Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Sign the Man? Avery Bradley

The Boston Celtics have a lot of difficult decisions to make this summer in their quest to provide competitive basketball to their insatiable fan base.  It starts with the draft on the 26th of June, but I'm not getting into that here. One of the more difficult decisions Celtics GM Danny Ainge will have is whether or not to resign the tenacious, yet injury prone, 23 year old "three and D" guy.

His History
The Celtics drafted Bradley with the 19th overall selection in the 2010 draft. They will extend Bradley a qualifying offer worth 125% of his previous years salary (around $2.5mil in 2013) making it around $3.5mil in 2014. This makes Bradley a restricted free agent, and allows the C's to match any offer extended his way during the off-season. The kicker here, which will probably ramp up the drama in July, is that last December the Celtics actually offered Bradley a 4 year/$24mil deal that Bradley and his team rejected. At the time, Bradley thought he was worth more like $8m/year so no deal was done.

Then, he got hurt.


For those keeping track at home, during the course of his career Bradley has had surgery on both shoulders, on his ankle, and now he's having problems with his achilles. He's 23 years old. This is not like you or me playing at the local court where we can have one of our paper-thin shoulders slide out only to return after a grimace, and a proclivity to rebound with one arm for the rest of the game. Bradley's game is built upon him being physical with scorers who are often bigger than him. He needs to be able to get up on his opponent, smell what type of deoderant they wearing, and slide his feet like Junior Senior. This is a legitimate concern for a young guy, and the laws of human development suggest it will be a bigger concern as he ages.

His Value
Even with his injury history, it doesn't mean he still isn't valuable. This past season, he sets career highs in points per game (14.9),  total rebound percentage and turnover percentage. His PER was a lackluster 12.7, but his overall game has improved. He is honing his skills as the trendy 'three and d' guy after shooting 39% from downtown. Bradley and his camp will be able to point to these improving skills, and the increasing value of a player with these skills (see Danny Green), as a way to justify a better deal.

With that said, when playing in a city like Boston, numbers from the first 3/4 of an NBA season on a team that is tanking need to be taken with a grain of salt. Celtic fans are concerned with winning titles, and for that reason, performance in the playoffs is what carries the buttermilk. This is important because Avery Bradley has historically been terrible in the playoffs. During the 2012 run, Bradley played just around 25 minutes per game and was valuable as a defender and role player (although the numbers tell a different story. They say he was bad). A better sample to look at was last years playoffs when Bradley played a larger role and averaged around 32 minutes a game against the Knicks. Bradley was atrocious during this series often getting humiliated by the likes of an overweight Rebook employee (Raymond Felton). Bradley's PER was 6.7 and his turnover percentage was something to write horror stories about at 20.1%.

The point being it's very difficult to tell what type of player Bradley will be at 26-27-28 years old. His numbers and upside could paint the picture that he is a $7/$8mil player per year. But, his timid attitude and tendency to get the playoff jitters could ultimately cause him to ride the pine in those critical Game 6's and 7's. A guy earning $8mil needs to be on the court in the playoffs, and he needs to be reliable. Bradley's injury history and playoff performaces put this into serious question. Take a look at comparable players in the league and their contracts:

Arron Afflalo - 7.75mil/year
Wes Matthews - 7(ish)mil/year
Gerald Henderson - 6mil/year
Tony Allen- 5(ish)mil/year

Matthews is probably the best comparison to Bradley in terms of style of play and identity. The Blazers lucked out after signing him to a 5 year $34mi offer sheet in 2010, plucking him away from the Jazz. The difference is Matthews has developed into a wildly efficient shooting guard and his balls in the playoffs are the size of an Irish broad's ass.

If I'm His Agent
As Bradley's agent, I'm getting in touch with those teams that need some toughness on the defensive end, but also don't play in the most demanding of markets. Teams like Utah, Phoenix and Charlotte. I'm asking for around $8mil/year, and my sales pitch will be a heavy dose of defensive efficiency with a splash of young age. If I really want to make sure Bradley does not go back to Boston, I need to make the offer sheet large enough to ensure the Celtics don't match it. $8mil/year is definitely a large enough deal to let Bradley channel his inner-Affleck, and put the entire town in his rear view.

If I'm the Celtics
I match any offer sheet up $7mil/year. If he's not getting those $8mil/year offers then I will know that the market has spoken. If the offer sheet is anywhere between $7.5 and $8 a year, then I would have no choice but to take a fifth of Jack, the complete set of The Godfather and my "Film Room" Spotify playlist into the bunker where I'll hopefully emerge after 24 hours with an answer and a rebooted mind.

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