Phil Jackson has filled the last slot in the New York Knicks’ starting lineup by agreeing to a four-year deal with Courtney Lee worth roughly $48 million.
Here’s how Lee fits the Knicks and how his addition impacts the rest of the team’s roster:
Clearly, Lee’s best attribute is his shooting, especially from beyond the arc. With opponents routinely double-teaming Carmelo Anthony and/or jumping into the paint to defend Derrick Rose’s quantum-quick attacks on the hoop, Lee should be the recipient of numerous kick-out passes that will enable him to launch a bevy of treys.
Lee is also a runner, dunker and alert, slashing dive-cutter. Although he’s an acceptable passer and ball handler, Lee rarely forces a play. As the saying goes, “He plays within himself.”
He averages one rebound for every 10 minutes he plays, a poor output for a wingman. But with Joakim Noah and Kristaps Porzingis (and even Melo) handling the glass-work, Lee’s lack of production in this department won’t matter much.
At 6’5” and a wiry 200 pounds, Lee has a kind of tensile strength that prevents him from being Bogarted. Plus, at age 30, his hands, feet and lateral movement are still quick enough to make him a plus defender. Lee also fits Phil Jackson’s requirement that his guards be big enough to avoid being caught in disastrous mismatches when forced to switch in various screen situations.
Lee is an eight-year veteran with a high-basketball IQ and an unselfish game plan who should have no trouble fitting in to Jeff Hornacek’s version of the triangle offense.
Give Lee bonus points for being popular with his teammates wherever he’s played — which, counting the Knicks, will amount to seven teams. Although he’s been frequently traded, Lee has always been greatly respected by everybody in every organization he’s been associated with.
Overall, Lee is a solid guy and a solid player who will thrive with the Knicks.
GRADE = A
However, the addition of Lee still leaves several gaping holes on the Knicks’ roster.
Sasha Vujacic has mastered the triangle and can bag open treys, but is a shooting guard who can play the point only in a dire emergency.
Langston Galloway has been tendered a contract and could very well return to New York, but he’s very cautious with the ball, is an erratic shooter, over-handles and flat-lines the triangle whenever he plays the point.
With the Knicks’ limited budget, the relatively low-priced candidates to back up Rose are limited. Jarrett Jack? Aaron Brooks? Ramon Sessions? Randy Foye? Any of these guys would do.
For the present, the oft-injured Cleanthony Early is the only substitute wing. Re-signing Lance Thomas and/or Derrick Williams would be helpful, but after bringing Rose and Lee into the fold, the coffers are almost empty and there could be bigger offers elsewhere.
New York’s thin bench also lacks a backup center. Kyle O’Quinn is barely serviceable, but if he and his $4 million contract can be traded for a second-round draft pick in the distant future, or a gift certificate to Mickey D’s, then Jackson will free up more money to buy better players.
So, while the starting five is certainly of playoff-caliber, Jackson still has plenty of work to do.