C's Acquire Bayless, Open Up Cap Flexibility

BOSTON – Sunday’s rumors turned into reality on Tuesday when the Boston Celtics completed a three-way trade with the Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder that brings point guard Jerryd Bayless to the C's.

Boston parted ways with shooting guard Courtney Lee and also acquired forward Ryan Gomes, who was then waived, in the transaction.

The trade stands as yet another impressive move by Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. Ainge acquired a player in Bayless who has nearly identical raw statistics to Lee this season while simultaneously taking a major step forward with the Celtics’ long-term cap flexibility.

Jerryd Bayless takes a jumper against the Celtics

Jerryd Bayless will provide instant scoring for the Celtics off their bench.
Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images

Bayless joins his fifth NBA team in Boston. The point guard has played for the Trail Blazers, the Hornets, the Raptors and the Grizzlies since being chosen with the 11th overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. He was a lottery selection after a standout freshman season at the University of Arizona.

Bayless brings career averages of 8.2 points per game, 1.9 rebounds per game and 2.8 assists per game to the Celtics. He is almost right on par with those numbers this season with averages of 8.1 PPG, 1.9 RPG and 2.1 APG through 31 contests. The Celtics and their fans got a first-hand look at Bayless this season, as he dropped in a season-high 22 points on Nov. 27 at TD Garden.

Boston’s latest acquisition is listed as a point guard, but he is a scorer at heart. Bayless is regarded as an instant-offense player who can catch fire at any moment. He has scored at least 20 points in 25 career games, including four 30-point performances. His career high in the scoring department is 31 points, which he recorded twice, and he actually dropped in 30 points against the Celtics last season.

As those numbers would indicate, it would be a mistake to sleep on Bayless simply because he’s a reserve. He has put together two double-digit scoring seasons despite coming off the bench for nearly all of his career. He averaged 10.0 PPG in 2010-11 and then 11.4 PPG in 2011-12 as a reserve for the Raptors.

Comparatively, Bayless and Lee are having very similar seasons. Their scoring averages are nearly identical, and both players have scored in double-figures 13 times. However, the Celtics are acquiring a player who is much more likely to provide electric scoring performances off the bench.

The Celtics are taking part in this trade for another reason as well. Today’s transaction will provide them with substantial salary cap relief over the course of the next two-plus seasons.

In trading away Lee, the Celtics send out a contract that is guaranteed for the next two seasons. Bayless, on the other hand, is scheduled to become a free agent at season’s end. Additionally, Bayless’ salary this season is far less than Lee’s. In short, the Celtics have created substantial cap flexibility to make moves before February’s trade deadline and through the next two offseasons.

Gaining such flexibility, all while acquiring a young player who can fill it up on offense, doesn’t come without a cost. The Celtics are parting ways with one of their most efficient players and one of their most well-liked personalities.

Lee was in the midst of a career year this season with Boston. He is currently on pace to set a new career high in field goal percentage (49.2 percent), 3-point percentage (44.2 percent) and true shooting percentage (57.3 percent). There’s a reason why Memphis wanted him, and that was to provide the Grizzlies with elite shooting around their dominant big men.

It’s not often that NBA trades work out for all parties. This situation, however, may be one of those unique instances.

The Grizzlies were able to finally acquire the floor spacer that they’ve desperately been searching for. They hope that Lee will be a strong complement to Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.

The Celtics, meanwhile, made yet another shrewd move that will pay short- and long-term dividends. Boston has added a very capable scoring point guard to its bench and opened up its personnel options for the future.