NBA Roundtable

Boston Gets Courtney Lee in Sign-and-Trade

In Free Agency, Trade Talk on July 20, 2012 at 10:46 pm

ESPN reports

The Boston Celtics acquired free-agent shooting guard Courtney Lee in a sign-and-trade deal with the Houston Rockets that also included the Portland Trail Blazers, the Celtics announced Friday.

The Celtics are giving Lee a fully guaranteed four-year contract — reported by Yahoo! Sports to be worth $21.5 million — and trading away JaJuan Johnson, E’Twaun Moore, Sean Williams and a second-round pick to Houston. They also will ship Sasha Pavlovic, two second-round picks and cash considerations to Portland. The Blazers were added to the mix Thursday night in order to facilitate the deal and give Lee a higher salary.

Boston Celtics Analysis


A highly skilled offensive player for a role player. A quality ball-handler and capable passer. A very strong shooter from behind the arc and can take the ball to the rim occasionally. Very good in transition.

Only negatives offensively is Lee’s shot-selection isn’t great. Takes too many medium-to-good percentage shots instead of focusing his efforts on shot attempts which are very good-to-high percentage looks. And that he can sometimes be a bit too passive for such a capable offensive threat (should be a 14-15ppg guy in starter’s minutes rather than a 12-13ppg guy).

Some of those shot-selection issues should improve with Boston given Rajon Rondo’s playmaking ability and how well organized Boston’s offense is. I’d expect Lee to have the best year of his career, scoring efficiency wise, next season.

Defensively, Courtney Lee is a well above average defender. He has terrific feet and quickness. Contains dribble penetration very well and chases guards running through screens off the ball very well. He lacks great size though, only around 200lbs and has a slender frame, which can sometimes lead him into trouble against power two guards (big guards). That flaw stops him from being an elite defender. Unfortunately, that is the same question mark against the undersized SG Avery Bradley.

In Boston’s defensive system and with a top class interior defender like Garnett behind him, Courtney Lee will be a very effective defensive presence.

As a possession creator, Courtney Lee is quite weak. Doesn’t rebound well + while a sound position-based defender, Lee does not create many turnovers. Doesn’t take many risks defensively. More a fundamentally sound and solid defender.


A tad overpaid.

Lee is only worth around $3.5 to $4 million per annum. So he did well for himself in this deal.

Not a great contract but it’s as good as Danny could have done given the level of interest in Lee in this year’s free agent market. I don’t think he would have been able to sign him for less than $5mil per annum on a long (4 year) contract.

It’s a trade-able deal but it’ll never have much value.

If Courtney Lee had a starter’s role and was playing 32-35 minutes a night, I think he could be worth $5 million a year to a team.

Backcourt Rotation

My preference is for a three man backcourt with Rondo, Terry and Bradley. I think Rondo should be playing around 33-34 minutes a night with Terry and Bradley both playing around 30 themselves. That would leave Courtney Lee as the odd man out. Effectively a non-rotation player, a third stringer, who only sees minutes situationally.

My reason for this is that I believe Jason Terry and Avery Bradley are both more effective as individual players than Courtney Lee is and that both offer their team more than Lee does. The Celtics need Terry’s shot-creation and offensive punch. Bradley, for me, is just a more effective role player than Lee.

Now, all that said, I absolutely do not believe this will happen. Boston didn’t go to all this trouble and did not pay Courtney Lee all this money for him to be a non-rotation player. I fully expect Lee to get at least 17-22 minutes a night. Which means one of two things:

(1) Avery Bradley’s playing time will be cut into and possibly Terry’s. Bradley likely down to around 24 minutes and maybe Terry down to 26-28 minutes instead of 30. If Rondo stayed at say 34 minutes, that would total 70-72 minutes with 20-22 minutes leftover … which would end up going to Lee.

(2) Courtney Lee is used as a backup small forward with Jeff Green seeing his minutes at power forward increased considerably. Say the three guard backcourt rotation mentioned above with Lee getting 5-8mpg there and another 10-15mpg at small forward + with Jeff Green getting 5-8 minutes at SF and 20-22 minutes at PF. Likely with Brandon Bass getting 26-28 minutes as the starting forward.

With Boston going small at PF as part of their regular rotation whenever Bass goes to the bench. Which would also mean Sullinger would have to play backup center (behind Garnett) to get on the floor. Which would create several lineups which are increasingly vulnerable defensively and on the backboards especially for Boston.

So, to come back full circle, my only issue with Courtney Lee’s arrival is his role and whether or not he’ll end up taking minutes away from more effective player(s)/lineup(s) for Boston. Clearly, Lee is a talented player and a good addition for Boston but it’ll be down to Doc Rivers to make it work in the best interests of the team. We’ll have to wait and see.

Bradley’s Injury + General Avery Uncertainty

Mixed reports about Bradley’s recovery. Some say he’ll be ready for the start of the season. Some say he’ll miss the first few games. Others say he’ll be out until at least December and possibly late-December at that.

So Bradley may miss anywhere from no games, to a few games to two month’s worth of games. If Bradley is indeed out for any period of time, you can expect to see Courtney Lee start in his place and do a very good job for Boston while doing so. In fact, Bradley will surely have a fight on his hands to win back the starting position once he does return from injury given how well Lee figures to fit into that lineup.

There is also further uncertainty about Bradley’s place in the team given his short but highly productive period in the team’s starting lineup last season. To be blunt, Bradley hasn’t proven he can maintain that level of performance and may fall back down next year. This is increasingly worrying if Bradley does indeed miss another summer of potential development time, another training camp and possibly the first two months of season.

So if the worst does happen and Bradley fails to reproduce his form of late last season, Courtney Lee will prove to be an exceptional insurance policy and do a very good job for Boston as their starting SG. Bradley would then likely come off the bench in a much a smaller role than expected.

Trade Analysis

Houston Rockets

  • JaJuan Johnson
  • E’Twaun Moore — likely waived before contract becomes guaranteed
  • Sean Williams — soon to be waived
  • Charlotte’s 2nd round draft pick which the Celtics owned

JaJuan Johnson is a somewhat interesting prospect but wholly unnecessary in Houston given the large number of young power forwards already on their books.

The Rockets have Donatus Motiejunas (highly regarded prospect), Patrick Patterson (lottery pick two years ago), Marcus Morris (lottery pick last season), Royce White and Terrence Jones (mid first round picks this season). Plus, they also have Jon Brockman and Jon Leuer.

So they have absolutely no need for JaJuan Johnson and Houston will almost definitely be a very bad place for him to further his career due to a lack of opportunities available to him. Johnson has, reportedly, requested a trade from Houston and rightly so given their PF situation.

E’Twaun Moore reminds me a lot of a poor man’s JC Navarro. I’d love to see him go back to Europe and play there full time for a few years before considering whether or not to return to the NBA somewhere down the road. I think he can be a star-scorer at the highest level in Europe and have a terrific career over there + also have a chance to come back as a decent backup guard and rotation worthy player in the NBA after he develops his game in Europe if he so wishes.

However, I expect Moore to try and stick in the NBA and waste another valuable year of development time in the process. It’s 50-50 whether another NBA team will take a chance on him or not.

Sean Williams continues to be a major league disappointment. Brain dead is the best possible description. Still, his physical talent and defensive instincts make him a very intriguing prospect as a defensive-minded power forward. I would like to see someone else take a chance on him. Preferably a veteran team with a highly-skilled center and strong coaching staff.

The Bobcats’ second round pick has very strong value. They should finish with one of the worst records in the NBA next year and give Houston a pick that is roughly the equivalent of a later first round selection + with a non-guaranteed rookie-scale contract for the pick. High value 2nd round pick. Nice pickup for Houston.

Houston should be able to net themselves another asset in return for JaJuan Johnson also if they do indeed decide to trade him. Probably another early 2nd rounder or something of comparable value.

Portland Trailblazers

Portland has received some cash and two second round picks for their troubles. Reportedly, it’s the 2013 Celtics 2nd rounder and the 2013 Wolves 2nd rounder which the Celtics also owned. In total, Boston traded all three of their 2013 second round picks in this trade.

Good move for Portland. Gave up nothing. Cash paid the contracts. Picked up a couple of low quality assets in those second round picks.

The Celtics 2nd rounder should be somewhere in that 47-53 range which means it’s highly unlikely to net anything meaningful. The Wolves pick could be somewhere in the mid 40s which means there is a low likelihood of netting a quality prospect. Still, two more assets than they had yesterday and it didn’t cost them a penny to do it. Nice day’s work.

Boston Celtics

It could be argued that he Celtics gave up absolutely nothing of value in this deal.

A first round pick from last year who wasn’t panning out + non-guaranteed contracts of players they were unlikely to keep + three second round picks of so-so to low value.

And in return they netted a rotation caliber guard in Courtney Lee who is a capable starter to above average backup. A very good trade for Boston.

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