David Lee is now a Boston Celtic. And to be quite honest, I’m not sure what’s so difficult to understand about that.
Since it was first reported earlier this week that Lee would be traded to the Celtics for Gerald Wallace, I was shocked to find some scratching their heads with the move.
Truth be told, Lee-to-Boston makes perfect sense, for multiple reasons.
First and foremost, you’re ridding yourself of Gerald Wallace and the $10.1 million salary he’s owed next season. Paying Wallace that much money to be a glorified water boy for one more year would be a terrible business strategy. And when I call him a “water boy,” that may even be generous.
If you’re going to pay someone eight figures next year, you might as well pay someone who’s going to actually play. And not only does Lee play, he’ll be starting in the C’s frontcourt.
Lee isn’t cheap though. He’ll be making $15.5 million next season. And like Wallace, he’s in the final year of his contract.
To that, you might say, “What’s the point?” Your argument might be that Lee’s presence — along with newly signed power forward Amir Johnson — will take away crucial minutes for youngsters like Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk, to name a few.
Don’t get me wrong, that argument makes some sense. But only if you don’t understand Danny Ainge’s plan.
It was recently reported that the Celtics are looking to dish out, not one, but two max contracts next summer. To that, I say, no kidding. But it’s easier said than done.
You need to convince those max-contract worthy players to sign in Boston. And since Ainge can’t control Mother Nature, he’s trying to build a team that gives a superstar player a reason to commit to the Celtics. Lee’s presence isn’t quite “championship” caliber, but it will certainly be an improvement.
The numbers don’t lie. When Lee plays anywhere from 33-37 minutes a night, he averages around 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. Last year he lost his starting job to injury late in the season, but still never became a distraction for the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors.
With the Celtics, Lee should see his minutes increase, likely getting him back to the production everyone’s used to seeing from him.
Again, Lee won’t be delivering a Larry O’Brien Trophy to Boston next June. But his presence will help the C’s improve on their 40-42 record, help them to a higher playoff seed in the East, and help the younger players around him progress. In the process, perhaps a more successful team will also help increase the trade value of those younger players.
Whatever the result, it’s pretty clear what Ainge is trying to do. He’s trying to create an environment that will lure superstar free agents to Boston. Lee can’t hurt that strategy. He can only help.
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