COMMENTARY | Despite limited resources last offseason, Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics found a way to acquire shooting guard Courtney Lee in a sign and trade deal. This was seen as a big move for the Celtics at the time, especially considering that they gave up very little to acquire him. Lee had a reputation as a solid three-point shooter and relentless defender, which appeared to fit well in Boston.
Perhaps the expectations were just a bit too high, but many were disappointed by Courtney Lee's first season in Boston. By the end of the season, he had all but fallen out of the rotation for a team struggling to find production out of its guards. It was a mystery for some fans, particularly the ones frustrated with the play of Avery Bradley and Jordan Crawford.
Lee wasn't playing terribly, and was performing at a very serviceable level for a while. He ended the season at 37% shooting from the three-point line, averaging 7.8 points per game. Although his advanced ratings were nothing totally special, with a 102 offensive rating and a 104 defensive rating, he was far from a disaster. At times, he even looked like exactly what the Boston Celtics needed. He and Avery Bradley formed an intense defensive combination, with high levels of ball pressure that gave opposing backcourts serious problems.
After a first round exit, it appears as if it may be time for the Celtics to rebuild. Rumors have been flying about Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett for a little while now, and understandably so. This group seems to be at the end, as Pierce and Garnett can not carry a team any more.
If this is the direction Danny Ainge takes the franchise, a decision will need to be made on whether or not to keep Courtney Lee. He would certainly be an asset to a contender, with his reasonable contract and ability to play within a certain role.
The Celtics need to stick with Courtney Lee, and make him a part of their rebuilding plans.
With Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, and Jared Sullinger appearing to be the core of young players that would lead this movement, there is a severe lack of shooting and floor spacing. Lee, a career 38% three-point shooter, would be the only established distance shooter in the group. At 6'5", he would also provide some much needed size for an otherwise undersized backcourt with Rondo and Bradley. He would also give lineup flexibility to Doc Rivers, with potential to play small forward in a small lineup set with Rondo, Bradley, and Jeff Green.
At a decent price, it would be foolish for Danny Ainge to give up on Courtney Lee already. His value isn't as high as it should be right now, and the Celtics would not get the best return on him. Also, if rebuilding is in the cards, what would be the harm in holding onto him? They will likely be playing for a draft pick regardless, and seeing if Lee can develop into a nice piece for the future is worth an extra year.
If a rebuilding phase is in order, some serious changes will be made this offseason. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett may have played their last games as Celtics, and Danny Ainge will have to figure out which young players to keep around. Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, and Jared Sullinger will likely be on that list. For now, it would be a foolish decision to give up on Courtney Lee just yet.
All stats are via Basketball Reference.
Mark lives in the Boston area and has been covering the Celtics for 3 years. He has been featured on Fox Sports Yardbarker, Fox Sports, and Sports Illustrated "Hot Clicks", and has been published on Celtics 24/7, Bleacher Report, and Sports-Kings .
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