When the Celtics acquired David Lee from the Golden State Warriors last summer there was an initial belief that the 10-year veteran would be able to come in, play 20-25 minutes a night and make a positive impact on the team’s offense with his low-post savvy.
It wasn’t exactly a horrible assessment at the time, but at this point in the process we know Lee will never have that kind of role in Boston and, honestly, it was pretty obvious just one or two months into the new season.
That’s why it should come as no surprise that Danny Ainge and the rest of the team’s front office members have determined that they have between now and the Feb. 18 trading deadline to move on from the 32-year-old.
According to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Mannix, the Celtics are aiming to offload Lee either via trade or buyout over the next few weeks.
Boston simply has no use for him. They’re much too deep at the power forward position and it’s clear Brad Stevens isn’t ready to take minutes from developing players such as Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk just so Lee can get his burn.
Knowing that, the real question here is what do you do with him? Ainge has shown throughout his tenure as president of basketball operations that he prefers to squeeze every possible ounce of value out of his outgoing pieces, but unless a blockbuster deal is on the horizon, simply trading Lee straight-up isn’t going to bring back much of anything at all.
For that reason alone, a buyout seems more likely. But Lee’s $15.4 million expiring contract would be ideal to help grease the wheels on a deal that netted the Celtics a true star player. Is that likely? Probably not. But it’s certainly something to think about.
Lee isn’t useless and other teams around the league have to know that. He’s averaging 16.4 points, 10 boards and 4.1 assists per 36 minutes in 30 games this season and there’s no reason why team’s like the Houston Rockets or New Orleans Pelicans wouldn’t take a flyer on him following a buyout. Both teams are aiming towards postseason success—to varying degrees, of course—and adding Lee to their barren benches would bolster their respective second units a little bit.
It wouldn’t be all that surprising to see the Philadelphia 76ers throw their name in the ring, either. Since Jerry Colangelo arrived the Sixers have been a little more focused on actually winning basketball games and their desire to have veteran presences in the locker room following Jahlil Okafor’s outburst a couple of months ago has grown.
All that being said, the Celtics put themselves in a tough spot when it comes to Lee. By letting it be known they’re willing to simply buy him out, other teams around the league aren’t going to be motivated to deal for him unless, again, it occurs through a massive trade. It’ll be interesting to see how Boston handles this in the coming weeks.