Since Courtney Lee joined the Charlotte Hornets via trade on February 16th, the team has gone 5-2 with him in the lineup (they've gone 6-2 since he was acquired, but he sat out against Milwaukee on February 19th). His numbers have been modest -- averaging just 7.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game, shooting 43.9 percent from the field, and 35.3 percent from the 3-point line. Lee however, wasn't brought in to impact the Hornets offensively, at least not to a major degree. Given the high usage rates of Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum, Lee functions as the fourth scoring option in the starting lineup. For what it's worth, the Hornets are averaging 104.6 points per game in Lee's seven games, which is nearly two points higher than their season average of 102.3. Credit can't really go to Lee on this though, not when his season high with the Hornets has been just 9 points.
Where Lee is making an impact is on defense. The Hornets are allowing just 97.7 points per game in their last seven, which is almost three points few than their season average of 100.5. Just how much is thanks to Lee is hard to gauge -- his defensive rating of 103.6 is only 9th best on the team in the games he's played in. However, there is one area where Lee's impact on defense is clear -- defending outside shots.
|Opponents shooting percentage when defended by Lee||Opponents normal shooting percentage|
These numbers speak for themselves -- Lee has made it difficult for opposing players to make shots when he's defending them. In fact, the further shooters are from the hoop, the better Lee is at defending them. From less than six feet, opponents shoot 85.7 percent against him, and from within 10 feet, they shoot 77.8 percent. Neither are good numbers, but when opponents have shot from 15 feet or further, they have made just 19 percent of their shots. And even more telling is that 75 percent of the shots attempted against Lee have come outside of 15 feet.
It's also significant how poorly opponents have shot from the 3-point line. With opponents shooting just 20.8 percent from beyond the arc, Lee has made arguably the most important shot in today's NBA a non-factor for players he defends.
Lee's dominance as a perimeter defender is just what the Hornets were missing. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist filled that role for a brief period -- in his seven games, opponents shot just 38.5 percent from the field, and 26.3 percent from the 3-point line when defended by him. The numbers are obviously comparable to Lee, and anytime a player can defend in similar fashion to MKG, he becomes an invaluable part of the Hornets lineup. And while seven games is a small sample size, it is at the very least a positive early sign of what Lee is capable of bringing for the rest of the season.
Defense is why Lee is here. His offensive numbers will remain modest, but if he can continue to be a strong perimeter defender he will be a valuable part of the Hornets starting lineup for the rest of the season.