Easiest offseason prediction of the year: Courtney Lee is going to help our Boston Celtics – immediately making them better on both ends of the court – and yes, we suddenly have reason to believe again. This sign-and-trade move definitely takes some of the sting out of the Ray Allen defection, and should help energize both head coach Doc Rivers and Lee’s new Celtics teammates. The deal is for four years and is fully guaranteed, and the 26-year-old sharp-shooter brings, in the words of Danny Ainge, ‘a vast set of tools’ to the table.
How can you not like this deal? It cost us JaJuan Johnson, E’Twaun Moore, Sean Williams, Sasha Pavlovic and two second-round draft picks. Johnson and the picks are the only pieces of this puzzle that the Houston Rockets are interested in. Moore and Williams will get the boot. Moore has impressed enough that he will probably land somewhere, or at least get a training camp invite.
What do our Celtics get? Younger, for one thing – and by that, I mean younger in terms of players who actually had a chance of landing in Rivers’ regular season rotation. Lee will likely slot into the starting lineup, alongside Rajon Rondo. That’s Allen’s old spot, remember? So that trims off nearly a decade of NBA wear and tear at the two. But what happens when Bradley returns from his shoulder injury is anyone’s guess at this point. Jason Terry is now the go-to guy off the bench. Does Bradley slide in behind Rondo on a permanent basis? Is Keyon Dooling, gone? I would say ‘yes’ to both questions at this point. Whatever happens, the Celtics’ backcourt suddenly has a more youthful vibe, even with Terry starting to get a little long in the tooth.
Now, what about those ‘vast set of tools’? Lee is good shooter, but he’s also a streaky shooter – something we’d grown accustomed to with an aging Allen. He’s an underrated athlete, a terrific defender and a great teammate. He plays hard, has excellent lateral quickness on the defensive side of the ball, and is a good finisher at the rim. The biggest question mark? He’s listed at 6’5″, but to me he looks to be closer to 6’4″, and bigger wings tend to give him trouble. Still, Lee is one of the best defenders in the league. I wouldn’t go as far as to put him in the same class as Thabo Sefolosha when it comes to on-the-ball defense, but he’s close. And while he may not be the shooter that Allen is, Allen doesn’t have Lee’s strengths on D. So, all things considered, Lee has the potential to be a better overall upgrade over Allen.
Lee can also play the three in a pinch, but that role will be Jeff Green’s primary domain going forward. Lee can instead focus on playing his natural position. It appears to be a win-win situation for everyone involved including Ainge, who should get major kudos for pulling this off.
Can’t wait to see Lee rocking a Celtics uniform!