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Confirming earlier reports, the Celtics finalized a three-team trade on Tuesday with the Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder by which they acquired point guard Jerryd Bayless from the Grizzlies in exchange for shooting guard Courtney Lee and a 2016 second-round draft pick. Boston also received small forward Ryan Gomes from the Thunder, but he has already been released. The Grizz sent two conditional draft selections to OKC.
The 25-year-old Bayless, a sixth-year player out of Arizona, was the 11th pick in the 2008 Draft, by Indiana, after being named to the All-Pac-10 second team in his lone college season. He was traded to Portland on draft day and spent his first two seasons with the Blazers. He also played for the Hornets and Raptors before arriving in Memphis as a free agent prior to the 2012-13 season. He’s been an important part of the Grizzlies’ rotation in his time there, backing up Mike Conley. This year, Bayless has played in 31 of the Grizzlies’ 33 games and started five of them, averaging 8.1 points in 21 minutes. He will join the team for Tuesday’s game at Denver, although it is unclear if he will play.
Lee, a Western Kentucky product also in his sixth NBA year, has seen his playing time dwindle significantly in 2013-14, his second season as a Celtic, with his minutes dropping to 16.8 from 24.9 last year. He’s averaging career lows in points (7.4), rebounds (1.6) and assists (1.1) but conversely is making a career-best 49.2% of his field goals, including 44.2% from beyond the arc, making him especially enticing to the Grizzlies, who are last in the league in that category.
Gomes spent his first two pro seasons in Boston after the Celtics drafted him in the second round in 2005, then was traded to Minnesota as part of the Kevin Garnett package. His productivity has fallen drastically over the past two years, and he only played in five games for the Thunder this season.
The deal is overall a good one for the Celtics, for both financial and rotational reasons. Lee will make more than $11 million over the next two seasons, whereas Bayless is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in July, so Boston will have an extra $5.5 million to work with in the offseason.
Further, Bayless immediately provides the C’s with the veteran ballhandler they’ve lacked all season long. While he’s definitely a shoot-first kind of point guard, he will be a decent backup to Rajon Rondo when he finally returns to action, whether that happens at the end of this month or in February. In the meantime, with Lee gone and MarShon Brooks in the D-League, Bayless could very well start at the point until Rondo’s return, with Jordan Crawford moving to the second unit as Avery Bradley‘s backup at shooting guard. That would allow rookie Phil Pressey to continue to get minutes (11.7 per game so far), but don’t be surprised to see Bradley and Crawford together in the backcourt for stretches.
Finally, a second-round pick is a negligible asset for the Celtics, who are stacked with first-rounders thanks to their deals with the Clippers and Nets.