No more speculation, it’s official. As the Boston Globe has confirmed, restricted free agent Avery Bradley has agreed to come back to Celtics for $32 million over 4 years. The crowded Boston backcourt will stay crowded it appears. But is Avery Bradley worth that kind of money?
In one word, no. And it’s not even a debate.
You don’t curse your team by missing out on great free agents. You curse your team by over-paying guys who aren’t great free agents.
Teams have learned to navigate the new CBA and that has led to a ton of cap room being available this offseason. The problem is that after LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony this is actually a pretty weak free agent class. We knew guys were going to get overpaid, but we didn’t think the Celtics would be the team to do it. If you’re a contender and you feel a guy is the missing piece then overpaying him a bit is okay. But Avery Bradley is not the missing piece in the Celtics re-build. In fact, you could argue that the front offices commitment to Bradley is holding this team back.
This deal basically takes the Celtics out of the free agent market, with the exception of a Mid-Level Exception and near-league minimum deals, unless they make a major trade. Paying someone like Gordon Hayward a lot of money was never a good idea but the Celtics had the space to significantly improve their team by adding multiple role players. Instead they paid Bradley, who I will soon show you is just a role player, $8 million a year.
Shooting guards who have a similar cap hit to Bradley include DeMar DeRozan ($9.5 million), Arron Afflalo ($7.3 million), and Manu Ginobili ($7 million). It doesn’t take an NBA scout or stats guy to tell you that Bradley is not nearly as good as any of those three on either end of the court. Yes, Bradley improved his 3-pt shooting to 39.5%. Yes, he can be a tenacious and disruptive defender. But $8 million a year?
Bradley has a pedestrian 1.9% steal percentage for his career. He doesn’t produce turnovers. That may come as a shock since he’s made some impressive backcourt steals over his career but for every one of those, Bradley gets beat ten times and lets the opposing team get into their offensive sets easily. When he doesn’t have Kevin Garnett behind, Bradley actually hurts the Celtics defensively. 5.2 career defensive win shares in four seasons, even though he hasn’t played a ton of games, doesn’t scream elite defender. In fact, it screams just about league average defender.
Avery Bradley hasn’t played 65 or more games in a season. He’s had shoulder and ankle issues. It’s safe to call him injury-prone. He’s an average defender who can’t dribble, gets hurt a lot, and is under-sized for his position. This screams $8 million a year?
The three players Bradley most-closely embodies if you look at advanced metrics are Wesley Matthews ($6.1 million), Courtney Lee ($5.4 million), and PJ Tucker ($1.1 million) all carry a significantly smaller cap hit than Bradley now does. Even if you like Avery Bradley as a player and think he’ll continue to improve, you simply can’t justify giving him this kind of money after you just won 25 games.
We’ll have more on Bradley over the next couple of days as I’m sure it will be a hot topic amongst Celtics fans but on the surface this deal looks very bad for two reasons. First, it severely limits what the Celtics can do for the rest of this offseason and they needed big men. Second, Avery Bradley is worth about 50% of the money he just received.
Bradley is still just 23 and has a chance to be a big part of the Celtics future but unless Danny Ainge knows something every single Celtics fan and writer doesn’t, this deal is not pretty.