Maybe the best new addition so far, Damion Lee has been a godsend for a Phoenix Suns rotation that was dying for a bench wing to bridge the gap between units. Lee, a 6-foot-5 210 wing with a 6-8 wingspan, has been crucial for Phoenix’s spacing early in the season.
Note: All numbers are prior to the Lakers game, where Lee shot 3-5 from three.
On 3.8 attempts per game, Lee is shooting a career-high 50.8% from three so far this season. A great improvement, having never finished a season at 40% or above (two seasons in Golden State of 39.7% are the previous career highs) and finishing last season (63 games) at just 33.7%.
When defenses ignore Lee, he makes them pay, shooting 25-43 (58.1%) from three with at least 6 feet of space, just 8-22 (36%) in closer coverage per NBA.com. Synergy has him scoring 1,714 points per possession (PPP) when unguarded, which ranks in the 96th percentile in the league.
And his shooting capitalizes when Phoenix better utilizes pace — which currently ranks 28th in the league — as he’s 1-8 (12.5%) from three in the final 7 seconds of the shot clock as opposed to 29-52 (55.8%) in the first 17. This is only supported by NBA.com’s lineup data. Among the top six Suns lineups in pace (given at least 10 minutes logged), Lee appears in three.
Maybe most important when it comes to Lee’s shooting is his clutch performance in the fourth quarter. Over half of his made threes come in the final frame, and the efficiency is staggering at 18-28 (64.3%).
At shootaround ahead of the Lakers game, Lee attributed the elite fourth quarter performance to his dedication and preparation, as well as trust from his teammates and coaches.
There are a few light blemishes to his shooting performance thus far, including the lack of a more diverse shot profile; Lee has not made a three off the dribble yet this season; only attempt was a late-clock prayer.
There’s also the rim issues, where he’s shooting 7-13 (53.8%), ranking in the bottom 1 percentile of the league at 0.826 PPP.
These issues could be mitigated by getting to the line, and to an extent they are, as he’s getting to the line 2.6 times per game, comparable with 2.7 trips by Mikal Bridges; the free throw rate (FTA divided by FGA) is at .195, surpassing the .166 mark by fellow bench creator Cam Payne.
Frankly, there’s a good bit of regression coming for Lee. No rotation player shoots 50% from three over an entire season, but it’s also pretty rare to see a rotation player shoot near 50% at the rim.
But if Lee can continue to hit the open shots, make a fourth quarter impact, and broaden out his game a bit beyond catch-and-shoot opportunities, the bench should be in great shape.