Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has been clear for months on his desire to return Avery Bradley to the C’s backcourt. When the club extended the restricted free agent shooting guard a $3.58 million qualifying offer – a no-brainer for a youngster of his talent level – the plan was set in motion.
But, when news surfaced early on the second day of NBA free agency that Boston re-upped Bradley for four years and $32 million (which will become official on July 10), the deal was nothing short of a headscratcher.
Bradley is skilled; there’s no doubt about it. The former All-Defensive Second Teamer is a defensive specialist in a league of few and his jumper is steadily improving.
However, it’s impossible to ignore his health – or lack thereof – throughout his brief professional career. Of 311 regular season games through four seasons, Bradley has appeared in just 205. Never once has he suited up for more than 64 (though, to his credit, that was during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign).
At 23, Bradley has already undergone multiple shoulder surgeries and endured a variety of ankle injuries. Attribute it to the way he plays or simply bad luck, but the Washington native is a health risk. Damaged goods. A financial gamble for a franchise still paying for an underachieving Jeff Green.
People will be quick to point out Bradley’s defensive ability, one which no doubt exists but visibly took a step back in 2013-14 – and he’ll tell you as much. His steals (1.1 per game) and blocks (0.2), both clear defensive measurements, regressed from the previous season (1.3 and 0.4, respectively).
Offensively, Bradley has been lauded for his improving jumper. Well, the guard shot 43.8 percent from the field, 45.1 percent on two-point attempts, and 39.5 percent from long-distance. None of those totals were career-highs, each of which was set in 2011-12 at 49.8, 51.1, and 40.7, respectively. He also turned the ball over a career-worst 1.6 times a game.
Yes, Bradley scored a career-best 14.9 points per game over 60 contests in 2013-14. He also did so in a personal-high 30.9 minutes a night on a terrible offensive team that had to receive its points from somewhere.
It’s not a bad thing that Ainge coveted Bradley. It’s actually incredibly easy to understand. Save for health, the two-guard is mostly trending in the right direction in terms of his scoring prowess and abilities to be a well-rounded NBA player.
It’s the money that’s troubling. A staggering $8 million a year is too much for an oft-injured off guard.
As a restricted free agent, Ainge had the ability to wait and see what the market dictated and then match any offer Bradley received.
Some have already looked to the Pistons’ signing of Jodie Meeks to a three-year, $19 million contract as one that helped determine Bradley’s worth.
I’m sorry, but no. Meeks is coming off a great year for the Lakers – another bad team, obviously – in which he averaged 15.7 points, 1.4 steals, and 1.8 assists while shooting 46.3 percent from the field, 51.4 percent from two-point range, and 40.1 percent from beyond the arc. He also turned the ball over just 1.4 times per game.
If you don’t feel like looking back, I’ll just tell you: Those are superior totals to Bradley across the board. He’s also missed only 17 games over the last four seasons, compared to 106.
Meeks is three years older than Bradley and not as good a defender; the advantages for the Celtics’ young vet about end there.
Oh, except salary. That’s right; $8 million compared to Meeks’ $6.3 mil per.
And, if this is any indicator, the C’s have certainly overestimated his value.
One league source on whether another team might have offered more than $8 million per year to Bradley: "Not a chance in hell."— Jay King (@ByJayKing) July 2, 2014
This obviously speaks to Ainge’s presumed but very non-vocal plan going forward: meet Marcus Smart, Boston’s new point guard, and his equally defensive-minded, poor-shooting backcourt mate, Avery Bradley.
Rajon Rondo? You mean that elite-level distributor with an affinity for the bright lights, who also happens to reportedly want a max contract worth in excess of $100 million a year from now? See ya, Cap. Sooner than later.
Bradley’s re-signing is the first significant move of what expects to be many in the Celts’ rebuild by Ainge. It wasn’t a great start. It’ll look even worse if future injuries indeed follow.
Follow me on Twitter at @AdamMKaufman
More from this blog on: Celtics