With the Charlotte Hornets acquisition of Courtney Lee we've done our best to give a fair analysis of his game, but sometimes the best way to understand a player is talk to those that watched him the most. To help break down sending P.J. Hairston to the Memphis Grizzlies for Lee, I've brought in Joe Mullinax of Grizzly Bear Blues to help us understand the details. What were the Grizzlies trying to gain from this? How can Lee help the Hornets, and some hot takes about Charlotte BBQ.
BARNEWALL- Hey Joe, so we both know why we're here. The Hornets just sent P.J. Hairston over to the Grizzlies for Courtney Lee. There were some second round picks involved as well, but those seemed to just be thrown ins to allow Memphis to maneuver themselves in future trades. Initially, the trade seemed so incredibly one sided in Charlotte's favor. They got the best player in the deal in Lee, they gave up nothing they were attached to, and Lee is a perfect fit on their team. So I have to ask, what's the gain here for Memphis? Is it the picks? Or were they just well aware they couldn't afford re-sign Lee and Mike Conley in the summer so they decided to collect something for him while they still could?
MULLINAX- Chris, for Memphis this is with an eye to the future. The Grizzlies do not have complete control of their first round pick for the next few years, and it is very possible that they do not have first round picks in 2017 as well as 2018 or 2019. They more than likely did not have Courtney lee in their future plans, with both Tony AllenandJordan Adams under contract next season. It isn't that they couldn't afford Lee- they know what they are getting in him. It is about the opportunity cost lost to pay Lee what he will command (probably $10 million or so) instead of perhaps your Nicolas Batum or even Kevin Durant (yes, laugh, but reportedly Memphis plans on pitching him) in free agency.
The Marc Gasol injury doesn't help matters, either. This team will still likely make the playoffs, with a five game lead in front of the nine seed with 29 to go, but they are also likely destined for a first-round exit regardless. Even if they do miss the playoffs, a lost first-round pick in this draft (which would happen if they fall out, the pick will go to Denver) is not the end of the world. It would preserve their 2017 first rounder, in a draft that is supposed to be much better.
So, Lee is indeed the best player. But the Grizzlies get a young player in Hairston to evaluate, a big man in Birdman from Miami to fill the void left by Ryan Hollins (what a sad sentence) and some future second rounders to use in another deal or down the road to fill out a roster cheaply. John Hollinger is believed to have a large hand in the draft process in Memphis; there's no one better (in theory) to find gems late in the draft than THE MACHINE. It's a win for Charlotte, but in a round-about way it's also a win for Memphis in my opinion. They got assets for a guy who wouldn't have been on the team in four months.
I am curious as to what Charlotte thinks they are getting in Lee? He is a good role player, no doubt, and he will fit nicely with that roster. However, he is streaky, unwilling to shoot as much as he should, and while he has a flare for the dramatic he also has a tendency to disappear for stretches. Alongside Batum and Kemba Walker this may not matter as much, but it hurt the Grizzlies at times.
BARNEWALL- That analysis of Lee is exactly what I wrote in my post about how he fits with the team. He's a great shooter from 3-point range, his defense is solid, and he's one of the most consistent players in the NBA, but he so rarely tries to takeover a game. He doesn't assert himself very often which might cause problems on a Hornets team that wants their perimeter players to fire away from deep at will.
Now, this could end up being very good for Charlotte, because they already have three players that need the ball in their hands and Marvin Williams has been a big part of the offense this season. Having a fifth option out there that just plays solid defense and shoots well from deep isn't a bad thing even if there will be times he frustrates fans by passing up on decent looks. One thing that I did always like about P.J. Hairston was his lack of fear when it came to shooting. If he got an open look then the shot was always gonna fly. The issue was more about him actually making the shot.
Let's move on to Hairston for a bit. The Hornets never seemed to make him fit no matter what they did with him. There are obviously complaints about his off court character, but honestly if he was a better shooter then he might still be in Charlotte right now. The guy tries really hard on defense even if he's not great at it, but his biggest problem will always be that he's a shooter that isn't good at shooting. Over his two seasons in the NBA he's shot 31 percent from 3-point range, and while Lee might disappear for moments Hairston will disappear for stretches of games.
My biggest issue with Hairston was that his offensive game never really changed. He always played the same way no matter what and never made real adjustments despite how ineffective he was. Whenever played well it was always just because he was making shots. Not because he was doing anything different.
With all that said, I think Memphis taking a flyer on him can be a good thing for them. Perhaps that locker room culture is exactly what he needs to get his head in the right place and start working harder to be a better player. Worst case, the Grizzlies let him walk at the end of the season. What are your thoughts on him?
MULLINAX-If consistency is what you're looking for, Lee isn't going to be that guy. He will get hot as a shooter, and then he will cool off. He will go through a stretch of time where the takes shots and defends his tail off, and then there will be times where he gets cooked defensively and passes to Tony Allen instead of shooting the ball himself. The mean of that is a good role player in the NBA, but there will be times where he is quite frustrating.
Hairston is interesting because of the fact Charlotte did not accept his team option, therefore making him a free agent this Summer. The Grizzlies are cool with guys who shoot despite recent percentages saying they shouldn't (see Carter,Vince and Barnes, Matt) so that is not an issue. Our own Chip Williams also broke down Hairston's game a bit and liked his size/ability to drive the lane and defend multiple positions on the wing. He's a young player who if Memphis likes him can re-sign him for cheap this Summer, which they could not have done with Lee, so it is a win in that respect.
His issues also aren't as much of a concern in Memphis, the land of intense personalities and redemption projects. Hairston fits both of those bills quite nicely.
BARNEWALL- I more so mean consistent from a production standpoint. When I looked at his numbers and based that off personal experience watching him I definitely saw the lack of aggression in his game, but he was still putting up solid numbers everywhere he played. You can always expect him to at least contribute some way positively right?
I'm not surprised that his personality isn't of any concern to Memphis. Although at some point I become concerned that they're going to be like that episode of The Simpsons where the children take over summer camp and Z-Bo will be Bart sitting as king of the camp demanding to see Krusty.
How do you think the Grizzlies will use Hairston? In Charlotte he mainly played out on the perimeter for catch and shoots. He would occasionally drive, but that got him out of position on defense so he didn't do it often. Like I said earlier, the guy tries really hard on the defensive end which is going to fit in great I feel in that grit and grind style that Memphis plays.
MULLINAX-He is a positive player all around, yes. He's great in the locker room, great in the community. I don't mean to make it sound like he isn't, just saying there will be moments of frustration...but compared to Hairston? It's no contest, Lee is a big upgrade for Charlotte.
The Grizzlies' schemes feature some catch and shoot opportunities, especially off of Conley/Chalmers pick-and-rolls (which he usually dos with Gasol, insert sad emoji here). He will, however, be asked to slash and dive at the rim a good bit as well. I imagine Dave Joerger will ask him to defend multiple spots off of the bench for Memphis, playing alongside Matt Barnes and Mario Chalmers (which should be good for him, being alongside two solid veteran players.) As long as he plays his tail off, plays hard, and defends well, the fan base will accept him. It is lackadaisical effort/attitude that draws the ire of Memphis (see Green, Jeff, Gay, Rudy, Davis, Ed)
I also think who he plays alongside will dictate how he is used. If he gets run in small-ball looks (Conley/Chalmers/Hairston/Jeff Green/Brandan Wright) he will get a chance to show some athleticism. I hope we get some of that starting Friday night against Minnesota.
BARNEWALL- You most certainly will. Well I think that about covers it. How about we finish this with a bang. HOT BBQ TAKES GO! I'm going to anger all of At The Hive with this one but MEMPHIS BBQ IS BETTER THAN CHARLOTTE BBQ
MULLINAX- The truth shall set you free, Chris. Carolina BBQ is the Cleveland Cavaliers, but Memphis BBQ is the Golden State Warriors. Thanks for setting this up, you guys have a good one in Courtney Lee. We wish him nothing but the best.
Thanks again to Joe for talking that out with us. It sounds like both sides are pretty happy with the trade so far even though the Hornets are the clear winner in the short term. We'll just have to see how things play out over the long run.