Doc Rivers and the Boston Celtics have their eye trained on free-agent wing Courtney Lee, but there's a tiny problem: Without having even the slightest amount of cap space with which to absorb a potential deal for Lee, the C's are at the mercy of the Houston Rockets.
The only avenue that Boston can use to acquire Lee is through a sign-and-trade, meaning that not only will it cost the Celtics an asset of some kind to pull off a potential trade, but one sweet enough for the Rockets to play along.
Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe fleshes out the situation in greater context:
When asked his most important priority, Lee said: “I want to win. I got a taste of the playoffs and going all the way to the Finals my rookie year (with Orlando in 2009). I want to get back there.
"Boston, everybody knows their record and what they’ve accomplished over the years, especially with Doc and having KG (Kevin Garnett) and Paul (Pierce), (Rajon) Rondo’s still there. So that’s a team I feel will win and continue to win. That’s one factor in the decision.”
Lee, 26, has played four NBA seasons after a storied career at Western Kentucky. He was dealt after his rookie season in Orlando to New Jersey in the Vince Carter trade and then sent to Houston in a four-team deal two years ago. He’s a career 38.6 percent three-point shooter and has come off the bench in 152 of his 287 career games.
He said he’s aware the best way to get to Boston is by trade. “You know Houston and (general manager) Daryl Morey, he loves draft picks, that’s one thing that you can do, a sign-and-trade,” Lee said. “With having Houston loving draft picks and Boston not having money to be able to pay a player, that could be an option for both teams.”
Considering how little Boston can afford to offer in a potential deal for Lee, draft picks do indeed seem the likely route. A first-rounder would likely be the asking price, though the Celtics do also have their second-round selection in 2013, in addition to those of the Bobcats and the Timberwolves. For an asset collector like Rockets GM Daryl Morey, those could be interesting trade pieces.
But all of this effort makes a ton of sense, given the Celtics' current situation.
Boston clearly trusts Jeff Green to fill in some of the minutes on the wing, but Green's impending deal is almost certain to disappoint, given his track record for inefficiency.
Whether Rivers and Danny Ainge know that now or not, Lee, 26, is a prime candidate to hedge against Boston's initial bet with Green. He can fill the void for the injured Avery Bradley, supply some of what Boston will miss in Ray Allen's absence and can complement Rajon Rondo, Jason Terry, Paul Pierce, Bradley and Green wonderfully.
He's the bit of glue that would fortify Boston's rotation of perimeter players, and his skill set is versatile enough that he could thrive while being amorphous.
The C's could use his shooting, playmaking, off-the-ball movement and on-ball defense. Lee is firmly entrenched as a jack of all trades and, in that manner, is exactly what Green is supposed to be.
Picking up Lee can't undo the reported four years and $36 million offered to Green, but at the very least, he can functionally replace the player Boston thought it was getting in the first place.