allen returned. Soon after his initial production outburst, Lee went on a slump that lasted throughout the remainder of the season and into the playoffs. Lee fell off to say the least. His points per game plummeted and his three-point percentage was abysmal. After Tony Allen became openly displeased with not playing as much, he redeemed himself with a great individual performance in the playoffs defensively against Kevin Durant. At this point the eyes of concern began to focus on Lee. The questions started to arise. People started to think that Tony Allen should be a part of the starting lineup again this season. Was Lee’s slump just an anomaly or was his reputation of being an up and down inconsistent player true? Is the fact that Lee has never played on one team for 2 complete seasons going to prove it self to be true here as well? In this edition of Noise From The Sain Asylum, I will suggest that if the Grizz move anyone this off-season, that in my opinion, it will be Courtney Lee if no one else.
Lee Was Hands Down A Levien Holdover and Holds No Ties To Current Front Office
It was no secret that former Grizz CEO Jason Levien had very close personal connections to his former clients from his days of being an agent. Lee was brought in via trade and their were also rumors of the Grizz trading Allen and other pieces at the trade deadline for Luol Deng as well as rumor this off-season before Levien was terminated of trading Allen for Kevin Martin. Both of which who were former clients of Levien. Things like this can make you wonder if Levien was using his connections to bring in better players or using his position to take care of players that he had personal connections to. Nothing suggests analytically that John Hollinger was a big fan of Lee’s and as a matter of fact his numbers suggest that his inconsistency is well, …consistent. Even though Grizz CEO Chris Wallace once coveted Lee on draft day, I don’t see that being a reason that he will be retained. Pera is obviously a fan of Allen and Carter, and gave the final word on drafting Adams so Lee doesn’t seem to carry much weight in their eyes at face value.
With A Healthy Pondextor and Carter, Tony Allen Can Go Back To Starting At Shooting Guard
In the past, a major dilemma was always having a small forward who couldn’t score that made it even more difficult to start Tony Allen along side him. Now that we have Quincy Pondextor returning from injury and have added Vince Carter via free agency, both of whom can score, defend and probably most importantly start over Prince, it gives you the liberty to place Tony Allen back in his rightful starting spot and also serve as our primary on-ball defender. With players like Carter and Pondexter who can log minutes at both the shooting guard and small forward positions, taking a chance on trading Lee is not much of a gamble being that you still have quality players available that can back him up.
Grizz Are Obviously Big On Player Development And Moving Lee Can Clear Up The Log-Jam
With all of the Grizz moves this offseason in the coaching staff and front office all of them have pointed towards the Grizz wanting to grow and develop from the inside. Coach Joerger stressed the importance of building the next wave of players behind the current core 4 on this team and a player like Jordan Adams is clearly the guy that they see as the shooting guard of the future. Tony Allen is the “NOW” at that position and with Jordan Adams being the “NEXT” a player like Lee at this point can become expendable. Ed Stafanski talked about how he had to make room for Thad Young in Philly and how marginal vets sometimes get the short end of the stick and a player like Lee fits that description big time. Dealing Lee allows you to give Adams minutes at the shooting guard spot as soon as possible. Adams, a player that has similar offensive skills as Lee, but is probably a better ball handler and penetrator could very well give you the production that Lee provided plus the insurance policy in Carter and Pondextor that I described earlier.
Trading Lee Makes Sense Financially, Long and Short Term
The Grizz still owe $10 million for Lee over the next two season’s and being able to come off of that contract either for an expiring contract in a player like a Mike Dunleavy Jr. who can also come in and knock down three-pointers at a high level in a Mike Miller-esque role may be a good trade scenario. The Bulls who also haven’t had a true shooting guard recently to play alongside Derrick Rose, have coveted Lee in the past and may be welcome to a deal like this. Another possibility may be to trade him for a non or partially guaranteed contract for a player like Alonzo Gee, in Houston, who has a non-guaranteed contract that the Grizz can waive immediately. Making a deal like this can help on the court in the case of a Dunleavy and can help in luxury tax relief and possible free agent signing in Gee. Both of which can help free up that $5 million owed to Lee this summer in addition to the $8 million that comes off with Tayshaun Prince’s contract if we stand pat and don’t trade him.
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