Memphis Grizzlies Get Coup in Courtney Lee Trade

Jan 10, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Charlotte Hornets forward P.J. Hairston (19) shoots the ball during the second half against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 95-92. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 10, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Charlotte Hornets forward P.J. Hairston (19) shoots the ball during the second half against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 95-92. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports /

The Memphis Grizzlies get a coup, in the form of assets, in Courtney Lee trade.

It’s rare when a legitimate contender trades a member of their starting lineup and fails to replace him with a player of greater or equal talent in the respective deal. That transpired Tuesday, with the Memphis Grizzlies trading shooting guard Courtney Lee to the Charlotte Hornets for a package consisting of P.J. Hairston and a bevy of second-round picks.

As the information of the three-team deal-that also featured Miami-started to unravel, the reasoning behind the trade of Lee became increasingly evident. At first, Memphis was set to receive two second-round picks from Charlotte.

Later, the finalization of the trade and all its details had Memphis emerge as a winner in the deal.

For Lee, Memphis hauled in four second-round picks and a young, former first-round pick in Hairston. Diagnosing the trade from Memphis’ perspective, the three-team shocker is going to have immediate repercussions for the Western Conference contender.

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Immediate Impact

Ranking the bottom half of the league in both field-goal percentage and three-point field-goal percentage, Memphis might have jettisoned a player that was paramount in two offensive categories the team has struggled in. General manager Chris Wallace didn’t deal either Tony Allen or Vince Carter, two guards who’d have less of an impact on the offense if dealt.

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On the surface, floor spacing looks to be a new and pressing issue for Memphis-who now have to rely more heavily on

Mike Conley


Matt Barnes

for three-point production. They excel more in categories other than shooting (passing, defense), but now will be asked to do more with the absence of Lee on the perimeter.

Memphis wasn’t known as an offensive juggernaut to open the NBA trading season. They’re currently No. 24 in points scored per game (98.2) and No. 23 in offensive efficiency. Wallace decided to target defense via trades and signings, adding Matt Barnes in the offseason and dealing for former Miami point guard Mario Chalmers this season.

Both additions haven’t pushed Memphis into elite status and the Grizzlies actually have had a more difficult time defending teams than they did last season. Letting up four more points per game this season, the offense has had to compensate for the defense returning back from anomalistic status.

The Grizzlies defense was elite last season, but they still reside in the top 10 in points given up per game.

Now head coach Dave Joerger will be asking either Hairston or Tony Allen to try and replicate Lee’s production offensively. They don’t lose a considerable amount of defense, with Allen–a savant on the less glamorous end–garnering more minutes at the 2.

However, Lee is a considerably more efficient contributor on offensive than the aforementioned duo. He can score all over the floor, but doesn’t excel in a particular area.

Shotchart_1455657499632 /

Hairston still has upside, almost two years removed from being selected in the first round by Miami, but is in an unfamiliar territory–fighting for playing time on a contender.

Averaging just 6.0 points and 2.7 rebounds in 19.5 minutes per game, Hairston was a second-unit energy guy capable of starting in case of injury for the Hornets. At 23 years old, Hairston has time to improve his unsightly 35.9 percent shooting from the floor and exude effort in areas other than scoring.

He’s not the ideal three-point specialist to replace Lee, shooting just 31.4 percent on 3.6 three-point attempts per game, and has a difficult time creating for himself or teammates off the dribble. Most of his shots come from the catch-and-shoot variety, and his lack of efficiency on the offensive end could deter teammates from looking his way when a basket is needed.

Sporting a 7.5 PER (Player Efficiency Rating), Hairston isn’t going to warrant extensive playing time for a team vying for help on both sides of the ball. Per Spotrac, Memphis has a club option for Hairston’s contract–which might not be picked up after this season.

Unless Hairston significantly makes an impact on the defensive end and Joerger instills effort into the UNC product, Hairston’s minutes could be hard to find in Memphis.

Future Compensation

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It’s difficult to get excited about the return of players if you’re a Grizzlies fan, but Wallace cleaned up in terms of getting back draft picks. Both Charlotte and Miami sent over two second-round picks. One, via Miami, is reportedly heavily protected.

Delving into what picks Memphis could possibly receive, Charlotte will not have their own 2016 second-round pick–due to its 31-60 slot protection–that was dealt in a previous trade. They have their own 2017 and 2018 second-round picks, while acquiring the less favorable of Brooklyn and Cleveland’s second-round picks in 2018 from a previous trade.

Memphis, in an ideal world, would like to have plucked Charlotte’s 2017 second-round pick and Brooklyn’s 2019 second-round pick, which Charlotte owns.

The Heat were low on second-round picks entering Tuesday, but now are almost devoid of picks for the next couple of seasons. Miami only has it’s own unprotected second-round pick in 2018. Their second-round pick in 2016 was dealt to Boston and their pick next year is in Atlanta’s possession protected 31-40.

Memphis restocked by adding four potential second-round picks that could be essential for flexibility in the next two days. They don’t have their own second-round pick in 2016, but now can be a versatile contributor in trade talks with a copious amount of new assets.

The Grizzlies are No. 11 in the league in terms of salary for the 2015-16 season and also owe their first-round pick to Denver if they stay in the playoffs. If this was a deliberate move to rebuild incrementally, the future compensation looks enticing for Memphis to put a plan in focus.


Dealing an important contributor to Memphis’ playoff push in Lee looked like a puzzling move, considering they didn’t obtain a talent in return that could provide immediate help.

However, selling high on any player in the league is a plus for any organization. Memphis didn’t want to lose Lee in free agency, as he’s playing on an expiring contract, and extracting four second-round picks for his talents is a major coup for the Grizzlies.

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Whether or not Memphis is primed to rebuild or use their shiny new picks for an upgrade, Wallace provided the team with additional options as Thursday nears.

Grade: A