Boston Celtics Must Explore Trading Courtney Lee to Get Kevin Garnett Real Help

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 27, 2012

The Boston Celtics need to find a spark. Even if it means cutting ties with one of their only young, healthy and promising talents.

The Celtics have dropped four of their last six games.

They needed all of Paul Pierce's 40 points to eke out a 101-93 home win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on December 19. Pierce's 35-point, 12-bound two nights later was squandered in a 99-94 overtime home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

When Kevin Garnett heavily contemplated retirement over the 2012 offseason, he could not stay away from the draw of another championship run.

As things currently stand, though, a trade will be needed before those aspirations can become anything more than a pipe dream.

At 14-13, Boston is tied with the Brooklyn Nets for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.

Doc Rivers' club has played nowhere near the level of defense that spurred their championship run in 2008. And they haven't suddenly evolved into an offensive force that can overcompensate for their generous defense.

With recent Celtic mainstay Ray Allen spurning the franchise over the offseason and signing with the defending champion Miami Heat, Boston appeared to attack its shooting needs with a plethora of marksman.

The team added Courtney Lee, Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa in its attempts to replace the departed Allen.

Perhaps some of those roster spots would've been better used in targeting some interior presences to assist Garnett on the block.

The shooters have helped the Celtics post a team field-goal percentage of 46.9, the fifth-best mark in the league.

But Boston's fate has relied far too heavily on the success rate of those shooters. The Celtics have collected just 19.6 percent of available offensive rebounds, the worst such mark in the NBA.

And they haven't fared much better on the defensive end. Their collective rebounding differential is a paltry minus-four, 28th in the league.

Garnett leads this team with 7.1 rebounds per game. The starting small forward (Pierce) ranks second with 5.7. And their starting point guard (Rajon Rondo) ranks fourth on the Celtics with 5.1.

It's imperative that GM Danny Ainge attacks the trade market with Lee, one of his few compelling trade chips. With third-year shooting guard Avery Bradley expected to share the bulk of the shooting guard minutes with Jason Terry, Lee could be counting down the days of his relevance in Boston even if he's not moved.

Of course, before weighing the benefits of moving Lee, Ainge will first have to correctly gauge the value of the 27-year-old. He's an effective two-way threat, yet has failed to make a significant impact when he's been given a starting role in his four-plus NBA seasons.

He won't bring back a sexy name, but he might be enough to lure Ian Mahinmi from the Indiana Pacers. Or draw DeJuan Blair and a draft pick (to replace the one Boston sent to the Houston Rockets in their sign-and-trade for Lee) from the San Antonio Spurs.

With three of their top four scorers at least 35 years old, the Celtics face a closing window to even contend with the league's greats.

If they don't act quickly, that window might already be closed.

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