In the first of what will probably be several moves before the February trading deadline, Celtics GM Danny Ainge has agreed to trade Courtney Lee to Memphis for Jerryd Bayless. The deal was reported by various outlets on Sunday, January 5. Lee’s contract, which extends through the 2015-16 season, was a reasonable $5.2 million per year. Both Lee and Bayless are backup guards, though Bayless is much more capable of backing up the point guard, a role that Brad Stevens has given to the diminutive Phil Pressey for the last two months. This move is purely salary-motivated for Boston. The Celtics currently have a 13-21 mark, still well within striking distance of a playoff spot–which they should be hoping to avoid.
The move, and the possible Brandon Bass deal that we will likely hear rumors of in the next few weeks, are all about opening up future cap space. The Celtics will be looking to assemble a new supporting cast to surround what may well be a core of Rondo, Bradley, and Sullinger in the coming years. They will also be looking to extend Avery Bradley’s contract, which is due to expire in the summer of 2015.
For Memphis, a team decimated by Marc Gasol’s knee injury and further depleted by the loss of perimeter threat Quincy Pondexter, Courtney Lee’s shooting and versatility may help bolster their bench production. For a team that may re-tool their roster completely after next year (both Randolph and Gasol will be free-agents) it gives them more shooting depth for the future.
Celtics fans should be mildly pleased with this move, as it is another small step in the right long-term direction.