Breaking Down Courtney Lee's New Role with the Memphis Grizzlies

Tom Firme@TFirmeAnalyst IIJanuary 13, 2014

MEMPHIS, TN - JANUARY 12:  Courtney Lee #5 of the Memphis Grizzlies during the game with Kyle Korver #26 of the Atlanta Hawks on January 12, 2014 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Courtney Lee's three-point shooting and spacing bring a new dimension to the Memphis Grizzlies offense. Lee adds flexibility to a Grizzlies attack that puts a high degree of focus on scoring in the paint.

Indeed, his status as a low-usage role player makes the Grizz even slower in the half court. Jerryd Bayless quickened the pace by 2.71 possessions per 48 minutes when slotted over Tony Allen in the Grizzlies most used non-Marc Gasol lineup, according to Lee, who has a 16.8 percent usage rate, doesn't handle the ball enough to push the tempo.

However, Bayless' ineffective game negated the usefulness of his ball-handling skills on the NBA's slowest-paced team. That plays into the biggest way in which Lee improves Memphis' wing play, even more than his three-point aim.


Efficient Shooting

Lee is a much more reliable shooter than Bayless. The former Boston Celtic shoots 49.3 percent from the field, 11.8 percent better than the second-unit ball-handler that used to serve as Mike Conley's co-pilot. That's the difference between a helpful shooter and someone who occasionally gets hot.

Lee may be shooting much better than his career average. Nevertheless, his 44.7 percent career mark is 3.7 percent better than that of Bayless.

The difference between their effective field-goal percentages show the impact of each shooter's effectiveness in different places on the floor. Lee's 55 percent season mark and 55.5 percent career rate are 13.1 percent and 5.1 percent better, respectively, than Bayless' clips.

Some may argue that the great disparity is exaggerated as both are performing much differently from their career percentages. However, Lee has stayed steady since 2011-12. In the past two-and-a-half seasons, his lowest monthly field-goal split was 41.9 percent.

Meanwhile, Bayless has only shot 42 percent or better in two months during that time.

Lee enhances the shooting of a squad that is improving in that aspect. Memphis' field-goal and effective field-goal percentages are 12th and 21st in the league, respectively, which are nine and seven places better than last year's respective finishes and will reach even higher with Lee's integration in the rotation.


Perimeter Preeminence

Lee's outside firepower further increases Memphis' offensive potency.

The Grizz are remarkably capable from three-point range with two of the league's high-end three-point shooters in Lee and Mike Miller and an above-average shooter in Conley. Lee is 15th in the league at 42.6 percent from long range. He's hit multiple three-pointers in seven games.

Indeed, the sixth-year player doesn't take enough threes to make a great impact. He only takes 3.7 attempts and 28.9 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. But replacing Bayless, who's generally miserable from downtown at 28.7 percent, with a marvelous marksman is a boost. 

Lee's superior ability should raise them beyond their current 18th standing. 

Additionally, his capacity outside 15 feet opens the Grizz offense. He shoots 48.2 percent from mid-range, as seen in his shot chart

He focuses much of his shot-taking on the perimeter. As his shot chart shows, he hoists 19 percent from three-point range and 40.3 percent from mid-range.

That stretches the floor more than most other Grizz backcourt players. Miller and Tayshaun Prince are the only others who take 60 percent of their shots from outside the paint.

Having a third player who spends that much energy on the perimeter adds significant spacing. Whereas they had relied on inside shooting, the Grizz can now create a greater variety of looks.

The Memphis Flyer's Kevin Lipe tweeted glowingly of the new Grizzly's knack for floor-spacing.


Decent Defense

Lee gives a little extra help on the other end. While he isn't on Tony Allen's level, he defends at a replacement level.

Even though he allows 107 points per 100 possessions, it's more respectable than the 109 allowed by Bayless. 

They both have two percent steals rates. However, Bayless' was 1.6 percent in Memphis before grabbing eight steals in his first three games wearing green.

The Western Kentucky product should be supportive in patrolling the perimeter while partnering with sound defenders like Allen and Conley. Lee benefited by playing with Rajon Rondo last year, allowing 104 points per 100 possessions.

Lee is making some plays as his time on Beale Street begins. The Commercial Appeal's Chris Herrington raved via Twitter about Lee's defensive performance against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.



As they make one last push to join the playoff race, the Grizz found a charming aide.

Indeed, Lee may not fit his ideal role. In a Hardwood Paroxysm piece, Noam Schiller noted that Lee doesn't make a high impact as a three-point shooter, defender or facilitator.

However, Lee is accurate on the perimeter, pesters opposing guards and doesn't need to handle the ball as long as Conley or Nick Calathes is on the floor.

As they await Gasol's return, Lee builds the bridge to the competitive level the Grizzlies will experience with the Spaniard on the court. Lee's perimeter aim creates a new variety of looks for a compact offense.


Statistics are current through Jan. 12 games. Unless otherwise noted, advanced metrics come from