Would the Celtics be better off if they hadn't traded Gerald Wallace for David Lee?
In Sunday's 112-92 rout of the Sixers in Philadelphia, 12 different Celtics saw court time. One who did not? David Lee.
It was the eighth straight DNP for Lee, and his 13th in Boston's last 16 games. At this point in time, Lee is essentially the equivalent of what Gerald Wallace was for the Celtics the past two seasons--an irrelevant guy on the end of the bench. Which begs the question, would the Celtics be better off now if they hadn't traded Wallace for Lee last summer?
When the C's made the move, I was pumped. It appeared as though they were getting an impact player without giving up anything of value in return. In a piece from July 8, 2015 entitled One year of David Lee could be even better than you think, I wrote the following:
I had the Celtics pegged for a low-40s win total already, and now they are definitely better. Lee could be the catalyst to guide the C's into the upper echelon of Eastern Conference playoff teams (outside of Cleveland, who else in the conference are you afraid of?).
Lee clearly isn't the star who's going to carry Boston back to the promised land. But, he might help the C's become good enough to recruit the guy (or guys) who will.
Hmm... My assessment of the Celtics and the rest of the East was fairly accurate (although watch out for Toronto, winners of eight straight and now just two games back of the Cavs), but unfortunately Lee has absolutely nothing to do with it.
It's difficult to make a case that Lee has done anything to improve the C's this year. On the other hand, it is reasonable to argue that Boston might be in a slightly better position if it still had Wallace instead.
Even though he rarely played, Wallace had moments last year where he displayed veteran leadership. Lee hasn't been a malcontent by any means, but we have heard him grumble about minutes on multiple occasions. There's also the money. The Celtics are paying Lee $15.5 million for 2015-16, whereas Wallace only would've cost them $10.1 mil. Who knows if that difference in financial flexibility could've led to anything, but the possibility is there that it might have.
There's still a long way to go this season. Maybe Boston can swing a deal for Lee to benefit the franchise going forward, or maybe an injury to another big man will allow him to make an impact down the stretch. But for the time being, the Wallace for Lee swap looks like one of the rare trades Danny Ainge didn't win.
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