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Evaluating The Courtney Lee Trade

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports, Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports, Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The trade between the Grizzlies, Hornets, and Heat could end up helping all three teams.

On Tuesday, the Memphis Grizzlies shipped Courtney Lee to the Charlotte Hornets as part of a three-team trade. The Grizzlies got shooting guard P.J. Hairston and two second round picks from the Hornets, as well as veteran big man Chris “Birdman” Andersen and two second round picks from the Miami Heat. The Heat also acquired backup point guard Brian Roberts from the Hornets.

Overall, this trade was beneficial for all three teams. The Heat had been ready for a while to move Andersen’s $5 million contract in order to reduce their luxury tax. Andersen has played a total of 36 minutes this season, which works out to about $139,000 per minute. So, needless to say, he has not provided much return on investment this season.

Brian Roberts gives the Heat a cheap third point guard option behind Goran Dragic and Beno Udrih, who have been surprisingly inconsistent, posting box plus-minuses of -0.5 and -4.5, respectively. Roberts’ rating of -3.6 isn’t really an improvement, but perhaps a point-guard-by-committee approach is the answer for the Heat.

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At 27-26, the Hornets currently hold the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. If they can move into the seventh seed — they’re half a game behind the Chicago Bulls — they could conceivably have a realistic shot of making it to the Conference Finals, considering the East lacks a dominant team outside of the Cleveland Cavaliers, which they wouldn’t have to face until that final round. 

Though the Hornets aren’t true contenders this year, they are building something. The more success they have this season, the more attractive they’ll be to free agents over the summer. This trade moves them closer to that competitive stage.

Even though Jeremy Lamb is having something of a breakout season, averaging 10.5 points and 4.2 rebounds, and Nicolas Batum‘s move to shooting guard has been a revelation, Lee provides them with another option, and proven contributor on the wing. Most importantly, Lee’s 37% three-point stroke gives a reliable outside shooter to a Hornets team mostly devoid of them. Lamb is shooting 31.6%, and currently injured small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a 24% career shooter from three.

With point guards Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin both having solid seasons, Roberts was little used off the bench. Lee provides far more value for the Hornets, a team that, though maybe not in “win now” mode, but is in “compete now” mode.

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Grizzlies fans will not like this trade, but they should. Lee has endeared himself to the fan base through his two and a half seasons in Memphis as one of the only outside shooting threats on the team. However, the Grizzlies have been mired in the middle of the Western Conference for about five years now, and it’s time to blow it up and begin the rebuilding process in the hope of truly contending in a few years.

Especially with Marc Gasol‘s broken foot sidelining him indefinitely, and with the top of the Western Conference being perhaps more dominant than it has ever been, it’s time for Grizzlies fans to accept that this era has come to a close.

Additionally, while it is true that Courtney Lee is valuable as the best shooter on the team, he has not been as efficient nor as effective as he was last year. His points, rebounds, and three-point percentage are down, as are his win shares per 48 minutes, box plus/minus, and value over replacement player. 

Lee is still a valuable player, but swapping his $5.675 million contract for Andersen’s expiring one will help the Grizzlies make a move in free agency this summer to try to add a big name to put next to Mike Conley and Gasol. If they can do that, then the rebuilding process could be a lot shorter than is usually expected. If not, the four second round picks they received — alongside P.J. Hairston — could help them acquire young talent for the future.

Edited by Emily Berman, Coleman Gray.

SQuiz
Where did Courtney Lee attend college?
Created 2/18/16
  1. Duke
  2. Lehigh
  3. Western Kentucky
  4. Georgia

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