clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Courtney Lee must be the Charlotte Hornets 3-and-D player in the 2016 playoffs

Lee has been a positive addition for the Hornets since being acquired at the deadline, particularly as a 3-point shooter and perimeter defender.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Courtney Lee was acquired by the Charlotte Hornets during this season's trade deadline, becoming the fourth player in as many years acquired by general manager Rich Cho at the deadline. His acquisition followed a similar trend -- trade for need without sacrificing major assets or long-term cap flexibility. Lee's arrival came on the brink of losing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for the second time to a torn labrum. The Hornets needed a capable wing defender to play next to Nicolas Batum, and Lee checked that box. Additionally, Lee brought 3-point shooting, and considering the Hornets' offensive revamp as a 3-point shooting team, he seemed a good fit for the offense as well.

In Lee's 27 games, both have been the case. Lee hasn't been a prolific scorer, averaging just 9 points per game with the Hornets, but he's shot the ball well, with a field goal percentage of 45 percent and a 3-point percentage of 39.5. Lee is selective with his shooting, maybe too selective depending on who you ask, but it's clear that he generally picks his shots well. Having a near 40 percent 3-point shooter on the team -- even one that doesn't shoot that often -- is an asset for a playoff team, and it's important that Lee maintains that in the postseason.

Generally speaking, Lee's offensive role with the Hornets isn't different than the one he had with the Memphis Grizzles. While the Grizzles ran their offense through post-players, Lee was their 4th or 5th shooting option that couldn't be ignored by opposing defenses. Double down too much on Zach Randolph or Marc Gasol, and Lee would be open on the outside. The same is true in Charlotte -- Lee's shots come when defenses are drawn to Kemba Walker or Batum. He doesn't have to the focal point of the offense, but if he can hit the shots that come to him, the offense can run at a highly efficient level.

Defensively, Lee should continue being a steady perimeter defender. Back in March, I profiled Lee's impact as a wing defender through his first seven games with Charlotte. At the time, Lee was defending at an elite level, with opposing shooters making just 33.9 percent of their shots and 20.8 percent of their 3-point shots when he defended them. The numbers, as expected, didn't maintain quite that level, but remain positive, with Lee holding shooters to  41.6 percent from the field, and a 30.9 percent from the 3-point line. Defending from the 3-point could be key, even if the Miami Heat aren't known for their 3-point shooting. Lee's defensive assignment will likely be Dwyane Wade. He could switch with Batum, but from the tip it will be Lee on Wade. Stopping Wade could be the difference maker for the Hornets

If there is a concern about Lee, it's that his efficiency on both ends has dropped in April when compared to March, which was by far his best stretch of play for Charlotte. In the 16 games for the month of March, Lee held 3-point shooters to 25.9 percent from behind the line. So far in April, they're shooting 42.3 percent from beyond the arc. In March, Lee's defensive rating was 101.7, but in April it's 110.8, his highest since joining the team. In other words, Lee is not defending near well enough this month.

Offensively, the contrast between March and April is the same. In March, Lee average 10.3 points per game, shooting 49.2 percent from the field, and an incredible 48.9 percent from the 3-point line, shooting roughly the same amount of shots per game that he had all season. Additionally, his effective field goal and true shooting percentages were through the roof at 58.2 and 60.7 percent respectively. In April, he's averaging just seven points a game, shooting only 35.7 percent from the field, and 22.2 percent from the 3-point line, with an effective field goal percentage of 39.3, and a true shooting percentage of 41.8. Granted, the Hornets as a team didn't play collectively well this month compared to March, but Lee's shooting percentages aren't a slight step back. Recapturing that March form could really make a difference.

Each one of Cho's mid-season acquisitions over the last few years had positive impacts. Lee to this point has as well, but where he ultimately ranks among this group of players depends on his impact this post season. If he can provide 3-point shooting and strong perimeter defense, he'll make a strong case for being the best of them.