|Is Courtney Lee already on his way out in Boston?|
When the Boston Celtics concluded their business during this most recent NBA off-season, head coach Doc Rivers found himself with a glut of shooting guards to fit into his rotation. After losing Ray Allen, the Celtics brought in Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, and Leandro Barbosa to bolster their perimeter play. Since the beginning of the season, Barbosa has started just one game, while Courtney Lee started nine games earlier this season before Jason Terry took over to start 16 games. Terry is averaging over 30 minutes per game, while Courtney Lee averages over 24 and Barbosa just 12.5.
The Celtics won't be disappointed with any of their new additions at the position so far, but with Avery Bradley closing in on a return from a shoulder injury he suffered last season, there will be one guard too many on the roster. With Rajon Rondo averaging over 37 minutes per game at the moment, a number that is only likely to grow as the season gets older, the Celtics are essentially looking to rotate two players into the shooting guard position and one player into both the shooting guard position and point guard.
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Terry, Barbosa and Bradley are all versatile players who can play either guard position, although Bradley has become much more of a shooting guard since his days as a point guard at Texas. That leaves Courtney Lee as the odd man out in the sense that he can only play shooting guard. Lee is averaging more time on the court than Barbosa and is a better defender than both of the newly acquired veterans. He is just 27 years of age and is on a cap friendly contract. He is essentially a slightly older version of Bradley.
For those reasons, he is the most likely player to move on in a trade.
The Celtics aren't simply going to try and trade a shooting guard because they have too many. Doc Rivers understands the value of depth as well as anyone, but if he can bring in a worthwhile big bodied presence in the paint then Danny Ainge would need to execute a move that would help the team win in the short term, opposed to hold onto a younger body for his long-term potential.
Lee's long-term potential is essentially non-existent with the Celtics either way. Not because of his own ability, he is a good professional player, but because the Celtics' one area of their roster that is set for the future is at the two guard positions. Rondo and Bradley are cemented as the future, unless Bradley's shoulder never fully heals or Rondo physically implodes during one of his more petulant performances.
Much like last season, the Celtics are in need of adding some size to the interior of their defense. Adding a big man to take the pressure off of Kevin Garnett at the center position would be a huge boost for the team. Talks already exist of a potential trade for Marcin Gortat. Gortat's Phoenix Suns team are not currently competitive and would happily accept better future help for a short-term sacrifice. A trade of Lee for Gortat straight up wouldn't work, because it doesn't comply with the NBA's trade regulations. So unless the Celtics add a third team to the negotiations, unlikely, they will have to decide if giving up a second youngster such as Jared Sullinger is a worthwhile sacrifice.
Sullinger has made a somewhat promising start to his career for the Celtics and could develop into an important piece in the future. However, he does have lingering question marks over his health from the draft evaluations and may be one of the better players on a bad team once the Celtics' veterans retire. Sullinger and Lee would be the two most likely trading chips if the Celtics move for Gortat, unless they can somehow convince the Suns to take Chris Wilcox, Jason Collins or Fab Melo in his place.