The progress of Courtney Lee

When you draft a player 22nd overall, you generally don’t expect immediate dividends. It’s a place in the draft where you take a talented college player with a glaring weakness, or a European player that you’re not sure will translate to the NBA. The last time the Magic had the 22nd pick was 2001, when they chose SMU guard Jeryl Sasser. Sasser was incredible in NBA Live 01; in real life, not so much. In fact, here are all of the No. 22 picks this millennium:

2007 – Jared Dudley 2006 – Marcus Williams 2005 – Jarrett Jack 2004 – Viktor Khryapa 2003 – Zoran Planinic 2002 – Casey Jacobsen 2001 – Jeryl Sasser 2000 – Donnell Harvey

More than half of those guys are out of the league, and the rest are buried on benches. But the Magic – a team known for its shady drafting record outside of 2004 – found a gem at the 22 spot this season. You could see it right away with Courtney Lee – he was one of the Magic’s most athletic players with a smooth stroke and the ability to get to the rim. Their was potential with his on-ball defense, and his four years of college gave him proper mechanics and the ability to throw a good pass into the post. After some DNP-CDs in the first month, Lee has appeared in the last 55 games and started the last 32. The starting job is his, and even if Stan Van Gundy won’t say so, Lee will be the team’s playoff starter at shooting guard. He’s scored double-digits in the last six games, including a career-high 22 against the Knicks. He’s shooting 57 percent over that stretch. All things considered, it appears like the Magic have their starting guard of the future. Even though his defense has been shaky at times, it’s something Lee seems intent on improving. His offense is perfect for this team – he’s an excellent 3-point shooter and he doesn’t need the ball. Check out Lee’s improvement throughout the season:

NOV – 12.1 MPG, 2.4 PPG, 32.4 FG%, 28.6 3P% DEC – 22.0 MPG, 8.3 PPG, 51.1 FG%, 46.2 3P% JAN – 29.0 MPG, 8.9 PPG, 45.4 FG%, 42.1 3P% FEB – 29.5 MPG, 10.8 PPG, 47.5 FG%, 42.0 3P% MAR – 28.5 MPG, 10.9 PPG, 50.0 FG%, 43.9 3P%

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily