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NBA trade rumor: Toronto a potential destination for David Lee?

We finally have a rumor.

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

David Lee is the most logical person to be dangled at the trade deadline so it was only a matter of time before the first rumors about his availability started seeping out of the woodwork.

Steve Kyler reports (to the surprise of no one) that Lee is available and that he would welcome a change of scenery.  What's interesting is that a team, the Raptors, was named as a potential landing spot.

NBA PM: The Trade Deadline is Nearing | Basketball Insiders | NBA Rumors And Basketball News

The problem for Boston is that it’s difficult to move Lee’s $15.4 million contract without any long-term cap impact. Their desire to keep their flexibility and not take on long-term money is something the Celtics have made clear to inquiring teams. One of the teams that continues to be mentioned as a possibility for Lee at the deadline is the Toronto Raptors. However, making the cap math work would be complicated unless a third team that’s willing to take on one of Toronto’s longer deals gets involved.

Your obvious next move is to seek out a roster page with the Raptors salaries listed.  Here's one.  As you go down that list, you can mentally cross off Carroll and Lowry.  It seems very unlikely that the team would be willing to move the recently extended Jonas Valanciunas.

Which brings us to DeMar DeRozan.  He's most likely going to opt out of his contract this summer and field max offers from the likes of the Lakers.  Some believe that the Raptors don't want to lock into a future with this current team and would be inclined to shake things up by trading DeRozan now, while they can still get value for him.  In theory the Celtics could offer up picks and David Lee and have the next few months to convince DeRozan to stay in Boston with a 5 year max offer (a year longer than other teams could offer).

Personally I don't see the Raptors moving on just yet (at least not without an obvious over-pay) and I don't really see DeRozan as the star I want to invest our stock of trade assets in.

Regardless, I don't think DeRozan was what Mr. Kyler was talking about in his rumor when he mentioned Toronto's "longer deals."   The Raps have Patrick Patterson signed through the end of next year and they have Corey Joseph and Terrence Ross on deals stretching out to 2019.  That's a lot of cash to lock up on guys that may or may not be better than the options already on the Celtics roster for much cheaper deals.

So if the Raptors and Celtics are going to hook up on a trade with David Lee, the most likely scenario would be getting involved in a 3 team deal.  Option A has always been to keep Lee's contract available to bid on any star that might become available at the deadline.  As the weeks and months pass without an obvious trade target, the odds increase that secondary options will be explored.

And of course, if all else fails I don't think Ainge will deal just to make a deal.  If he doesn't get good value in return with contracts that he's willing to accept back, then he'll let the deadline pass with Lee still on the roster.  Then you could see David Lee request a buy-out in order to play for another team and pump up his stock for his free agency this summer.

So that was all probably more thought than this rumor deserved but it is one of the first one's I've had a chance to chew on, so forgive me.  There will be more coming soon.

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