Thursday, April 9, 2009
Rookie Assessment: Courtney Lee
With only 4 more games to go before the end of the regular season, I think it's safe to give a fair assessment of our 22nd pick of the draft. Courtney has surprised many of us, and has exceeded almost all expectations we had for him going into the season. Being the 22nd pick doesn't usually guarantee you playing time on a title contending team, much less being a starter.
For a position that had the likes of Keith Bogans and journeyman Maurice Evans starting last year for the Magic, FA acquisition Mickael Pietrus all but had the starting 2 spot locked up. However after getting off to a strong start, Pietrus battled injuries and inconsistent play all throughout the year, eventually succumbing the starting position to the rookie. Lee embraced the starting role, and never let it go.
Courtney has been more then just a fill in, or a "good enough" type of player. Lee has come in and provided defense, scoring, and all around hustle for the Magic. Lee just doesn't quit. Take a bad shot? That's ok, he'll go and alter a shot on the other end. Turn the ball over that lead to a fastbreak? He'll chase down the player with the ball and either strip him or steal the ball right back. Miss a ton of shots? I'll get to that later....
He hasn't been named Rookie of the Month, nor will he be Rookie of the Year, but what do those awards really mean anyhow? They are usually given to the rookie who scores the most points on a bad team, rather then the rookie who significantly made his team better in some or all aspects of the game.
I've compiled a list of highlights, stats, and other miscellaneous information on Courtney that he has accumulated throughout the year. Let's take a look....
Favorite Courtney Lee moment: There are alot of games that come to mind where Courtney really showed me something, but my favorite had to be the game against the 76ers on February 28th. Courtney was missing shot after shot, blowing some defensive assignments, and was just having an all around poor game. The Magic were down, as the team collectively didn't look too sharp that night. Someone had to step up and change the outcome of the game. That someone was Courtney Lee.
Lee, despite his poor effort earlier, continued to fire away, eventually hitting big shot after big shot. The Magic eventually won the game by 6, with Lee being a big part of the reason they won. Lee finished the game with 18 points on 6 of 18 shooting, 4 of 12 from downtown. He also took the most shots out of anyone that night.
I remember losing all hope for that game, as Courtney was being left wide open to continue jacking up those shots. But when he started hitting them, I sprung from my chair, and knew this rookie was making a statement. Leave me alone, and you are going to pay. And pay the Sixers did.
Best statistical game: March 23, 2009 against the Knicks. Lee finished with 22 points with a cool 75% FG, 2 for 3 from downtown, and a perfect 8-8 from the line. He also chipped in 3 boards, 3 steals, and only 1 turnover.
Did you know? The Magic are a whopping 25-5 when Courtney scores 10 points or more.
Favorite "Wow" moment: I'll let the video speak for itself.
09-10 Outlook: Depending on whether or not the Magic resign Hedo Turkoglu, I foresee Courtney holding onto the starting position, and possibly becoming an even bigger part of the offense. Without Turkoglu and with the addition of Jameer Nelson coming back from injury, the Magic will still be lacking a 4th scorer. Lee will immediately be put into that position, especially on a team like the Magic. I'd also like to see more plays ran for Courtney, as he often spends too much time camping out in the corner, and rarely cuts as much as he should up until recently. If Turkoglu isn't resigned, Mickael Pietrus becomes the starting SF by default, unless the Magic pick up a legitimate 4 and slide Rashard back to the 3. This would all but guarantee Lee continues to be the starting SG as well. Despite what his role will end up being, Courtney will only improve if he continues to display a strong work ethic and a desire to win games.
Predicted line: 30 mpg, 44% FG, 38% 3pt, 13ppg, 4 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.5 spg
Courtney still has flaws. He can sometimes disappear on the offensive end, and he isn't exactly a lock down defender just yet. However, GM Otis Smith really picked a winner this year, and Magic fans are thankful to have Courtney on their team for a long time to come.
Credit NBA.com for the photo