Reimer: Farewell to Avery Bradley, who improbably became a Celtics lynchpin
When Danny Ainge re-signed Avery Bradley four years ago, he was pilloried for keeping an oft-injured guard who lacked a consistent offensive game. Bill Simmons, the patron saint of basketball, said the four-year, $32 million contract “scared him.” The deal was almost universally panned on social media, with some declaring Bradley one of the most overpaid players in basketball.
Fast-forward to today, and the perception around Bradley couldn’t be more different. In a world where Otto Porter and Tim Hardaway Jr. will soon sign contracts worth $104 million and $71 million, respectively, Bradley is now woefully underpaid. But that will change when he becomes a free agent next year, which is why the Celtics were forced to deal him to the Pistons Friday. With Gordon Hayward now on board, there’s no way Boston will be able to afford what Bradley will likely command on the open market –– especially if it wants to retain Isaiah Thomas, who’s also a free agent in 2018.
Few players represent the changing NBA landscape better than Bradley. He signed his extension three months before the league inked a nine-year, $24 billion TV deal, flushing it with more cash than ever before. The salary cap ballooned from $70 million in 2015–16 to $94.1 million in 2016–17. It increased at a lower rate this year, but still stands at a whopping $99.1 million.
With all of this newfound money, even marginal role-players like Timofy Mozgov now sign contracts worth as much as $68 million. Evan Turner, one of Bradley’s former running mates, is suddenly a $70 million player.
So yes, Bradley’s projected upcoming pay raise can be partially attributed to the rising salary cap. But that discounts the player he’s become. His tenacious defense and blossoming offensive game –– he averaged a career-best 16.3 points per contest last season –– are the main reasons he will soon be very rich.
Bradley, 26, didn’t always seem primed for a major role on a contending team. Selected with the No. 19 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, he struggled to break into the Celtics’ rotation during his first couple of seasons in the league. He received a larger role when Ray Allen signed with the Heat in 2012, but struggled to stay on the court. Two shoulder surgeries kept Bradley sidelined for the final 10 games of the 2012 playoff run and first 32 contests of the following season. He also missed 22 games in 2013-14 due to an ankle injury.
When general managers sign players to new contracts, their intention should be to pay for future performance. Ainge was able to accomplish that with Bradley.
It’s always difficult to see a hard-working player leave, but Bradley’s departure stings for reasons beyond that. He appeared to become a respected voice in the locker room, displaying his leadership in the aftermath of the death of Thomas’ sister. Bradley consoled a weeping Thomas on the sidelines prior to Game 1 of the Celtics’ first-round playoff series against the Bulls. Thomas went on to score 33 points in an extraordinary performance.
An emotional scene in Boston as Isaiah Thomas will try to play in Game 1 vs. the Bulls pic.twitter.com/SwGSsYZjvN
— The Crossover (@TheCrossover) April 16, 2017
The shot of Bradley’s arms wrapped around Thomas is more indelible than any of Bradley’s late-game defensive stops or clutch three-point shots. He didn’t just mature into a starter during his seven seasons with the Celtics. He became a leader.
The Celtics are better off with Hayward in the lineup. But it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on Bradley, whose contributions are a big reason why the Celtics are now on the verge of championship contention.
Full article @ Reimer: Farewell to Avery Bradley, who improbably became a Celtics lynchpin
Source: GreenStreet Blog