NBA scouts agree that Avery Bradley is currently one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, but his lack of offensive consistency still remains his Achilles heel.
Expectations were extremely high on Bradley after breaking through in the lockout-shortened 2011/12 season, where he took a certain future Hall of Famer’s spot in the starting line-up and was an integral part of the Celtics’ turnaround in the 2nd half of the season. After starting the 2012/13 season and recovering from double-shoulder surgery he had in the off-season, Bradley came back into the line-up hoping to re-capture the form he showed in the previous year. He was playing well until Rondo went down – and just like that, his role had completely changed.
After being so effective as a shooting guard when paired with Rondo, Bradley was asked to become Rondo – by manning the PG spot, he was looked upon to create his own shots, create shots for others, and still keep up the stifling defense. All of these proved to be too much for Bradley; after struggling with both his, and the team’s offense, his defense also started to slip, culminating in the first round of the playoffs against the New York Knicks where he was torn apart by opposing guards Ray Felton and JR Smith. In only just a year after receiving league-wide praise, serious doubts started creeping in about what Avery’s potential could be, and how much his services are worth.
As October 31st approached, it became clear that both the Celtics and Avery Bradley were not going to agree on an extension. For Bradley, it made sense for him to wait until 2014 when he will be a restricted free agent, as not having Rondo healthy has been a major blow to his perceived value. He has been playing out of position for nearly all of 2013, and by doing this, he has decreased his value significantly. Once Rondo returns, Bradley will be free to go back to what he was most effective at – playing off the ball, making back door cuts, catch & shoot jump shots and becoming that pit-bull on-the-ball defender once again.
For the Celtics, they are still trying to figure out if he is a building block for the future, or trade chip to use to acquire veteran talent – so in a season where he will need to step up to a larger role, it will be interesting from the team’s perspective as to whether or not he will deliver.
There are three different scenarios that can play out for Avery Bradley over this year, I have listed these in order of probability:
1) On the back of Rondo’s return, Avery Bradley steps out of the point guard role and steps up his game – prompting the Celtics to lock him up on a longer deal. I believe this is the most likely to happen as Danny Ainge and the Celtics value Avery very highly. Not many 22 year old players have an elite skill in the NBA at this age, unlike Bradley does with his perimeter defense.
2) Fearful that Avery might get offered a substantial contract and walk next off-season, the Celtics could look to trade him to get whatever value they can get for him (Just like what had happened when Danny traded Perkins in 2011), or include him as part of a package for an established player/star in the league. This is a possibility, given Danny Ainge’s ability to almost robotically trade anyone on the roster at any time if he thinks it’ll make his team better.
3) He has another average season, and does not really show much more than what we have already seen. Another team then offers him more money that what Boston are willing to pay. If this was to happen, the Celtics could find themselves in an awkward position of wanting to keep Bradley, but, not wanting to overspend. As unlikely as it seems, there is the slight possibility that if this did happen, he could just walk.
I think that waiting until the off-season is the correct move for both parties. For Avery, after last season his value really could only improve – and for the Celtics, they get to gauge Avery’s proper value once Boston’s *real* point guard returns. I think ultimately, Avery stays on the team for a contract between $4-$6 million over 4 years. If Danny Ainge is not convinced that Avery is the long term answer at shooting guard, look for him to explore some trade options to bring back a solid veteran player, or even more draft picks.
What do you think of Avery Bradley? How much is he worth? Is he our answer at SG or even PG? Will he get much better? Leave your comments below.