The Celtics have made their first crucial decision of free agency season by electing to bring back a key member of their backcourt. According to Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald, restricted free agent Avery Bradley will be a Celtic next season and beyond.
Celtics have agreed to terms with restricted free agent Avery Bradley, according to source.— Steve Bulpett (@SteveBHoop) July 2, 2014
Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe reported the exact terms of the deal:
Can confirm that the #Celtics & RFA Avery Bradley have agreed to a deal. Terms: 4-year-deal worth $32 million.— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) July 2, 2014
Bradley is coming off a terrific 2013-14 season in which he posted career-highs in points per game (14.9), rebounds per game (3.8), minutes (1,855), field goals made (361), and three-pointers made (79). Bradley battled ankle and shoulder issues throughout the season as well, which limited him to just 60 games played.
The timing of Bradley’s signing so early during the free agency period comes as a little bit of a surprise. Due to Bradley’s status as a restricted free agent, Boston had the ability to let the shooting guard test the free agent market and match any offer he signed with another team.
It appears though that the two sides were able to find common ground quickly which may have been aided by another pair of free agent guards (Jodie Meeks, Shaun Livingston) agreeing to deals on Tuesday with the Pistons and Warriors. Those signings likely helped solidify Bradley’s value on the open market. Bradley’s representatives reportedly turned down a four-year, $24 million extension offer back in December.
So what does bringing back Bradley mean for the Celtics moving forward? On the surface, there appears to be a bit of a logjam in the Boston backcourt right now with Rajon Rondo, Marcus Smart, Phil Pressey, and Chris Johnson all in place. With Bradley added to the mix, there are questions whether a Rondo/Smart/Bradley/Pressey contingent can coexist, but Celtics’ president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has been adamant that Bradley is a vital part of the team’s future while speaking over the last few days.
“It would mean a lot to keep [Bradley]. I think Avery can be a very key player in us winning the championship,” Ainge said Monday. “He does things that other players can't do and his shooting continues to improve. We've all seen in the past his terrific defensive abilities. I think Avery's a big part of this."
Ainge also spoke about the various duos of the backcourt playing together on draft night.
“Avery’s a big part of our future, I think that you obviously need three guards who are going to play a significant amount of minutes,” Ainge said when asked if the team's backcourt could play together. “We also think Marcus can play with Phil Pressey. Phil can play with Rondo. Phil can play with Avery. Because of the versatility of Rondo and Marcus, that probably allows that.”
Smart and Bradley will give the Celtics two of the most formidable backcourt defenders in the league. The bigger question is whether Boston’s current guards can provide the team with enough shooting to help them spread the floor. Bradley’s progression from the outside last year (39.5 percent from 3-point range) should bode well for that possibility, but he’ll have to remain consistent in order for Boston to improve their dreadful offense.
In the meantime, I firmly believe that unless an enticing offer comes along for Rondo this offseason, the Celtics will give this backcourt a chance to succeed with Bradley in the mix.
One player who could see his playing time take a hit is Pressey. The team likes him, but his 30.8 percent shooting from the field last season does not make him worthy of a rotation spot. He’ll have to impress the Celtics coaching staff in summer league to make a case for minutes off the bench next year.
For now, Boston’s backcourt heading into next season looks fairly set with Bradley back in the fold. If the team continues to try to bring in additional guards though in free agency, that should continue to raise red flags about Rondo’s future with the team.
Bradley can not officially re-sign with the team until the free agent moratorium is lifted on July 10th.