NAS Awards: Most Improved – Courtney Lee


I apologize in advance to all of you readers out there who couldn’t get enough of our NAS off-season awards. With that said, after taking a bit of a hiatus, I realized there’s one more core member of the team who didn’t get any kind of acknowledgement.

Courtney Lee is an interesting case in that his season was so inconsistent, he could have been a candidate for many of the other awards given out so far: Most enigmatic? Sure, the guy would look like an all-around game changer one night, and then disappear the next. Disappointing? It depends a lot on your standards, but if you bought into the hype that the Nets traded their last star in Vince Carter for a guy who would be a suitable replacement offensively, then you would have been very disappointed. Most frustrating? Still think that Yi wins that award hands down, but similar to Yi, Lee’s stroke would be working on night, and then his shot would mysteriously go south.

But the award I’ve decided upon here is “Most Improved.” With all due respect to Terrence Williams and his outstanding final six weeks of the season, Lee statistically became a much more dynamic player as the season went along. Unlike TWill, outside of January, Lee got a little bit better every month of the season, and by the time mid-April rolled around, he looked like he was going to fit into next year’s core somehow (as a starter or bench player depends on who the Nets draft and sign in free agency).

An injury-plagued November limited Lee to only 7 games and 3 starts, as he seemingly found himself in Lawrence Frank’s doghouse early. The numbers weren’t pretty as he averaged 7.6 points on 35 percent shooting, including 22 percent from long-range, one of his supposed offensive strengths.  When Kiki Vandeweghe took over for Frank, his first move was to insert Lee back in the starting rotation. From there, Lee rewarded Kiki by scoring 13 points on 43 percent shooting, though he was still woeful from long range, shooting 26 percent from three.

By the time February rolled around, Lee’s game started to improve, and it’s no coincidence that the Nets started playing better as a team as a result.  February was probably his best month as he averaged 15.5 points on 49 percent shooting, including 41 percent from three. Lee was finally resembling the player Nets fans were hoping for after the Carter trade. No he wasn’t going to match VC’s offensive production, but he was resembling a good outside shooter with some nice defensive chops. He matched his shooting numbers from February in March, though he was done in by the small sample size of 7 games in March, averaging 14 points on 43 percent shooting, including 32 percent from three.

While Lee never resembled an “all-star” for sustained stretches, by the end of the season, he did come across as a steady presence on the roster. He got praise from coaches and sportswriters for his great attitude and his perseverance on the defensive end. Courtney Lee is certain to play some role for this organization next year.