Summer Forecast: Focus on Lee
August, 14, 2012
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com
Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty ImagesCourtney Lee went strong to the basket against the Celtics during his time with the Magic.When Ray Allen spurned the Celtics to sign with the rival Heat, Boston put a renewed focus on adding a frontline shooting guard this offseason. Even with Jason Terry in the fold, the uncertainty surrounding Avery Bradley's health (offseason shoulder surgery) left Boston committed to adding another starter-caliber player at that position.
It took a little bit of creativity but, after sign-and-trade options with the Dallas Mavericks that might have freed the midlevel exception were exhausted, the Celtics cobbled together a package of end-of-the-bench players JaJuan Johnson, E'Twaun Moore, Sasha Pavlovic and Sean Williams -- along with a heaping of second-round draft picks -- to facilitate a three-team, sign-and-trade deal that allowed them to ink Courtney Lee at a midlevel-like number.
The Celtics bring in a 26-year-old with plenty of potential, someone that gives the team the additional versatility they coveted. Lee is a nice complement to Bradley, providing additional size (6-foot-5) and a consistent outside shot (even if we saw bursts of that from Bradley), and Doc Rivers will have the flexibility to mix-and-match the pair as desired when both are healthy.
Our expectations for Lee? He'll get a chance to compete in camp for a starting gig, especially if Bradley simply isn't ready for the start of the season. After shooting better than 40 percent from beyond the arc in three of his four NBA seasons, Lee and Terry will help offset the perimeter shooting that departed with Allen. Lee's youth and athleticism will help as well, as a once-aged team has made great strides to get younger.
There are some minor red flags with Lee. He's on his fourth team in five years, but this new four-year, $21+ million deal offers some longer-term security and clearly the Celtics think his best years are in front of him. His rebounding numbers dipped last season (3.3 total per game; 5.2 rebounding percentage) and that number has to go up for an athletic wing with his size.
Bottom line: Reserve role or starter, he has qualities that can help this team. Lee is the sort of free agent the team had no business being able to hook after the Terry deal, but it found a way to bring him in and the Celtics are deeper and better because of it.
Read on for our panel predictions:
Greg Payne, ESPN Boston
Courtney Lee will be invaluable to the Celtics this season because he'll do whatever they need him to do. He's a great example of a player who might not do any one particular thing great, but instead does so many different things really well. His shooting and overall playmaking ability will make him the frontrunner to start while Avery Bradley's on the mend, and, assuming the C's click with him playing alongside Rajon Rondo, he could easily remain in the starting five once everyone's healthy. I sound like a broken record using the word versatility, but Lee's another great example of that, as he'll be a quality contributor in so many different areas, and, at 6-foot-5, he'll play multiple positions. He's the ultimate filler-like player to have, because he's more talented than most players who usually land such a role, and he'll help to mask most of the Celtics' deficiencies. It wouldn't shock me one bit if, halfway through the season, we're praising Lee as the unsung MVP of this team.
Brendan Jackson, CelticsHub
The best expectation for Courtney Lee is that he'll slide into the prototypical "3 and D" role off the bench. Last season, Lee shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc with nearly four attempts per game. Not exactly Ray Allen numbers, but luckily he won't be asked to be the offensive focal point that Allen was. On the defensive end, Lee's numbers don't exactly scream "lockdown," but at worst they are comparable to Allen's in terms of defending opposing shooting guards (based on opposing SGs PER). Lee also has the ability to provide something that the Celtics were sorely lacking with Allen: quickness and athleticism. Ultimately, I expect Lee to mostly contribute with those two aforementioned attributes while falling slightly short of being that pure, Bruce Bowen-type "3 and D" player.
Jordan Higgs, Celtics Town
First and foremost, I expect Lee to start on opening night. Whether he holds onto that position once Bradley returns (and there are arguments to be had both ways) is up in the air. Either way, Lee helps. The guard rotation would have been messy and a bit undersized without him. After Bradley recovers from surgery, Lee’s minutes will take a hit, but wherever he lands in the rotation I expect him to play about 20-25 minutes a night and give the Celtics a scoring boost with 10 points or so. (Lee has averaged about 27 minutes and 10 ppg for his career, but should be able to get better looks with a point guard like Rondo). Lee also completes a devastating defensive backcourt trio (along with Rondo and Bradley) that opponents will rapidly grow to loathe. I think Lee will see a lot of playing time in a high-octane small-ball bench lineup alongside Rondo, Bradley, Green and Wilcox. Coach Doc Rivers started tinkering with small lineups toward the end of last season -- now he has the personnel to fully utilize them, which should be quite exciting.
Jon Duke, CSL
A lot of Celtics fans have high hopes for Courtney Lee, and while I think he'll be a solid contributor, the idea that he'll be the starting shooting guard here after Avery Bradley returns from shoulder surgery is silly. Bradley's ability to be an All-NBA defender, devastating cutter, and 40-percent shooter from 3-point territory put him a cut above Lee once Bradley is healthy. However, the beauty of acquiring Lee is not only that it mitigates any risk should Bradley be unable to return as quickly as he'd like, but also that it provides some length to a backcourt the Oompa Loompas could post up. Lee isn't a beefy 6-foot-5, but he provides more flexibility and dependability for Doc Rivers. At no point since the arrival of Kevin Garnett have the Celtics had more than a single guard off the bench that Doc could call on and know precisely what he'd provide.
Sean Bakke, CLNS Radio
After moonlighting as a starter for the first few months of the season while Avery Bradley recovers from his shoulder surgeries, I fully expect that newest Celtic guard Courtney Lee will slide right into a prolific role off of Doc Rivers' bench. He will provide a much-needed scoring punch that the Celtics have sorely lacked for the past two or three seasons when the starters leave the floor. Let's not get overzealous here, it's not like Lee has been a 20 ppg scorer during his four-year career. That said, he has been deft at creating his own shot to the tune of over 10 points per game. I am a big fan of this move for more than just his offense, as he likes to dig in on the defensive end as well -- which should appease his defense-minded coach. That alone makes him a good fit in Boston, never mind that he can shoot the rock too. He will be an anchor on what looks to be one of the strongest benches in the Eastern Conference, perhaps the entire league. Between him and Terry, they will make Celtics fans forget all about Ray Allen.
Your turn: What are your expectations for Courtney Lee? Sound off in the comments.