ESPN is reporting that the Boston Celtics have completed their sign-and-trade deal with the Houston Rockets for guard Courtney Lee. Compared to what other players have gotten so far in this offseason, Lee is a downright steal.
Consider the following statistics:
Player A: 13.9 points per game, 4.6 rebounds per game, 1.4 assists per game, 30.4 minutes per game, .451 field-goal percentage, .391 three-point percentage.
Player B: 11.4 points per game, 2.7 rebounds per game, 1.5 assists per game, 30.3 minutes per game, .433 field-goal percentage, .401 three-point percentage.
Player A is probably a bit better. He's a slightly better scorer and rebounder, but otherwise they're fairly comparable. Both players play excellent defense and are very young for unrestricted free agents.
Is Nicolas Batum really worth twice as much as Courtney Lee? Absolutely not.
Defensively, they're fairly even. Both had 1.4 defensive win shares last year, and they also both shared a 107 defensive rating. While that defensive rating is actually below average, it can be explained by their lackluster defensive teammates (both Houston and Portland were in the bottom half of the league in points allowed per game).
If these two players are known for their defense, and their defense is fairly even, then wouldn't if make sense for Batum have a massive edge offensively if he's getting paid twice as much?
But he doesn't. Don't get me wrong, Batum is a better scorer, but the gap isn't exactly a chasm (as seen in the above statistics).
I'm actually a big fan of Batum—I could have used any number of other free-agent signings to prove my point. Landry Fields is making almost as much total money ($19 million) in three years as Lee is in four, and George Hill will be making $40 million in his new contract with Indiana.
In an age dominated by a complete lack of fiscal responsibility, the Celtics managed to sign a really valuable role player for significantly less money than anyone else was spending.
If the Eastern Conference really does come down to Miami against Boston, the Celtics can rest easy knowing Lee can do two of the things they need to beat the Heat: shoot three-pointers and play perimeter defense.
It's rare to get that type of production for $5 million per year—it's even rarer to get it with a 26-year-old. Boston did a great job in securing Courtney Lee's services for the next four years at a very reasonable price.