New York Knicks: Do Courtney Lee and the Sixers make sense?

SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 4: Courtney Lee #5 of the New York Knicks looks on during the game against the Sacramento Kings on March 4, 2018 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 4: Courtney Lee #5 of the New York Knicks looks on during the game against the Sacramento Kings on March 4, 2018 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Could the New York Knicks help the Philadelphia 76ers after their trade for Jimmy Butler?

Before training camp, Marc Berman of The New York Post reported that Courtney Lee desired a move to a contender, but would otherwise stay with the New York Knicks. The veteran guard has endured two rebuilding seasons since signing a four-year contract in the Phil Jackson era.

Lee makes sense as a trade candidate. The Knicks owe him $12.75 in 2019-20 and removing this figure, or most of it, provides them extra flexibility in the 2019 offseason.

A neck injury has sidelined Lee for the first month of the season, however. The Knicks haven’t provided a timetable for his return, and they obviously can’t showcase him for interested teams.

Whenever Lee returns, though, the Philadelphia 76ers, after Saturday’s trade for Jimmy Butler, should be a candidate for the 33-year-old. Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer also speculated this.

With Dario Saric and Robert Covington off to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Sixers only have JJ Redick, Wilson Chandler and Landry Shamet to deploy for outside shooting to flank the stars. Joel Embiid does most of his work inside and Ben Simmons hasn’t found a jump-shot (0 three-point attempts in 2018-19).

Butler, of course, shoots a solid 34.1 percent for his career, but he’s now the only consistent three-point shooter in Philadelphia’s starting lineup.

If Lee proves healthy, he can potentially slide into Markelle Fultz‘s spot between Butler and Simmons to provide the outside shooting and defense to complement the stars. He’s a career 38.9 percent shooter from behind the arc and at least 1.0 steal in each season since 2014-15.

For the Knicks, Lee seems without a role in the current group. Damyean Dotson has played well enough to keep a starting spot, and Allonzo Trier won’t lose his role off the bench.

One veteran, Trey Burke, already lost his spot in the rotation. Mario Hezonja, who’s shooting 38.3 percent, may be the next one to sit if the organization wants Lee to play. Except the Croatian forward provides the “positionless” role, at 6-foot-8, that Lee doesn’t.

If the Knicks find Lee playing time, and they receive trade calls, it’s difficult to think they won’t take money back, unless the Sixers go all-in on the playoffs.

Jerryd Bayless‘ expiring $8.57 million was sent in the Butler deal, so Sixers general manager Elton Brand would need to stack Mike Muscala and others’ salaries to make it work. A three-team deal is another option, although complicated.

If Lee was on the last year of his contract, a buyout could have worked, but it creates a Joakim Noah-esque situation to waive and stretch that $12.75 million. That’s only if the Knicks become desperate for more in-season cap space, rather than waiting for how 2019 free agency results.

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Theoretically, the Sixers are logical candidates to take Lee via trade. Logistically, it’s a task for New York’s front office to pull off.