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What do we do with… Courtney Lee?

John - Red's Army (@RedsArmy_John) May 13, 2013 Celtics News, Courtney Lee 22 Comments

The offseason is here for the Boston Celtics, and in just a couple of months, they will begin the process of putting next year’s team together.  We will take a look at the current Celtics and try to figure out what to do with each of them.  We continue today with Courtney Lee.

Courtney Lee’s career resembles a sine wave.   In his five years in the league, he’s averaged 8.4, 12.5, 8.3, 11.4, and 7.8 points per game.  This season was a bit of a microcosm of that career, beginning the season as a starter in Avery Bradley’s absence, returning to the bench when he returned, starting again when Rondo went down, and ultimately benched in the playoffs after a late season ankle injury and shooting slump.

At his best, Lee is an all-around scorer who can bury the corner 3, drive to the basket and finish with authority, and be a lock-down defender.  At his worst, Lee is an inconsistent shooter who lets his poor offensive stretches affect his defense.  Sometimes, these two things show up in the same game.

Lee has said he’s now aware of what life will be like with Rajon Rondo, and he’ll spend the summer working on being more of a spot up shooter than he has in the past.  But is that enough?  Where is Lee most valuable to the Celtics?

Here’s a look at their options.

Trade him

Lee’s contract is similar to Jason Terry’s in that the number over the next two years is the same.  It’s a mid-level deal paying him $5,225,000 next year and $5,450,000 the following year.  But with Lee, there’s a third year remaining at $5,675,000.  Also unlike Terry, there’s no trade kicker.  That means a team that trades for Lee gets these numbers and that’s it.  No additional raises.

The pros for a team trading for Lee:

  • Reasonable contract
  • He’ll only be 28 years-old next season
  • 2-way player who still hasn’t hit his potential

The cons:

  • 3-year commitment (which essentially takes away the stretch provision)
  • Inconsistency
  • 5th team in 6 years 
  • What if he HAS hit his potential?

There’s no doubt that Lee is valuable in a trade scenario.  Of course, the follow-up question is… what do you get for him?  Even if the Celtics got to a point where they could take back 150% plus $100,000, that’s still a $7.9 million player.

It’s more likely the most they could take back is a $6.6 million player.  And honestly, what kind of quality are you going to find at that level that will make a great difference for the Celtics?  Who will you get for Lee at that price that will alleviate some of the issues the Celtics have?

In this scenario, I’d expect Lee to be moved in conjunction with someone else, which gets complicated because it now opens dozens of possibilities.  I won’t speculate as to who might move with Lee (I’ll save that as we keep going to individual players), but I’m definitely watching Lee this offseason as a potential trade target.

Waive him

It’s an option, but not a good one.  I don’t think they’re at a “buyout” point with him at all, which leaves the stretch provision.  That would spread the remaining $16+ million over seven years, which would work out to be seven years worth of $2,335,714 just sitting on your cap.  That makes almost no sense whatsoever.  But it’s an option that exists.

Keep him

The Celtics have Lee, Rondo, Avery Bradley, Jason Terry, Terrence Williams, and Jordan Crawford on the roster.  That’s what some might call a logjam at the guard spot.

Keeping Lee would mean the Celtics value him in a versatile bench role where he could come in for either Rondo or Bradley (or Green/Pierce at the 3 in a small line up).  The hope would be that he does indeed “figure it out” after a summer preparing himself for what he’s learned after a year with the C’s.  They’d probably be banking on that “up” segment of the sine wave next season turning Lee into the valuable bench contributor they are hoping for.

So to recap…

  • The Celtics could trade him, most likely as part of some sort of package.
  • They could suck it up and waive him.
  • They could keep him and find another way to clear up the crowded back court

My take

From a strictly talent perspective, I’d like to keep Lee and use him as part of a 4-guard rotation with Rondo, Bradley, and Terrence Williams (we’ll get to him another day, but I like him).

Here’s the problem:  You have to find a way to get rid of Jordan Crawford and Jason Terry.  You can’t package those two guys in any sort of deal unless you have incriminating photos of some GM.  If the Celtics DID find a way to jettison those two guys, then I think Lee can be part of a productive bench for the Celtics because he does have the ability to play multiple positions.  I’m banking on the “up” year next year, and I like the fact that Lee can play both ends of the floor.

So my preference is to keep him.

BUT… (there’s always one of these in these pieces, huh?)

As Jon Duke noted in last night’s Celtics Stuff Live show, a Crawford/Williams backcourt costs the Celtics about $3 million.  Considering the Celtics payroll is pretty expensive for a non-contending team, finances could play a bigger role than talent in some instances of who they keep and who they don’t.  A Terry/Lee combo costs $10.4 million.  Terry or Lee cost more than Williams/Crawford combined.

If Terrence Williams can prove this summer that he is a worthy player off the bench, then the Celtics could play a 3-guard rotation of Rondo/Bradley/Williams with Crawford as the emergency guy off the bench (the Leandro Barbosa role last year).  The team could then find a package that includes Lee and others to address another need (for more bench scoring, or a starting big to move Garnett to the bench, perhaps?)

Keep in mind:  these scenarios don’t necessarily save the Celtics much money because they’d have to take back salary in return for getting rid of it.  What it DOES do is change how that money is spent.  And in the right package, the Celtics could save a couple of million.

So in my perfect world where every GM bows to Danny Ainge’s whim, Courtney Lee would stay and the team would find other ways to save some cash.  But in reality, dangling Lee as part of a deal involving other players might be one way for the Celtics to bring back a guy who can make a bigger impact.  So don’t be shocked to see Lee shopped around this summer.  We’ll just have to wait and see if there are any takers.

Also check out:

What do we do with… Jason Terry?

What do we do with… Rajon Rondo?

What do we do with… Kevin Garnett?

What do we do with… Paul Pierce?

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  • Chulinho

    If Danny finds a way to relieve the C’s of Crawford AND Terry, I’ll be ecstatic.

    As for Courtney, I say keep him. I don’t believe that he could play any worst than he did toward the end of the season.

    • ShawnCVD

      A ringing endorsement for Courtney…

      • Chulinho

        Wouldn’t you take Lee at his worst offensive game over Terry and Crawford at theirs?

        • ShawnCVD

          I wasn’t knocking him, I was saying you don’t believe Lee could play any worst. That’s not putting a guy with his contract in a good light…

          • Chulinho

            Ah, my bad. I understand. Just to clarify: I also believe he will play better next season.

  • http://twitter.com/RA_PapaIrish RA_PapaIrish

    My thought is this: Strictly because of financial reasons you have to try and trade Lee, Bass, and Terry. In an ideal world you could package Bass and Lee together to a team with a starting caliber big man that is only making around 8 million: Bass and Lee for Ersan Illysova works, as does the pair for Gortat, Ryan Anderson, Glen Davis, Thad Young, or Sean Marion (Some of those are way more realistic than others but you never know). Those aren’t taking into account some S&T possibilities as well. The idea behind this would be trying to cut nearly 4 million in salary while condensing your roster. Ideally it would be better to package Terry and Bass together because Terry will likely be much harder to trade. Lee as a straight salary dump to Memphis might work as they have a TPE from the Rudy Gay trade, he might be especially attractive to them if they lose Tony Allen.

    If you were able to get rid of Bass and Lee, then you would search for a salary dump trade for Terry, possibly to the Rockets where he might fit nicely as a sixth man, for one of their billion cheap power forwards. Trading Terry would likely take a good amount of time however, because teams that “fit” all seem to have cap space and will be going after a big name player in free agency. If they don’t get one, they might be willing to settle for the bench scoring of JT as a consolation prize. The Rockets are one possibility I could see that I already mentioned. The Hawks could get caught without a star in FA, and lose Korver chasing one in the process, thus leaving them as a possible fit. The Mavs could flip Mayo in a S&T, or let him walk altogether and opt to re kick the tires with JET depending on some scenarios.

    Another possibility would be to take on salary in a Jason Terry trade. A Jason Terry for Kendrick Perkins deal works straight up, this would rid the Thunder of Perks poor contract, and give them leverage in Kevin Martin negotiations. Trading JET along with guaranteed contracts of DJ white, Shav Randolph, or giving Jordan Crawford or Fab Melo to Dallas for Sean Marion would clear Dallas 3 million more in Cap room as they try to chase a big name free agent again this year.

    Or the Celtics could get really crazy try to flip Bass, Lee, and Terry for one big contract. Bass, Lee, and Terry to a Lakers team that’s desperate for depth in exchange for a oft injured Pau Gasol? Bass, Lee, and Terry all fit D’Antoni’s system if he is still there, and Bass and Lee have already had some success playing alongside Dwight. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t be fascinated either watching Pau and Garnett play alongside each other.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jake.gruber.7 Jake Gruber

      good post man. these all actually make sense.

    • ShawnCVD

      Always like to read your entries Papa Irish…

    • pierce Hart

      The thought of flipping they guys for Gasol would mean a huge 2014 free agency if you stick with KG and pierce. That’s 48 mil coming off the books. You could chase great players like Luol Deng, Derrick Favors, Paul George Danny Granger DMC, Gortat. You could sign two of those to pair with Green Rondo Bradley and Sully.

  • http://www.facebook.com/frank.aziza Frank Aziza

    Lot of celtics fans forget how good Rondo is in the playoffs. Go to this site and look at his box scores. http://m.bkref.com/
    He’s the best

  • http://twitter.com/screamcrimson Kimeron

    I say keep Lee, Williams and Jet to play w/ Rondo and Avery..get rid of Crawford..idk why Ainge traded for him in the first place..I really don’t like that kid but I like Lee tho..not only he’s a funny guy but he’s a real pro..he wants to improve and thats always great to see..whole season he stayed after games putting in extra work..the problem with Lee is his inconsistency..he’s streaky and teams have never given hI’m the chance to find his niche..he and Jeff are alike, they need time to get comfortable and I’ll hate ro see that we worked so hard ro convince him to come to Boston only to get rid of him because he struggled to find his comfort zone..the whole team struggled..keep Lee, show him that we got confidence in him and maybe he’ll come into his own..ummm kinda like Jeff

  • forever_green

    I still can’t believe how many guards we have…how bout we stock pile bigs instead.

  • Lee in Oregon

    I think we’re stuck with him.

    Like a lot of you, I was excited when the C’s got him. Now we all know why he’s on a new team every year. He doesn’t suck, but he’s not a starter on a great team. I think he has reached his full potential- maybe he improves a little but after this many years guys rarely improve a ton. As far as being tradeable- he’s a bit overpaid so I don’t see team’s lining up to get him.

  • Stephanie McGovern

    No one in the league will take that contract why do we pay these guys good money. Look at all the guys that can average ten twelve points when they play on terrible teams. Horrible move by ainge..

  • http://twitter.com/Wilanthropist Wil Reyes

    rondo, ab, twill, Clee, a no 3 pointing, bad spacing rotation lol we cant look at just talent anymore. we need to see how the pieces will fit in. Celtics offense is really bad without high basketball iq on the floor.

    Doc has relied too much on KG, Ray, Paul and Rondo.

    I do hope that Bass and Clee get traded.it will do this team some good chemistry wise and small lineup problems

  • http://www.facebook.com/chuck.mckenney1 Chuck McKenney

    Can anyone tell me why Doc Rivers refused to play Lee in the playoffs? There had to be a significant reason. And it’s that reason that will force Danny Ainge to dump him.

    • frickenWaaaltah

      If anything, not playing him means he probably can’t be moved, right? What GM could take a guy who makes ~5 mil but couldn’t get off his team’s bench in the playoffs? What kind of bad offers could you actually get for that guy?

      Whereas Jason Terry got minutes and helped his value by reminding people that he’s still Jason Terry, proven playoff performer. Bass also helped his trade value with his excellent play down the stretch and while playing big minutes against the Knicks.

      Playing more and better makes them the ones more likely to be dealt. Funny how that works, eh?

  • KGino

    We don’t have a logjam at the guard position… We have a log jam at the SHOOTING guard position. This team still needs a backup for rondo, unless you want a guy coming off an acl tear playing close to 40 min a game. Keep Bradley and one other, and get a guard who’s actually comfortable setting the table on offense when rondo needs a breather.

    Did you guys learn nothing from that Knicks series??

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  • http://www.facebook.com/chris.laterza.5 Chris Laterza

    I think we could end up using our #1 pick to dump the “reasonable” deals Ainge signed at the beginning of the year

  • Flava Frayz

    As said before…There is a reason why Lee is on a different team every other year. He has the talent….He only needs the confidence. Lee needs to learn how to play mean and go to the rack more. Nice guys often finish last!

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