Basic Scouting Report On Newest Rocket Courtney Lee

Remember, Courtney Lee is the same dude who was the centerpiece for New Jersey in the Vince Carter deal. That said, I'm well aware that Carter was a shell of his former self at that point, but still: it's nice to know that the Rockets have acquired a player who they, as well as many teams around the league, have coveted for quite some time.

To begin, here is Sebastian Pruiti's brief take on Lee. Pruiti is the manager of Nets Are Scorching and NBA Playbook and is as knowledgeable about basketball as anyone you'll find on them Internets. Cue Pruiti:

I like him a lot as a player. It was obvious the Orlando trade hurt him and he slumped early because of it. However, he is a decent shooter, a guy who can get out and run and play very good defense. He is almost a poor man's Battier. Would have loved to see him play under Avery, but the Nets had too many wings and someone had to go.

[On his potential as a starter and his capacity to develop further]:

[ He can be] a starting [guard] in the league. Right now he is a really good off-the-bench guy for the Rockets. Could start due to injury though and there won't be much of a drop off.

I think what we have seen is pretty much it. He could improve his shooting form a bit and make himself a more efficient shooter than he already is. But he was never a super high upside guy who was going to develop into more. Just a talented basketball player with good IQ.

After watching about an hour's worth of film on Lee, courtesy of Synergy Sports, I can't say that I disagree with anything above.

My first thought regarding Lee is that he is making a drastic role change. Last year, he was asked to do just about everything for a struggling Nets team. And while he is certainly capable of creating for himself and knocking down open shots, he is obviously not someone who you revolve an offense around or use as a second option. That said, I think his time in New Jersey gave him plenty of experience as a trusted ball handler. Heck, in two seasons, Lee has played a prominent role in an NBA Finals and has conversely played solid minutes for the worst team in the league. That's about as much experience as you can get in your first two years.

While some may argue that Trevor Ariza is the better player than Lee, that's not really my concern. Rather, I'm focused on how Lee fits with the roster, because that's what ultimately matters most. He's perfect for the free-flowing offense that Rick Adelman will likely employ with the second unit, much in the way that Shane Battier was a terrible fit for such a unit. Lee's presence frees up Battier to start once again, where he is much more comfortable. Make no mistake: Battier starting again is a good thing. He may have suffered through an ankle injury last season, but his style of play is not such that it will be affected by his aging. He is an intangibles player, much in the way Lee is. If anything, I'm excited that Lee will be able to learn from Battier, a player whom Pruiti already compared him to above.

Here's what I saw on the tape:

Defense

  • Quick feet, can cut off some of the quicker ball handlers out there. Quick enough to keep up with the likes of Deron Williams, etc.
  • Forced Derrick Rose into three straight misses in isolation during an overtime game. That's impressive.
  • Knows how to force an opponent into a help defender. Effectively used Brook Lopez's help last year.
  • Not as rangy as Ariza and doesn't play the passing lanes quite as aggressively, which is both a good and bad thing.
  • Despite his height (6-foot-5), he can match up with taller ball handlers. Did a nice job on Kevin Martin when facing the Rockets. May struggle with a taller, more physical player, though.
  • Opponents shot 33.8% against Lee in isolation situations last year.
  • Decent at getting through picks, but can get caught pretty easily. Does a nice job of trailing if beat, if that's any consolation.
  • Closes out nicely against jump shooters, gets a hand up every time.

Offense

  • Quick shot release. Can catch and shoot very quickly.
  • Natural form, rhythm to his shot, unlike Ariza, who essentially picked up the outside shot five years into his career.
  • Can elevate easily off the dribble. Here's a good example.
  • Generally looks like a natural basketball player. Has a good IQ, understanding of where to be on offense, how to spread the floor. Likes the short jumper in the corner and shows for post players if doubled.
  • Great in transition, among the best regarding his transition points per possession. Good for 29th in the league.
  • Can finish with both hands. Can finish below the rim. Doesn't need to rely on athleticism to score around the rim.
  • Not terribly great off the dribble, but can take advantage when an opportunity presents itself.
[Update to scouting report: I realize that I never touched base on Lee as a rebounder. That's likely the biggest hit that the Rockets will take. There's no telling how well the second unit will be able to rebound, with Patterson unproven and Brad Miller and Chuck Hayes nowhere near "solid" rebounders. Lee doesn't attack the boards near as much as Ariza did, though it's tougher for him because he's three inches shorter and has shorter arms (from what I can tell). If you don't think rebounding from the guard position matters, Von Wafer's lazy ass never boxed out and it killed us on second chance possessions for opponents. Lee doesn't appear to be as apathetic on the boards, but it's not one of his strengths, either.]

To conclude, I believe Lee can be a very effective on-ball defender, much in the way that Ariza was. Ariza was a lengthier player who could play the passing lanes and look for steals. Lee can force turnovers as well, but he's better suited to simply guard his opponent once they receive the ball. Offensively, he appears to be much further along than Ariza and has the ability to create for himself. He doesn't take many long two pointers, something that really irked me about Ariza's game last year, though there was no guarantee that Trevor would be given the opportunity to force up said long two's again this season. In general, he is a great athlete who is capable of playing off others effectively on the offensive end and can be a stud defender against all three guard positions, though he is better suited to defend the 1 or 2.

And we haven't even discussed the financial savings that this deal gave the Rockets. I'm a fan, if you haven't noticed.
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