The Boston Celtics, Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder have completed a three-team trade that will see the end of Courtney Lee’s tenure as a Celtic. The Celtics will send Lee and a 2016 second round draft pick to the Grizzlies in exchange for combo-guard Jerryd Bayless and Thunder forward Ryan Gomes. The Grizzlies will also send a heavily protected 2017 second round pick to the Thunder for making salaries match in the deal.
Bayless, now in his sixth season out of the University of Arizona, is an aggressive, offensive minded combo-guard with good speed and the ability to create his own shot. This season he is averaging eight points, two assists and 1.9 rebounds in just more than 20 minutes per game. He is in the last year of a two-year extension worth $3.1 million and his expiring contract appears to be general manager Danny Ainge’s main draw in completing the deal. Gomes was originally drafted by the Celtics in 2005 and despite his career averages of 10.1 points and 4.6 rebounds he has been immediately waived by the team in order to retain further flexibility.
The trade sees an end to a bumpy two-year stint as a Celtic for Courtney Lee, who never really found his role in Boston. Brought in while the team had Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett leading deep playoff charges, Lee was expected to be a major contributor after the departure of Ray Allen. The 2012-13 season turned into a disaster for the Celtics and once Ainge moved away from his veteran stars, the very reason Lee was brought to Boston had become irrelevant. He has seen a resurgence in his shooting efficiency at least this season, averaging 7.4 points on .492 shooting and .442 from deep which are both career highs. He combines that outside shooting ability with tough defense and these factors are undoubtedly what got the Grizzlies’ front office interested in Lee in the first place. The kicker here is that Lee still has two years remaining after this season on a deal that will pay him an average of $5.5 million.
Danny Ainge has done a masterful job here of getting out from the long-term money owed to Lee as the Celtics continue to fast-track their rebuilding process. The team has no reason to commit big money to veteran role-players with a young roster and finding an expiring contract for Lee, while not a blockbuster trade by any stretch is a shrewd move by a general manager who has been through this process before. Jerryd Bayless is also a player that the Celtics have coveted in the past and will now get the opportunity to test-drive the guard for the rest of the season and see if he could fit into the teams’ long term plans.
It should also give the Celtics leverage in negotiations with their own free agent guards with Avery Bradley and Jordan Crawford both hitting the market, each will now know the team has another option if they get greedy in contract demands. Bayless has already joined the Celtics on their long road trip out west and should be available to play immediately.