The Boston Celtics acted quickly in reaching terms with Avery Bradley on a new contract, agreeing to a four-year, $32 million deal on Wednesday. Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald first reported that Bradley would remain with the Celtics.
Bradley entered July as a restricted free agent after the Celtics extended his $3.6 million qualifying offer earlier this week. Boston drafted Bradley with the 19th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.
In a vacuum, spending $8 million annually on Bradley seems careless, but it’s not as troubling when you consider the other contracts that have been agreed upon since free agency opened (see: Jodie Meeks and Ben Gordon). It’s not smart to grade the terms of a contract solely on what others are doing, but it has become clear rather quickly that 2014 will be a lucrative summer.
Bradley is a 23-year-old four-year veteran, but a series of injuries (ankle, shoulders) have kept him from putting together a complete season. He has averaged just 51 games played per season, including 60 this past year as the Celtics endured a transitional season. There are significant questions about his offensive game, but his ability to stay healthy is the biggest question mark surrounding his future.
Danny Ainge and the Boston medical staff don’t expect any of Bradley past injuries to prove chronic, despite a pair of shoulder surgeries in 2012 that had lasting effects on his game.
Brad Stevens can always count on Bradley for great defense, he’s one of the best on-ball defenders in the league, but his offensive game has left many wanting more. He was a horrible shooter during his rookie season of 2010-11 when he had a 36 True Shooting Percentage. However, his ability to develop a three-point shot has helped make him a more efficient scorer.
Bradley was percentage points (49.8%) away from being a 50% shooter in 2011-12 and made 40.7% of his threes, but the aforementioned shoulder woes hindered any further development. During the 2012-13 season, he shot 40.2% from the field and 31.7% from three as he regressed.
Given more time to heal and put in work without restrictions, Bradley accomplished an impressive feat this past season. He increased his usage rate to 23.2% (up from 17.9 in 2011-12 and 18.8 in 2012-13), while also featuring an improved shot. He shot just 43.8% overall, but made 39.5% of his threes. His three-point percentage is significant because he attempted a career-high 3.3 per game.
Assuming his three-point shot has leveled off and will remain a reliable option, Bradley’s next task will be to improve his midrange shot. Opposing teams are going to key in on running Bradley off the three-point line and into the danger zone. In his career, he shoots just 28.4% from 3-10 feet out and 32.1% from 10-16 feet.
Grade for Bradley: A
Bradley is comfortable in Boston and had stated a desire to re-sign with the Celtics. Landing long-term security and a pretty large payday given his injury history is a huge win for the former Texas Longhorn. Reports have suggested that Bradley and his representation requested this sort of deal prior to the 2013-14 season, but the Celtics weren’t willing to take the plunge. I’m not sure what Ainge and Co. saw over the last eight months that convinced them to pull the trigger, but they seem confident Bradley will be healthy and that he’s not done developing.
Grade for the Celtics: B-
The terms of this deal were eye-popping when first reported, but it seems as though $8 million per season is the new mid-level, average NBA contract for a rotation player under 30. It’s simply conjecture, but I’d imagine that Brad Stevens had a significant say in re-signing Bradley at this number. Stevens has a year with the Celtics under his belt and values the toughness and defense that Bradley brings to the court.
It was a bit puzzling that Boston was able to come to terms so quickly with Bradley, especially since the Philadelphia 76ers were also believed to be very interested in his services and they have what may become a crowded backcourt.
Ainge maintains that Rajon Rondo isn’t being shopped even though the Celtics used the sixth overall pick on Marcus Smart last week. The team has also been linked to another restricted free agent -- Sacramento Kings guard Isaiah Thomas.
Bradley and Rondo have plenty of experience playing together and you can add Smart into a strong three-guard rotation that was a revolving door last season.