COMMENTARY | With Ray Allen hobbled during at the end of the 2012 season, Doc Rivers didn't have very many backup options at shooting guard. Allen had been a huge part of the team's offensive strategy since he joined the Boston Celtics, as his deadly three point shooting complimented Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo extremely well. The luxury of a healthy Ray Allen helped the team win a title, and it seemed as if Boston would struggle without him on the floor.
This is where Avery Bradley came into the picture. He didn't get any significant playing time as a rookie and Celtics fans knew little about him outside of his intense defensive ball pressure. As a point guard without point guard ball handling skills, he seemed to be a player without a position. Despite his defensive abilities, 6'2" is still far from ideal for a shooting guard. A 6'2" guard who can't dribble? Sign me up!
Without many options, and while guys like Ryan Hollins and Mickael Pietrus were playing significant minutes, Avery Bradley got a chance. Before injury ended his season, Bradley made the most of his opportunity. Paired with Rondo, the Celtics all of the sudden had one of the scariest defensive backcourts in the NBA. At nearly 41 percent, his three point shooting proved to be good enough to cover up for Ray Allen's reduced role. Additionally, his slashing abilities were a breath of fresh air to a team who lacked athleticism and movement off the ball. Suddenly, Boston fans were believing that this combination just might work.
This past season, Bradley finished his second season as a regular of the Boston rotation. He only played in 50 games due to injury, and was clearly out of his comfort zone when Rajon Rondo was lost to injury. Bradley didn't have a very good year, and we learned that he is certainly not a point guard at this point in his career. His ball handling is simply not up to par, and it's clear that he is much better when he can play off the ball.
Soon, the Celtics will have to make a contract decision regarding Bradley. He will make about $2.5 million this season, and has a qualifying offer for about $3.5 million next season. While Bradley currently appears to be a part of Boston's long term plans, it's unclear exactly what he's worth. This season will be telling, as he is finally healthy with an entire offseason to work on his game. He has gotten a bit of a pass up until know, partially because of injuries and partially because Boston fans have had such high hopes for him.
Looking forward, it's tough to figure out what exactly his value is. Perimeter defensive minded players usually don't sign the huge contracts, and it seems as if offensive minded players have an easier time getting paid, a la J.R. Smith and Jamal Crawford.
Tony Allen, who is widely regarded as one of the league's best defensive players, recently re-signed with the Memphis Grizzlies for $5 million per year. This isn't a perfect comparison, as Allen is 31 years old and has proven to be a fairly consistent player with Memphis. Bradley is the better outside shooter, and the two are probably similar as slashers off the ball. At 6'4", even Allen is a little undersized as a shooting guard. He can defend most guards without a problem, but pushing him out to defending small forwards can be a situational stretch.
Right now, it's hard to imagine that Bradley could demand more on the market than Allen. Yes, he's younger. Yes, he's already a better outside shooter. But Allen is more proven, and has been much more consistent with the Grizzlies.
At the same time, players with a "three and D" reputation are tough to value. Arron Afflalo will make more than $7.5 million over the next couple years, while Danny Green will earn just $3.7 million next season. Afflalo is certainly overpaid, and Green is probably a bargain at his current price. These two average out to a little over $5 million per year, which is right around Tony Allen range.
At this price, it would be foolish for the Celtics not to lock up Avery Bradley, assuming he stays healthy. Somewhere around $5 million per year is very affordable, and would give the team the flexibility to spend money elsewhere. It would also give Boston a true edge; a backcourt that makes opposing guards scared to even dribble the ball up the floor. If the bidding starts to reach Afflalo levels, around $7 million, the conversation changes. But at a Tony Allen or Danny Green price, sign me up.
This season is a big one. The team may not be competing, but Bradley will be fighting to prove his worth. In order to give him another contract, Danny Ainge will need to believe that Bradley can stay fairly healthy and make some tweaks to his game.
There aren't a ton of players like Avery Bradley. This is not to say he's something extraordinarily special or great, he's just unique. It gives Boston fans optimism, and it's also why it's so tough to put a price on how much he is worth.
All salary information is via HoopsHype.com
Mark lives in the Boston area and has been covering the Celtics for 3 years. He has been featured on Fox Sports Yardbarker, Fox Sports, and Sports Illustrated "Hot Clicks", and has been published on Celtics 24/7, Bleacher Report, and Sports-Kings.
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