With the most exciting moments of the offseason behind us, Celtics Town is counting down the Celtics’ roster from 16 to one. We’ll offer speculation on the role each player has to play, and where they’ll be in the rotation as we look towards the upcoming season. If you missed the last column in this series you can check it out here.
It’s been a while since the Celtics added a player I was legitimately excited about. Not a player I had to talk myself into (Jermaine O’Neal), or a player I decided to root for against conventional wisdom (Von Wafer), or a player that just filled a role, who was “good enough.” No, I am actually excited about Courtney Lee, who has big shoes to fill and a large part to play for the Celtics both this year, and for years to come.
With the departure of Ray Allen, outside shooting was a huge priority this offseason. If you don’t believe Avery Bradley shooting 40% from downtown is repeatable (I don’t), then your best outside shooters are Paul Pierce (37% from range last year) and Jason Terry (38%). While those numbers are more than respectable, neither is anything remotely resembling a specialist. Lee, on the other hand, shot 40% from beyond the arc last year, including a blistering 49% on corner 3′s, second in the NBA behind (who else) Ray Allen (50%). Unlike Allen, however, Lee doesn’t require multiple screens to get open. When Lee catches in the corner he can pump and go baseline so teams have to respect his ability to drive, giving him a little more room on the wing. With his athletic gifts and ability to finish at the rim, Lee should also prove useful on backdoor cuts and designed alley-oops, and all he has to do is stand in the corner and wait for Rondo to call out a play. Also, Lee should be a great fast-break addition for the Celtics. I mentioned this on ESPN’s Summer Forecast, I think the Celtics will play a lot of small-ball this year and with Lee’s ability to exploit larger defenders and run the floor I think he’ll be a big part of that. If I had to pick apart one piece of Lee’s offensive game, his field goal percentage is relatively low for such a gifted outside shooter (44% for his career) but that’s nothing a little Rondo can’t fix.
On defense, Lee has been a bit oversold; he’s a slightly above average defender against shooting guards and slightly below average against small forwards. The important thing is that Lee can be described as a defensive minded player, it’s made him a bit of a gambler at times but the foundation and drive is there. In Doc River’s system I expect him to make a similar leap to Jeff Green, who jumped to a 102 defensive rating during his time with the Celtics from a 108 career rating (which is what Lee has now). For reference, Avery Bradley had a 102 defensive rating last year, not a bad place to be.
Lee is also entering his prime–we have him locked up for the next four years at a very affordable contract–and it’s not everyday you get a player that young who also comes with significant Finals experience. The thing that’s most exciting about Lee is that while I know he’ll be able to contribute immediately, he also stands to play a significant role in the Celtics’ future. He may not be a household name nationwide, but I expect he’ll be a favorite of Celtics fans everywhere for years to come.
You can follow Jordan on Twitter, @OffensiveG.