Can Courtney Lee Replace Vince Carter?

Posted on: September 3rd, 2009 by Sebastian Pruiti Comments

clee1When the Nets traded Vince Carter, many fans and critics saw (and still do see) this move as a salary dump.  I don't.  I saw Courtney Lee and got very excited.  The kid just knows the game, and he seems to never loose his head.

A lot of people take his missed lay-up in the finals away from the playoffs, but I don't.  He played with such poise, you kind of forgot he was a rookie while watching him.

Critics say "Well, if he was so good, why did we pass him up during the draft last year?"  Well, we passed him up because he plays the same position as Vince Carter, so it is kind of funny that he is the guy looking to replace him.  But can he?  After the jump, we will break some things down, look at some numbers, and see if it is possible for Courtney Lee to replace Vince Carter.

Styles Of Play

Despite both playing the SG position last year, these guys don't really play it the same way.  One of the biggest knocks on Vince Carter was his unwillingness to take it to the basket.  He seemed almost content to take pull-up jumpers all day.  75% of his shots were jumpers, while 20% were labeled as close shots by 82games.com.  Compare it to Courtney Lee, and you see that Lee is much more aggressive in terms of attacking the basket.  Only 71% of Courtney Lee's shots were jumpers (when you look at this number, you need to take into consideration the team he played for too.  I really do believe that if he was playing for a different team this number would be lower), while 25% of his shots were labeled as close.

Despite his unwillingness to take the ball to the basket Vince Carter was still able to put up better assist numbers than Courtney Lee.  Carter averaged 4.7 assists per game (mainly dishing out of double teams) while Lee averaged 1.2 assists per game.  Even with the high assists number, I still feel like Courtney Lee is a better fit in Lawrence Frank's dribbler-drive offense.  This biggest complaint I had with Vince Carter last year was how the ball would "get stuck" with him.  Courtney's game and style of play (where he likes to drive and attack the basket) means a much more efficient offense.

Who's The Better Shooter?

The numbers go on to say that Lee was a better shooter than Carter.  Lee's eFG% (Click here for BR's definition of this) on jumpers was .491 while his eFG% on lay-ups was .571.   Compare that to Vince's numbers, which are .472 on jumpers and .504 on lay-ups.

Thinking about it, it does make sense though.  While Lee's numbers are better, the one thing that worries me is that Lee was basically platooning with Mickael Pietrus last year, so these numbers could go down over the course of a season as he gets more shots.  Another thing that might drop his shooting percentage next year is the fact that he will be taking a lot more contested shots next year.  Think about it.  Courtney Lee on the Magic was the third or the fourth option and he benefited from a lot of double-teams.  There isn't anyone on the Nets that are double-team worthy (yet), and because of that Courtney Lee is going to have to take more contested shots.  So the numbers tell us that Courtney Lee is a better shooter, but who knows how well he will shoot next year with different circumstances.  Looking at the % of baskets assisted can confirm this.  73% of Courtney Lee's jumpers were assisted while only 48% of Vince Carter's shots were assisted.  How is Courtney Lee going to react when he needs to create his own shot more often?

Defense

While Vince Carter did a lot of things, he wasn't the best at the defensive end.  Yes, they both averaged 1.0 steals per game, but Courtney Lee just seems more willing to play defense, and he was definitely more aggressive on the defensive end.  Just look at the numbers.  Courtney Lee's opposition PER was 15.0 while Vince Carter's was 16.6.  Plus, there aren't many players who can make Kobe admit that he is frustrated, let alone a rookie.  I just love it when young players work on the defensive end, because they are going to struggle on the offensive end from time to time, but they are still able to contribute positively with their defense.  Courtney Lee already is this team's defensive stopper (Trenton Hassel doesn't really count), and if he can reach his potential offensively, he can become a superstar for the Nets.

---

So is Courtney Lee going to replace Vince Carter's production?  No, but that doesn't mean that he won't play a big role on the Nets next year.  The dribble-drive offense that the Nets run will look much better with Courtney Lee rather than Vince Carter in there, and if he can shoot as well as he did last year while getting more minutes, he can get close.