Marcus Lee is the least heralded rotation player on Kentucky’s frontline. That’s unusual for a player ESPN.com ranked as the 25th best high school prospect when he enrolled at Lexington in 2013, but there’s little debate the players ahead of him are simply better and should therefore get more playing time. Lee logged just 156 minutes as a freshman and has only had the chance to log 179 in this one due to John Calipari’s platoon system. Calipari has often taken him out of the rotation on second halves.
Lee’s top skill is as an offensive rebounder – collecting 15 percent of Kentucky’s misses throughout his college career. He is unable to establish inside position like Dakari Johnson or Karl-Anthony Towns do but has a seven-foot-two wingspan to rebound outside of his area and great quickness tracking the ball off the rim. However, Lee does not have great strength and power to gather himself and go up a consecutive time to score – transforming just seven of his 23 offensive rebounds into putbacks, according to hoop-math.com.
Draft Express’ Josh Riddell profiled in the summer most of his scoring was attained in transition and off cuts last season. That remains the case this season. Kentucky doesn’t run many pick-and-rolls and Lee rarely gets a touch in the post. He’s taken just nine shots away from the rim this season. And when he’s gotten the ball for some semblance of shot creation, he’s turning the ball on over a sky-high 20.4% of Kentucky’s possessions, according to basketball-reference.
Lee is a fluid runner in transition, has shown good hands to catch the ball on the move and can play above the rim as a target for lobs. He’s improved the strength in his frame by 21 pounds since enrolling at Lexington and has grown able to finish through contact when attacking the basket with momentum. Lee has converted 18 of his 23 shots at the rim.
Though he improved his physical profile, Lee continues to have a lean 220-pound frame in the context of his six-foot-nine height. He struggles boxing out big men with legit size and has collected just 12.5% of opponents’ misses when he’s been on the floor, though it’s meaningful to acknowledge Dakari Johnson is rebounding at a really high rate this season.
Yet, he defended Montrezl Harrell with a lot of toughness in the post. Lee was able to hold his ground better than one would expect in that matchup and used his eight-foot-11 standing reach extremely well to contest Harrell’s hooks.
Lee was asked to defend the pick-and-roll flat against Texas and looked comfortable defending in space. He’s shown good quickness rotating off the weakside to protect the basket and can play above the rim as a volume shot blocker, averaging three blocks per 40 minutes in his limited playing time. Lee has also shown able to pace with a smaller, slower guard like Marcus Paige in isolation and exhibited pretty good closing speed to contest shots in the perimeter.
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here and at BballBreakdown or at Upside & Motor, a couple of websites where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.