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Why Courtney Lee Will Thrive in Avery Bradley's Absence for Boston Celtics

PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 09:  Courtney Lee #5 of the Houston Rockets celebrates during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on February 9, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Rockets defeated the Suns 96-89. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistAugust 28, 2012

With Avery Bradley's time frame to return from shoulder surgery still uncertain (via ESPN Boston), newly acquired guard Courtney Lee may have an opportunity to make his case as the team's starting 2-guard.

The Boston Celtics signed Jason Terry and orchestrated a sign-and-trade deal to land Lee, ensuring the club wouldn't be empty-handed regardless of Bradley's status. Though Terry remains best suited for a sixth-man role, Lee fits the profile of a starter.

According to CSN's A. Sherrod Blakely, a lasting impression could even assure Lee the starting job on a permanent basis:

RT @sbarrett29: @sherrodbcsn Will Avery Bradley start when he is healthy?-> That's the plan. Depends on how CLee, #Celtics are playing.

— A. Sherrod Blakely (@SherrodbCSN) August 27, 2012

Of course, the current starter might have something to say about that, even if he is injured at the moment.

The 21-year-old Bradley earned a starting job last season thanks to his exceptional perimeter defense and improved stroke from range. The Celtics played so well when he started that Ray Allen came off the bench for the remainder of the season and the playoffs.

When it was all said and done, Bradley started 28 games.

Despite the impact he makes pestering scorers, he's not necessarily an ideal fit at shooting guard. At only 6'2", Bradley is obviously less equipped to handle bigger guards than someone with the prototypical 6'6" mold might be.

That's where Lee comes in.

Though his on-ball defense might not be quite as tenacious as Bradley's, Lee's no slouch when it comes down to checking his assignments. The 6'5" guard moves well, plays with a lot of energy and should be one of head coach Doc Rivers' instant favorites.

With the need for the Celtics to contain guards like Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson, Lee may ultimately be a better fit to guard them. 

While his size makes him a more natural fit at the 2, Lee also has more experience and a somewhat more diversified skill set on the offensive end.

He won't blow anyone away with his one-on-one game, but Lee can still spot up for three-pointers and slash to the paint effectively.

With point guard Rajon Rondo setting his scorers up so effortlessly, Lee won't have to do much more than that. Like Bradley, he'll find a lot of his shots in the corner, benefiting from the Celtics' often-stellar ball movement.

If he hits enough of those corner shots, it will be hard for Rivers to send him back to the bench when Bradley fully recovers.

Given the extent to which the 26-year-old has bounced around in his short career, he should make the most of this opportunity.

Lee started his career with the Orlando Magic, was traded to the then-New Jersey Nets and spent his last two seasons with the Houston Rockets. During that time, he's remained a consistent scorer, albeit not especially prolific.

Thus far, he's understood his role, and that hasn't translated into becoming a team's first or second option.

Boston should suit him just fine. The roster is deep enough that Lee won't be asked to become something he isn't.

If he keeps doing what he's doing, he could carve out a niche as this team's starting 2 for a long time to come.

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