The offseason is here for the Boston Celtics, and in just a couple of months, they will begin the process of putting next year’s team together. We will take a look at the current Celtics and try to figure out what to do with each of them. We continue today with Avery Bradley.
I want to sit Avery Bradley down and pull the Good Will Hunting “it’s not your fault” routine.
Bradley was asked to play a position he’s just not suited for after Rondo went down. As a result, his overall play suffered, especially in the playoffs. As more of his energy was spent trying to run a team mired in a half court offense that could no longer rely on a string of Paul Pierce takeover games, Bradley’s trademark defense suffered. By the end of the playoffs (minus an amazing fourth quarter in Game 6) Bradley was looked as the guy who couldn’t dribble, pass, or shoot while getting burned regularly by Raymond Felton.
It’s a far cry from how we viewed him earlier in the season, when he was the savior upon his return from double shoulder surgery. Suddenly, a guy who many argued was virtually un-tradeable is now considered by some to be expendable.
Is that fair? Maybe not, but sports often aren’t. Here are the Celtics options with Avery Bradley:
The Celtics are not trading Avery Bradley straight up for anyone. He will only make $2.5 million next year, a salary that doesn’t match his talent in the right role. If the Celtics did move Bradley, he would be traded as part of a larger deal to give teams some young talent with tons of potential. A straight up Bradley trade could only net the Celtics, AT MOST, a guy who makes less than $4 million a year. Cruise through the list of NBA salaries and, I believe, even those who advocate shopping Bradley would be turned off by the return.
So unless Bradley is the guy that needs to be included in a trade, the value-to-contract ratio is far enough out of whack, even after his playoff performance, to make moving him fairly unlikely.
Side note: They’d probably try to hold on to Courtney Lee in that scenario to maintain a defensive presence at the 2 guard.
Bradley will be a restricted free agent at the end of this upcoming season, but the Celtics have an opportunity to extend him before it comes to that. While the Celtics can give him a five-year extension, that’s a special designation usually given to star rookies like Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook. Teams can only have one such player designated for that kind of extension on the roster at one time. So let’s just assume it’d be a four-year deal.
And since Avery is not a Rose-type max guy, the number at which he’s extended isn’t really limited. We know he’s not getting max money, so the Celtics have plenty of room to lock him up. The number doesn’t affect this year’s cap in any way, since he’s still bound by his current deal. The only restriction the C’s face is the number of years (again, almost guaranteed to be four at the most) and the size of the raises (no more than 7.5% annually).
The Celtics may want to take advantage of a down year, regardless of whose fault it was, and try to lock Bradley up for a few years.
Of course, it takes two to do the extension tango, and Bradley’s agent isn’t necessarily going to just let his client take a huge hometown discount after the way Bradley’s playoffs ended. His agent knows Bradley’s value is higher along side Rondo, and that stats drive contract talks. As much as the C’s can point to this year’s postseason as the “well, his value might not be as high as we thought”… his agent can take a chance on a full season of Bradley at his natural position and say “let’s see what the market bears in restricted free agency.”
If I was Bradley’s agent, I’d advise him to wait, even if he desperately wants to stay on the C’s. Of course, it’s his call, but there’s a chance another team can up the bidding next season. Besides, Bradley can benefit from another year of working on his game, as well as the motivation to up his own value.
Never going to happen. They’d save about a million dollars doing it, which is not worth it. Forget I even mentioned it. Moving on…
Keep him (without extending him)
The Celtics could roll the dice on Bradley with his impending restricted free agency. The qualifying offer for next year is $3,581,302. For those unfamiliar with that process… here’s how it works:
Under this scenario, the Celtics will have a choice of whether to make the qualifying offer, or not. If they don’t, he’s a free agent. If they do, the “restricted” free agency begins. From there, Bradley has a choice: He can accept that qualifying offer, play for one year under that deal, and become an unrestricted free agent the following year. Or he can wait to see what other teams offer. The “restricted” part means the Celtics have the right to match offers any other team makes.
If the Celtics elect to get keep Bradley this season and let it get to restricted free agency, they run some risks. One is that he’ll find a full-season groove along side Rondo, ramp up his defensive pressure, and become a first-team All Defensive player, candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, and valuable outlet scorer on corner 3’s and back-door cuts. That would mean the Celtics would have to contend with other teams looking to add such a player, thus driving up his price. Another risk is that Bradley, with an eye to the future, would sign the qualifying offer, drive up his value even further with another season next to Rondo, and then be an unrestricted free agent.
There’s also the possibility that Bradley can have a nice season, but nothing quite like what I just described, putting him in a range that the Celtics can comfortably re-sign him to market value without the gamesmanship. If you recall in years past, the Celtics expertly played the waiting game on Glenn Davis’ restricted free agency, letting it be known that they’d match any offers out there. Since a team’s cap is tied up with the amount offered to a RFA during the waiting period, teams didn’t want a week of money tied up when they could sign other guys.
Ainge could try to pull the same stunt next summer with Avery, but the rules have changed (probably because of what Ainge was doing). Now the waiting period to match is three days, which gives teams a little less anxiety about money being held up.
It’s a little bit of a game, but that’s the business of the NBA.
So to recap…
- The Celtics could trade him, but it would most likely be a part of a larger deal.
- They could try to extend his contract, locking him up for a few years.
- They could roll the dice and let this season play out, and let him enter restricted free agency next season.
If I was in charge, I’d be giving Avery’s agent a call this summer. My main points would be:
- We know he was playing out of position, so we’re not going to totally hold that all against him
- BUT… that means he’s really dependent on other guys for his offensive success
- We know he can be an elite defender, so we need him. But we also know offensive statistics get players paid, so he needs us, specifically Rajon Rondo, to make that happen.
If that’s enough to entice his agent into a conversation about what his value really is, then I’d be happy to start talking. From there, it’s a negotiation. Does he want fewer years, or an opt-out? Do the Celtics want some un-guaranteed money later on?
In the end, a deal somewhere in the three-year, $20 million range seems like something I’d be cool with. If they want to make the third year an option year somehow, that’s fine.
If not, then the Celtics will just go the season without the extension and be content with the Rondo/Bradley backcourt (hopefully) for a full season and see what that duo really looks like side by side. They’ll just have to get into the contract stuff at another time.
Either way, I find Bradley to be almost untouchable in a trade unless it nets the Celtics a star player. And surveying the landscape, the payroll, and the Celtics trade assets… A legitimate deal like that is almost impossible to find. Bradley is sticking around for at least one more season… and hopefully a few more.
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