The Memphis Grizzlies have a lot of returning players that are playing the roles they currently fill strong enough. However, one person that needs to step it up a bit is Courtney Lee.
Lee joined the team in the middle of last season when he was traded away from the Boston Celtics. By giving up Jerryd Bayless, the Grizzlies were grabbing someone who was in the midst of a great season despite only averaging 16 minutes a game. However, when Lee joined the Grizzlies, some of his numbers dropped a bit, specifically his shooting percentages both from beyond the arc and from the field.
Throughout his career, Lee has been able to make shots beyond the arc to some extent. In most of his time in the league before coming to the Grizzlies, Lee shot above 40% beyond the arc. In the first third of last season while he was still on the Celtics, Lee even had a career high shooting percentage of 44.2% from three-point range.
However, in his 49 games as a member of the Grizzlies last season, Lee only made 34.5% of his three-point attempts, nearly an 8% decrease from earlier in the year. Perhaps this was because he was still getting accustomed to his new team. However, if this was the case, he would have no excuse to shoot poorly beyond the arc again next season. The team should be expecting a three-point percentage closer to 40% this year rather than another year shooting only 35%.
Meanwhile, while his field goal percentage was good with the Grizzlies last year, it was a little bit lower than it was during his time with the Celtics earlier in the season. He had gone from 49.2% from the field with the Celtics to 47.6%. While a 1.6% difference isn’t huge, it does show that he, once again, slumped a little on offense with the Grizzlies.
Lee also was not as efficient at scoring as the team’s sixth man, Tony Allen. Lee averaged 17.6 points per 48 minutes, while Allen averaged 18.6 points per 48 minutes. Allen is known to be a much better defender than a shooter, and Lee, despite being a solid defender, was brought in to counteract Allen’s lackluster offensive skills. This hasn’t been the case, as Allen has been more efficient on offense than Lee has been. Perhaps this means that Allen is improving rather than Lee not playing up to standards. If this is the case, then hopefully this spurs more competition between the shooting guards for playing time, and thus generates a better team through this competition. This especially may be possible because the team now has six shooting guards fighting for time this season.
It isn’t like Lee has been bad for the Grizzlies, however. Everything else about Lee has been satisfactory so far: his rebounds per game, assists per game, and steals per game have pretty much stayed constant since joining the Grizzlies. However, the team brought him in to provide an offensive presence from midrange and outside, and while Lee has done that for them, he hasn’t quite done it to the level that he’s capable of doing.
Hopefully, Lee can figure out what made him slightly disappointing on the Grizzlies last and can play at the level he was playing at with the Celtics earlier last season. The team doesn’t need Lee to step it up in order to return to the playoffs, as they probably have the talent to do this no matter how he plays next season, but Lee playing at a little higher of a level could bring the team ever so closer to contending for an NBA Championship, something that, while certainly tricky, could be feasible in the next couple of years while the rest of the team is still in their prime years.