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Is Courtney Lee Expendable to Celtics?

dfavale December 18, 2012 Dan Favale No Comments

Courtney Lee was supposed to be a championship-caliber piece that helped push the Boston Celtics back into contention. But that hasn’t been the case. And it may never be.

According to David Aldridge of NBA.com, the Celtics may be dangling Lee as trade bait:

Lee agreed to four-year, $21 million contract in a sign-and-trade deal that sent him from Houston to Boston in a three-way trade also involving Portland,” writes Aldridge. “But he’s shooting just 28.6 percent from 3-point range this season, well off his career mark of 38.6 percent (and way off last season’s 40.1 percent behind the arc).

“And with Jason Terry in tow and Avery Bradley close to making his return from shoulder surgeries in the summer, the Celtics — looking hard for one more big man — have one off-guard too many.

Signing Lee, and subsequently trading Lee was obviously not the plan for Boston. But as Aldridge notes, he hasn’t played up to par and with Avery Bradley on the way back, Lee’s presence may be overkill in the backcourt.

But is it? Lee, when playing up to snub, is a prolific scoring option. He can score off the dribble or spot-up and shoot the three, despite what his stat lines read.

However, while I am always reluctant to call a two-way player like Lee expendable, the Celtics need rebounding. Like really need rebounding. They’re currently last in the league with 38.6 rebounds per night. Toss in the fact that Lee has been underperforming and Bradley’s impending return and a potential swap for a talented big man makes sense.

The only problem then becomes the market for Lee. As previously noted, his production isn’t about to entice many a teams. Sure, he has plenty of potential, but we’ve been saying that for years and he has yet to develop into the consistently explosive scorer we know he can be.

More likely than not, though, he would make a nice complementary piece in any package Boston attempted to construct for an outlying big man. And yet, do the Celtics really have the assets to pull off a major trade?

To an extent, yes, but unless they are willing to break up the trio of Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, their options are slim bordering on none. Rondo is clearly off limits and trading Garnett isn’t about to help the rebounding cause. There’s also a case to be made for Pierce as Boston’s most potent rebounding wing.

Which leaves Boston with players like Bradley, Jason Terry, Brandon Bass and, of course, Lee. All signs point to them holding onto to Bradley. With his two-way potential, the hope should be that he and Rondo form a star-studded backcourt that thrives for years to come.

So, theoretically, if the Celtics still value Terry’s championship-caliber presence, are they going to be able to land a prolific big in exchange for Bass and Lee. I have my doubts, but I have seen crazier trades.

Nonetheless, Lee’s production has hit a wall, and Boston continues to run into a rebounding wall. If a trade can be constructed around Lee that would land the Celtics an inside presence like Marcin Gortat or Josh Smith, then I would deem him more than expendable.

But if this is the Celtics shopping for height just for the sake of making a change, then they have to be careful, as trade rumors are liable to disrupt the chemistry of an entire team.

Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.

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