Monday, January 6, 2014

My 37 second take on the Celtics trading Courtney Lee for Jerryd Bayless

About six weeks ago I wrote an article for Yahoo Sports (my first, actually) entitled "Boston Celtics Likely to Embrace Unorthodox Trade Philosophy."  Here's what I said about Courtney Lee then:

"Lee is a similar situation at shooting guard, although not as much value for the price [as Brandon Bass] at slightly more than $5 million. But if the Celtics can work a deal for someone who's contract is up a year or two earlier, it's a beneficial move regardless of who it is."

The main point of the article was that Boston would make trades this year that had nothing to do with the actual players involved, just their contracts.  This Lee for Jerryd Bayless deal is exactly that; the Celtics got rid of Lee's $5.2 million salary in exchange for Bayless' $3.1 million (normally this wouldn't be allowed under the NBA's salary cap rules in which the money has to match up in every deal, but Memphis has something called a "trade exemption" that allowed them to take on extra).

However, what really matters to the C's is not what each guy is making now, but rather next year and the year after that.  Bayless is a free agent at the end of the season, so Boston has no further financial obligations to him.  Lee on the other hand is under contract for $5.5 mil in 2014-2015, and $5.7 mil in 2015-2016.  The Celtics now have a lot more flexibility and can use that salary cap space in other ways as they try to rebuild.  While Lee is a decent shooting guard, he's easily replaceable for less money.

I'm actually shocked the Grizzlies wanted to make this deal.  Lee might be slightly better, but as players he and Bayless are fairly similar.  I assumed that in order to convince another team to take on Lee's contract Boston would have to offer more value in return as an incentive, but in this case they were able to unload it without giving up anything they care about.  It's a clear win for the Celtics, and a great move for the future.

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