He's the first guy on everyone's trade out of town list and he's the target of most people's scapegoating for this season's early struggles but personally I am still not willing to give up on Courtney Lee. Mostly because he plays defense and I feel like the shots will start falling with more regularity soon.
I call this an over-react article by Washburn today. In it, he talks about Green and Lee being brought in to someday replace Pierce and Garnett. I strongly disagree with that assessment, but let's see what he says first.
Lee’s struggles have been momentous because the Celtics gave up Moore to get him. And Ray Allen is averaging 12.1 points and shooting nearly 50 percent coming off the Miami bench. Allen has hit 39 3-pointers for the Heat. Lee has 10 3-pointers for the Celtics. Although buyer’s remorse is useless at this point, it’s not too late for Lee to begin responding. But if being a front-line player is not in Lee’s nature, then the Celtics invested in a player who is content with being a fourth or fifth option. The great players are greedy. They want to take big shots. They want to carry the offense. They want the glory that comes from being a star.
It is fair to compare Lee to E'Twaun Moore, the main guy that Lee was traded for. Moore is averaging 9.4 points per game to Lee's 5.9 per. Still, those stats only tell part of the story. Orlando is a plucky team with no stars and Moore has a bigger role with the Magic that he likely would have in Boston.
Lee is a career 38% three point shooter who shot over 40% in the last two years and simply hasn't found the stroke yet this year (just 28% thus far). Good shooters don't turn bad overnight. The averages eventually play out. He just needs a few more to drop for that confidence to kick in. At least that's my hope.
I disagree with Washburn that Lee needs to "want to carry the offense." That's never who he's been and it isn't what we signed him for. His upside is that of a strong, valuable starting shooting guard who defends 2's and shoots 3's. That's what we need him to be. Expecting him to be more than that is a mistake and if he wanted to be more than that, he could have joined Big Baby in Orlando to play for the lottery.
Based on his twitter feed and some of the interviews I've read, Lee seems to be a bit of an emotional guy - taking his early season struggles personally. Doc Rivers is pretty good about dealing with all kinds of personalities and he seems to have a good off court rapport with Lee, so I have to think that they will get the mental aspect straightened out soon enough.
I guess it boils down to this for me. I don't really see Lee as a replacement for Ray Allen. Terry really fits that bill a little more closely and the combination of Lee and Terry was supposed to trump what Ray brought us. So far, not so good, but there's still potential there. Last year we had a bench made up of guys that could defend but couldn't shoot. Lee (off the bench or in the starting lineup) will defend, but he can shoot - or at least he has that potential.
I still say give Lee some more time to fit in. If you can find a trade that makes sense for the team (especially with Bradley coming back soon) then by all means pull the trigger. But please don't throw this guy under the bus and allow him to be the focal point of the scapegoating. The whole team needs to step up and play better. Not just one or two guys.