Lee Brings Versatility That Rockets Needed, On Court And In Wallet

Didn’t expect to see Trevor Ariza leave so soon? Neither did I. Seldom will you see a team sign a young, developing player to a five-year deal and send him out of town after only a season. But was Ariza really a developing player? From what we saw last season, it didn’t appear so. He simply found more opportunities, leading to better box score stats and a terribly inefficient season.

So Daryl Morey sold high. That’s about it. It’s the same line of thinking that was behind the Carl Landry deal, and not just because Kevin Martin and Courtney Lee look the same. Morey saw the chance to acquire a player that he had coveted dating back to the draft and came to the conclusion that A) Ariza wasn’t going to get much better, and B) Lee not only presents the Rockets with a more talented, smarter, younger player, but is also incredibly cheaper.

From that angle, sounds like the Rockets swung a winner, doesn’t it?

Lee will likely shift to the bench, allowing Shane Battier to return to his starting role at SF. This suddenly gives the Rockets a run-and-gun second unit that will throw Lee, Kyle Lowry, Chase Budinger and Patrick Patterson at opposing defenses. Battier never looked like a logical fit with that bunch. But now that Lee is in town? Watch out.

As a player, Lee is different from Ariza… how? For one, he’s smaller, making him a legitimate shooting guard. If he were to play alongside Kevin Martin, Martin would likely shift to the small forward, not that it matters, really. Lee’s also a much more coordinated player than Ariza. He can create for himself, can shoot the three at a good percentage and is a generally smart player. The high-flying athleticism that Ariza brought to the Rockets is gone, but to replace it with a more controlled, younger player is a smart move.

Lee’s no slouch as a defender, either. Stan Van Gundy referred to him as the best defender on the ‘09 Magic Finals team. As a rookie. That’s some high praise.

What else does this trade do for the Rockets? It basically nullifies any money that we spent to acquire Brad Miller and brings the Rockets closer to the luxury tax threshold, as Chad Ford notes in the post below. Les Alexander, how ’bout that deal?

The one knock? Most likely, it’s the fan reaction, which I wouldn’t expect to be overwhelmingly positive at this point. It’s an interesting PR move to trade a newly signed player so quickly and could cause fans to question the direction and stability of the team. Which is absurd.

The Rockets made a sneaky-good move here. Lee may not provide the over-the-rim show that Ariza could on any given night, but he’s the better fit, the better player and ultimately a solid find for the Rockets. By no means does this defer from the “win now” strategy that the Rockets have employed this offseason, which is comforting.

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