With the 2014 summer free agency market still in it’s early days, the Boston Celtics aren’t wasting any time. Yesterday, they re-signed former 19th overall pick Avery Bradley to a four-year, $32 million dollar contract. The 23-year-old Bradley is coming off of his best season as a pro, where he averaged 14.9 points, 1.4 assists, and 3.8 rebounds per game. Along with his offensive game, Avery was a 2013 All-NBA Defensive Second Team member, and is widely regarded as one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. He’s been one of the best players on the Celtics’s roster for the past few seasons, and was looking to cash in this summer.
And cash in he did, getting one of the biggest contracts of the summer (albeit we’re only a few days into the signing period) to come back to Boston. Bradley will be making on average $8 million dollars per season for the next four years in Boston, and while he is a quality player, some question whether he is actually worth the contract he received.
For one thing, the former Texas Longhorn has been rather injury prone over the past few seasons. He missed 22 games last season, and 32 games in 2012-13, all for various reasons. When he has seen the court, Bradley has been one of the most aggressive and talented players on the floor, but missing 20-30 games per season isn’t going to cut it for whatever team he’s on. Maybe Bradley just hit a streak of fluke injuries, and he could rattle off several seasons where he misses very few games. Either way, this is going to be a huge topic of discussion when looking at Bradley’s contract for years to come.
Putting all of the injury talk aside, one real question appears; is he worth the money? He will never be a “first option” on a contending team, but he is an incredibly talented defender and an improving shooter. In 2013-14, Bradley shot an impressive .438 from the field, .395 from beyond the arc. While he’s not the type of player to light up the boxscore, he can score when he needs to.
In fact, his scoring averages have only been growing since he joined the league, something that goes along with the fact that he’s been seeing more minutes on the floor for the Celtics. The idea that Bradley will only continue to grow, especially if he’s trusted more by both coaches and his teammates. Maybe right now he’s not a player that’s worth $8 million, but at the rate he’s progressing, he could be very soon.
Moving on to the third, and maybe most important topic of discussion is if he fits in or not. In case you missed it, Boston drafted one of the most highly touted guard prospects, Marcus Smart, sixth overall in the 2014 NBA Draft. While the Celtics may not be looking to contend immediately next season, I doubt they drafted Smart that high for him to ride the bench for too much time. With Bradley coming back, the idea of Smart starting alongside All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo seems to be out the window.
Bradley essentially coming back means Smart will be relegated to the “first guard off the bench” position (barring any huge moves). The Rajon Rondo/Avery Bradley duo has worked pretty well for Boston, so it’s unlikely that that pair will get blown up (and by blown up, I mean Rondo getting dealt). Boston won’t start Smart over Rondo or Bradley, especially with the money both are being paid. So in essence, Bradley does fit in, right in the role he used to hold. Rajon Rondo is a free agent after this season, and if Boston wants to hand the starting point guard job over to Smart then, they certainly can.
So let’s take a quick look at the points that were covered:
- Bradley is injury prone, and that could hurt the deal long term.
- He’s only improved as a shooter in the past few years, and his defense is already top notch.
- Him coming back won’t affect his spot on the team too much, despite the addition of Marcus Smart.
That’s two out of three points favoring the deal for Boston, so that’s pretty solid. Now it’s obviously too early to see how this all plays out when the deal is expiring when Bradley is 27 years old, but if he keeps up the pace he’s at now, it could even be a steal for the Boston Celtics.