Courtney Lee was red hot during the Knicks' one-point loss Monday night, scoring double figures in the first half alone. He also proved to be clutch with a late-game dagger that kept the Knicks afloat into the closing seconds. After logging five steals and two blocks against the Raptors, one has to wonder why he wasn't put on DeRozen during that last possession. Between Thomas, the screen, and the switch of Derrick Rose, Lee was positioned elsewhere.
Lee is obviously known for his defense, but his offensive game is on the rise. Really hitting his stride over the last 10 games, Lee has averaged 12.2 points on 54 percent from the field and 46 percent from deep. There's a certain swagger that has been oozing out of him lately. Perhaps the Knicks have even more of a versatile talent than initially realized. Lee is valuable.
While he continues to don orange and blue, New York will be smart to make use of him. Having said that, the release of Brandon Jennings and subsequent whispers that the same will happen to Rose in the near future could put a wrench in Lee's future as well.
After signing a four-year deal, Lee obviously won't be waived. But his value as a veteran, versatile player could be more useful to contending teams. As the Knicks evaluate their team this summer, they may realize Lee could be a better fit on another team that the Knicks can acquire building block assets from in return.
The same can be said about Lance Thomas. The veteran is coming back into his own again following a second consecutive double-figure performance. After logging 12 points and six rebounds against Toronto, Thomas is showing signs of the reliable player he was over the prior two seasons. That's refreshing to see, but the question now shifts to whether or not the Knicks want to continue making that same type of investment. His contract runs three more seasons after this one.
Exploring deals for both Lee and Thomas could provide the Knicks with more flexibility. There's no need to be paying talented veterans that kind of money if developing young talent turns out to be the main priority. It should be.
Moving these veterans and getting younger would also give New York a clear sense of direction. The team seemed to deviate from a sensible plan when adding players like this last summer. This creates a false hope of immediate contention. It's better to stay the course. Lee and Thomas are among the players who could net the Knicks nice returns, especially if they keep up solid play the rest of the season.
Whereas Thomas is an expensive role player, Lee's contract is actually very reasonable for a starting two guard. If the market for his services simply isn't there, the Knicks could certainly build up and still afford him. He may serve as a steadying presence for the youngsters