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Blogcat's Take, 2/20

I’m writing this post ahead of Friday’s Bucks-Hornets game, so please don’t feel like I’m blowing it off. On the contrary, this game carries more significance than a mosquito carries Zika. It’s our first game back without Michael Kidd-Gilchrist; it’s our first game back with Al Jefferson, which might be even scarier; there’s no Courtney Lee yet; both Spencer Hawes and Marvin Williams somehow managed to injure themselves during the 9-day break; it’s the start of a road trip, where we usually play like a bunch of burnt-up Pop-Tarts; and most of all, Milwaukee absolutely Ashton Kutcher punked us in our previous meeting. With the first two contests of this five-game trip being totally winnable, and the last three games being totally not, this team needs to show that it won’t splatter like a design on a mid-1990s Robert Shapiro necktie. However, since I have to crank this post out early, and since he’s not playing Friday anyway, I’m going to focus this post on Lee, and how thankful I am to have him on the team. Or maybe I’m just thankful to have PJ Hairston off the team.

It seems as if every article about Hairston mentions his “inconsistency,” which I don’t understand, because he was actually amazingly consistent—consistently awful. Fans are usually like parents in that they’ll always make excuses for their kids, or at worse, they’ll say things like, “he’s smart, but he just doesn’t apply himself.” You rarely ever hear a non-drunken/abusive parent just admit that their kid is a goddamned moron. Well, in this case, Hairston really seemed to apply himself—he always looked like he was trying, and he always looked like he cared—but I’m sorry, the poor guy just sucked like a chest wound. He sucked all the time, too, which is why the “inconsistent” tag is perplexing to me, because it’s the one criticism about him that wasn’t true. Think about it, what was the PJ Hairston performance that made you ever think, “Wow, if he could just be more consistent!” He had one 20-point game in his entire 2-year career; it came about a month ago against the Knicks, and 6 of those points were in a fourth quarter that was largely ceremonial, due to it being a runaway blowout. Other than that he never scored more than 14 points in a game this year or 16 in a game last year. In more than half his games this year he scored 5 points or less. He has Aaron Harrison to thank for not having the absolute worst true-shooting percentage on the team this year and Lance Stephenson to thank for not having the worst true-shooting percentage last year—notice that I didn’t say the words “Tyler Hansbrough” in the first part of that sentence, or the words “Jason Maxiell” in the second part. Per NBA.com, PJ shot an astonishingly wretched 33.8% on 3-pt attempts when a defender wasn’t within 6 feet of him! Just to put that number into context, Nic Batum, who’s only shooting 35.3% from distance overall, is still shooting 42% when nobody’s within a buried coffin of him. And long-distance scoring was supposed to be Hairston’s one dependable strength!

The irony is that when Hairston decided to drive, he wasn’t that bad—and maybe this is where you could complain that he didn’t apply himself. Per NBA.com, he was good for about 0.83 points per drive, whereas Kemba Walker is averaging 0.69. The problem is that Hairston drives less than Stevie Wonder—only 1.2 times a game. And his defense was just World War II French-level; Basketball-Reference.com had him with a -1.0 defensive box plus-minus (ahead of only Brian Roberts and Troy Daniels), he had the worst defensive efficiency on the team (107.0 points allowed per 100 possessions, which shrunk to 98.7 without him), and ESPN.com had him with a -1.65 defensive RPM (which, to be fair, is better than his offensive RPM, so…congratulations?). He couldn’t hang against a pick-and-roll (1.2 percentile, per NBA.com) and even slow guys like Gordon Hayward would just roast him over an open flame if the opposition bothered to set more than one screen. Bottom-line: the whole Hairston experiment went over about as well as the one in The Fly, and the only inconsistencies could be found in my resulting bowel movements borne out of my aggravation from watching him. All that said, thanks for what I truly believe to be a strong effort, and good luck, PJ!

Enter Courtney Lee, who—much like in the case of Batum’s replacement of Stephenson—brings joy, if only out of the fact that he can’t possibly be worse, and might just be quite a bit better. Also, “consistency” is exactly the kind of word you can use for Lee’s play, as his 3P% has been above 37% for every season except his sophomore year, and his TS% has been above 54.5% for the past four years. In fact, even if he can just maintain the 55.6 TS% that he had going this season with the notoriously non-spacing Grizzlies, he’d be 3rd best among Charlotte’s regulars, ahead of Batum. There is definitely a valid concern that Lee will be too deferential on offense, as his usage rate has been hovering around 15% for several seasons. In fact, if he’s paired too often with Invisible Marvin Williams (15.3% usage rate), we might just see the world’s first-ever 24-second violation consisting of two wide-open guys—one in each corner—repeatedly passing back-and-forth to each other. Nevertheless, I’d still prefer Lee’s quality over Hairston’s quantity, which was like a Sam’s Club of sucky shooting.

On defense, Lee is nearly the mirror-image of Hairston. His 0.13 defensive RPM is 13th best among qualified shooting guards, and although he does get bitten on pick-and-rolls (23rd percentile), at least he’s not utterly cannibalized like Hairston. He’s also nearly average (46th percentile) on those dreaded off-screen shots, which more than doubles up Hairston’s 21.2, and is generally one of the team’s biggest vulnerabilities (27th in the league). Lee also seems to fit well within the team context, as even the defensively tight Grizzlies surrendered 2 more points / 100 possessions without Lee than with him.

Overall, there just seems like a lot to like with Lee—or maybe it’s just a lot less to hate. I know his play would mean shifting Batum over to the small forward spot, but Batum is more than capable of handling that. I watched him erase Ryan Anderson in the second half of that dreadful Pelicans game to nearly save us from that jack-knifed tractor-trailer pile-up; I think Nic can do it again in a contract year. I don’t know if Lee’s steady hand and a Batum-with-dollar-signs-in-his-eyes will be enough to keep us ahead of the Wizards and Pistons for the 8th seed, but our chances are definitely better than they were with Hairston’s endless dry-heave shooting. Plus, if the Bulls keep sliding, and if Chris Bosh is really done for the year, Lee and Batum don’t necessarily need to be enough to keep us ahead of Washington and Detroit.

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    Huge upgrade.  Legit vs illegitimate.


    The price is BRob tho.  Let's hope the D-league guy plays adequately. 

    I guess I probably should have considered losing Roberts more than I did, which would be not at all.


    It's definitely not a good sign that the only picture of Gutierrez the Observer ran for several days was him going for a loose ball--probably that he himself lost. 


    ~lol~ And apparent the only memorable thing he has done is fouling Cody

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