The Memphis Grizzlies are 8-2 since acquiring Courtney Lee from the Boston Celtics in a three-team trade. During this winning spree, the Grizzlies have beaten good teams including the Phoenix Suns, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Houston Rockets (twice) and the Portland Trailblazers. Lee's back-court partner, Mike Conley said “Courtney’s been a big addition for us. He adds some scoring, he adds some defense, athleticism. He has a high basketball IQ and he’s been able to pick up things fairly quickly. I think that’s what’s helped us these last couple of weeks." Conley continued to praise Lee's contributions "Courtney was a huge, huge piece. People overlook him. But it’s key that he’s able to stretch the court for us. With me, him, Mike Miller out there, it gives Zach and Marc more space. Having a lot of guys that could space the court, we didn’t have that going on before. And he can definitely lock up defensively.”
Individually and holistically, Courtney Lee has added value to the Grizzlies' recent success.
Although Lee's PER or player efficiency rating is only 16.88; it's an inaccurate measurement of Lee's success as a Memphis grizzly. Lee spent 30 games underused and undervalued as a Boston Celtic. In those 30 games with the Celtics, Lee played 16.83 minutes per game, scored 7.36 points per game, shot 49.2 percent from the field, shot 44.2 percent from the three point line and shot 81.8 percent from the free throw line. Despite All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo being injured, the Celtics employed Marshon Brooks, Jordan Crawford, and Avery Bradley at the shooting guard spot. Consequently, there were no meaningful minutes available in Boston's rotation.
On the opposite spectrum, the Memphis Grizzlies have trusted Lee, and that trust has led to winning benefits. In 10 games with Memphis, Lee is averaging 15 points per game, 1 steal per game, 2.5 rebounds per game, 1.4 assists per game. Additionally, he's shooting 55.6 percent from the field, shooting 41.9 percent from the three point line, shooting 96.4 percent from the free throw line, and playing 30.6 minutes. In those 30 minutes per game, Lee averages 1.6 personal fouls. By limiting the number of personal fouls against opposing players, Lee is forcing the game's best scorers to work for every bucket they score. Defensively, Lee is ranked 13th overall in points per play. Opposing players are shooting 31.2 percent from the field and 14.3 percent from the three point line against Lee's defense.
Moreover, Lee is a very efficient player. In the article "5 Reasons Why Mike Conley is the Second Best Point Guard in the NBA," Lee's shooting efficiency was highlighted. His 6'5" athletic frame allows him to maneuver past slow-footed defenders to create spacing for his quick shooting release. In addition, Lee scores baskets from catch and shoot opportunities, offensive put backs, and crafty drives through the lane. He's an opportunist on this Grizzlies' roster; he refuses to force the issue. He's simply allowing the game to come to him.
As a deadly pull up shooter, Lee leads the league in pull up jumpers. He's scored 113 points on pull up shots with 54 percent accuracy. His effective field goal percentage, a field goal percent that is adjusted for made three point shots being 1.5 times more valuable than a two point shot, is 56.5 percent. Lee's accuracy is better than Kevin Durant's, Stephen Curry's and Chris Paul's. Adding to his efficiency argument, Synergy Sports ranks Lee third in the NBA in offensive points per play. Also, Lee is ranked third in points per play earned by spot up shots.
According to NBA.com, the lineup of Lee, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Tayshaun Prince, and Zach Randolph is one of the best in the league. As a unit, these five Grizzlies have a 85.7 winning percentage. Additionally, this unit is ranked in the top 10 in field goals made per game, ranked sixth in free throw attempts per game, ranked fourth in free throws made per game, ranked fifth in rebounds per game, ranked eight in points per game and ranked fourth in point differential.
As emphasized in the article "5 Things the Memphis Grizzlies Could Learn from the San Antonio Spurs,"the Grizzlies were losing unnecessarily due to poor clutch performances. As of January 7, 2014 when the aforementioned article was published, the Grizzlies ranked 20th in high pressure situations. High pressure situations were defined as within one point in the game's final two minutes. Courtney Lee made his Grizzlies' debut on that date, scoring 12 points including 6 points in the fourth quarter. Accordingly, the Grizzlies' rank sixth in those high pressure situations. The return of Marc Gasol, the surprising play of James Johnson and the brilliant play of Courtney Lee collectively contribute to the Grizzlies' improvement during clutch time.
Considered a journeyman, Memphis is Lee's fifth team since he was drafted 22nd in the 2008 NBA Draft. With his shooting accuracy, defensive prowess and team-oriented play that Lee has displayed in 10 games with the Memphis Grizzlies, his days of being traded almost every season are over. Courtney Lee has indeed found a home in Memphis.
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