One of the biggest gripes Phoenix Suns fans had last season was the team’s weak performance from its bench guards. Taking a particularly high level of heat was Landry Shamet, whom fans raked over the coals in postseason polls.
But earlier this month the Suns organization made an addition in this area, as the team signed Damion Lee to a one-year deal. Lee just won a championship as a member of the Golden State Warriors, playing alongside his brother-in-law Steph Curry (he is married to Steph’s sister Sydel).
Who is this guy? What does he bring to the Valley? Let’s take a look.
- Position: Shooting Guard
- Vitals: 6’5” tall, 210 pounds, 29 years old
- Experience: 6th NBA season
- Stats (2021/2022 regular season): 7.4 points per game, 3.2 rebounds per game, 1 assist per game, 19.9 minutes played in 63 games (5 starts), 44% shooting from the field, 34% from 3PT.
Lee had a lengthy collegiate career. He spent four seasons at Drexel, redshirting one due to a torn ACL, before transferring to Louisville to play his final year of eligibility. All told he played in 125 NCAA games, averaging 16 points per contest. In his senior season at Louisville, Lee was named to the John Wooden Award watchlist and earned a second-team all-conference nod.
Undrafted in the 2016 NBA draft, Lee set about trying to earn himself a place in the league. He played in the Summer League for the Miami Heat and then signed an entry-level contract with the Boston Celtics, but was waived only a month later. He landed with the Maine Red Claws of what is now the G-League, suffered another injury, and fought back the following season with the G-League Santa Cruz Warriors.
Lee finally got a real shot with the Atlanta Hawks in 2018, parlaying a couple of 10-day contracts into a deal for the remainder of that season. Though he played in only 15 games, Lee finally had his foot well and truly in the door.
He signed a two-way deal with the Golden State Warriors the following season, and went on to spend four seasons with that organization, including making 36 starts during the team’s abysmal 2019-2020 campaign.
Even pushing 30 and with some fairly serious injuries in his past, Lee remains a reasonably athletic and energetic player. He has pretty good defensive instincts and works hard on that end.
Offensively, he’s a decent jumpshooter and solid finisher around the basket. Here’s a highlight reel that showcases a few of his moves and offensive tendencies pretty well:
For a guard, Lee is a below mediocre creator and playmaker who averaged fewer than two assists per 36 minutes this past season. He’s big enough and strong enough to legitimately guard most opposing wings, but isn’t quite quick enough to reliably defend more explosive wings and point guards if asked to do so.
Lee is set to earn $2.1 million on his one-year deal this season.
Expectations are key for Suns fans when looking at Damion Lee. He can provide a steady presence off the bench and he has certainly spent a lot of time in a winning culture at Golden State.
But he is by no means guaranteed to particularly outplay even last season’s Landry Shamet, and when you look at it closely the gap between their performances last season was ultimately pretty small.
That said Lee has been known to get on some hot streaks and really play some pretty good ball when his team needs him.
Let’s hope Lee brings his best self to the Suns this season, and earns himself a second championship ring in as many years.