Bayless has some skills valuable to a second unit.
While Lee was a pure shooting guard, Bayless plays more of a combo position as a scoring point guard, very much in the mold of current starting point guard Jordan Crawford.
The move was clearly made as a salary-cutting maneuver, swapping three years and about $16.7 million of Lee for just one year of Bayless at $3.13 million. Boston was able to make the move thanks to Lee's bounce-back season and the inclusion of a 2016 second-round pick. The Celtics also took back Ryan Gomes' $509 thousand, but they waived him immediately.
Bayless will enter unrestricted free agency this summer, and the Celtics will have no obligation to bring him back. However, if he proves valuable in Brad Stevens' system, there is a chance they make an offer to the 25-year-old.
Stevens was already looking ahead to what Bayless might be able to offer his Celtics, in a conversation with The Boston Globe's Baxter Holmes.
“He does give us more flexibility in ball-handling, with regard to playing some [point guard], which is good. And he’s been around, obviously, an organization that’s had some pretty good success getting to the Western Conference Finals last year, and he played a big role in that.”
In the two games since joining Boston, Bayless has played 25 and 20 minutes, which is slightly more than Lee was earning on a nightly basis. His first game was a bit of a wash, posting six points on 3-of-11 shooting against the Denver Nuggets.
In game two, however, Bayless really did provide something valuable to the Celtics. Going against the Los Angeles Clippers, it appeared early on that Boston might be blown out once again. However, unlike they appeared to do in the two previous games against Denver and the Oklahoma City Thunder, the team battled back.
Nice, under control stretch by Bayless with seven points in eight minutes.— Mark Murphy (@Murf56) January 9, 2014
Multiple stands were made in the first and second quarters with Bayless on the floor. In just his second game with the team, he looked the part of second-unit leader. That is something Lee could never be. His role was simply a catch-and-shoot perimeter guy with some minor penetration mixed in.
Bayless has more point-guard skills as a ball-handler that allow him to control things like flow and tempo.
Because of that, the player most at risk of losing immediate time is probably Phil Pressey. The rookie point guard hasn't lit it up very often, but he proved to be a decent enough stop-gap as the backup point guard.
However, with Bayless on the roster, Stevens will be forced into using Pressey and Bradley in the point-guard role less. Pressey may find himself getting run with Maine in the D-League soon.
The player most at risk down the line this season is Jordan Crawford. Once the star of this season for Boston, Crawford has regressed slowly back toward his career clips in shooting. His flair has been dampened in recent weeks, as the schedule became more difficult.
With Rajon Rondo's return on the horizon, this move could have made Crawford expendable. Though Boston missed the opportunity to deal him when his trade value was at its highest-ever point, Crawford could still possibly be moved. Rondo is the obvious starter alongside Bradley, which casts Crawford back into the second unit, where Bayless now has the opportunity to solidify himself.
Jerryd Bayless said he'll likely play more shooting guard when Rondo comes back. "He's the best point guard in the league," Bayless added.— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) January 7, 2014
The two are probably too similar to play together, meaning one might be on the way out.
The Bayless move can also be looked at in a way void of the cost-cutting theory. He could be a way of lighting a fire under Crawford. The former gunner-turned-quality point guard might have been growing content in his role with the team, getting 30.9 minutes a night and taking 11.6 shots, 4.1 threes each game.
That is what Crawford has been looking for throughout his brief, but experienced, career. The last time he was playing this regularly was half a year after getting moved to the Washington Wizards. He saw 33.3 minutes over 26 games, posting a horrific 39/23.8/88.5 shooting clip.
Bayless hasn't exactly had a great season shooting the basketball, either, coming to the Celtics with a 37.7 percent clip from the field and 30.1 percent from beyond the arc. However, that is why Boston was able to swap his contract for Lee's bigger and longer deal.
He also has the experience of being a fairly valuable gunner on a couple playoff teams, most notably the Grizzlies in 2012-13. That is a position Crawford hadn't tasted until last spring with the Celtics' brief appearance.
Watching Bayless adjust to Boston's second unit over two games is a small sample size, but there are takeaways that should last.
The three-point shooting is a simple carry-over from playing with Lee for the rest of his new teammates. Bayless was found a few times for open looks on the perimeter by a couple different guys. He actually nailed 2-of-3 in the first half against Los Angeles, stemming a few Clippers rushes. He can definitely knock down the open trey, but he has a tendency to take covered ones as well.
He also has a deceptively quick first step with excellent acceleration. There have been a few instances where Bayless has dribbled slowly in transition and immediately turned on the jets to blow by his defender through the slim opening afforded to him.
With the reputation as a guy who can get by players on the bounce comes open passing lanes as slower defenders sag off slightly. He produced a handful of quality entry passes to guys like Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk while racking up eight assists (five against Los Angeles) over the two games.
One major thing to consider with the swap is how confident and aggressive Bayless is. A huge knock on Lee, particularly last year, was how he simply wouldn't shoot enough. Bayless has come in and put up 20 shots over two games. Lee had gotten up 20 shots over a two game stretch just 12 times over 112 games with Boston.
At the other end, things will take more time to integrate. Bayless looked sloppy on defense over the two games. He couldn't stay with Jamal Crawford at all, and occasionally it looked like his effort lagged. For the time being, Boston's defense will suffer slightly. Lee was a bigger player and more athletic at that end.
Boston's defense is a secondary concern right now, though. The team is scoring just 95 points per game, while the defense has been on the better side of average for much of the year. Given the roster makeup, particularly in the frontcourt, defense is going to be a sacrifice for this team.
The move certainly doesn't have blockbuster appeal, and ultimately might not change the Celtics' destiny in 2013-14, but there are enough moving parts to make it intriguing.
Fans can continue to analyze Bayless' adjustment period and see if Crawford bounces back now that his comfy seat just got a warmer and his fallback position after Rondo's return was left in the sun too long.