The Boston Celtics pulled off a shocking move early on July 7. The Celtics made the tough decision to part ways with longtime Celtic Avery Bradley as they shipped him off to Detroit. In return, Boston received forward Marcus Morris. The trade allowed Boston to open up the necessary cap room to sign Gordon Hayward to a maximum contract while also allowing them to sign stashed forward Guerchon Yabusele.
Bradley had played in Boston since the Celtics selected him with the no. 19 pick in the 2010 draft. He entered the NBA at a mere 19 years old and was selected by a Celtics team that was coming off a game seven loss in the NBA Finals against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. Bradley played sparingly as a rookie while also spending time in Maine with the Red Claws, Boston’s D-League affiliate. He played ten or more minutes only twice as a rookie because of his rawness on the offensive end. Bradley had an inconsistent shot and was mainly only efficient off backdoor cuts to the basket.
He took over as the starting shooting guard during his second season after Ray Allen was sidelined due to an injury. Bradley would go on to start 28 games down the stretch of the regular season. He shot 40.7% from deep, albeit on only 54 attempts. Bradley began to showcase his potential as an elite defender and he recorded a memorable blocked shot on Dwyane Wade. He managed to play 6 playoff games before being shut down due to a shoulder injury. The sophomore guard had double shoulder surgery over the offseason.
Bradley would go on to start 108 of the 110 games he played in over the course of 2012-14. By the end of his fourth season, he had seen the Celtics big three be dismantled through Allen’s defection to the Heat and the blockbuster trade to Brooklyn. Boston fans were looking to Rajon Rondo and Bradley to be the future of the Celtics backcourt.
Boston would trade Rondo to the Dallas Mavericks in December of 2014, making Bradley the longest tenured Celtic on the roster. The gritty team based around Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Evan Turner, Marcus Smart, and Bradley, among others fought their way into the playoffs as the seventh seed in the East. They were swept in a hard-fought first-round series against the eventual runner-up in the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Celtics came into 2015 with the goal to win a playoff series. Despite climbing as high as the second seed in the East, Boston would finish in fifth place and a showdown with the Atlanta Hawks was looming. The still developing guys in green fell in six games to the Hawks in a series marred by close contests. Boston signed Al Horford to bolster their roster over the 2016 offseason. After winning 53 games and making it to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2012, the Celtics still landed the top selection in the draft. They would select Jayson Tatum with the third pick in the draft after trading down in a deal with the Philadelphia 76ers.
As 2017 free agency approached, the Celtics clear number one target was Utah’s swingman Gordon Hayward. After a drawn out process, Hayward decided to rejoin his ex-Butler head coach Brad Stevens in Boston. The problem? The Celtics were about 300K short in salary cap room of giving Hayward a max contract. Rumors began to swirl about who Boston would unload to be able to sign the former Jazz wing. The predictable candidate for a move was Jae Crowder, who had been openly disgruntled when Boston fans campaigned for Hayward to join the Celtics during their regular season meeting at in TD Garden.
Finally, Boston’s front office made their move. It wasn’t Crowder, but Bradley, who would be moved. His next destination would be the Motor City with a Pistons team that is ripe with youth. Bradley played seven seasons in Boston, and it only makes sense for fans to feel emotionally distraught with him moving on. But in the end, the Celtics made the right move for their future.
Trading Bradley opened upwards of $3 million in cap room for Boston. This will allow them to sign Hayward to the full max while also being able to bring up Guerschon Yabusele to the main club. Boston will have to waive Jordan Mickey and Demetrius Jackson to fully create the cap room. The Celtics also still have their mid-level exception of $4.328 million, the most mentioned target has been big man Dewayne Dedmon, who would instantly fill a rebounding need that has been opened with the departures of Amir Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Zeller, Mickey, and most likely, Jonas Jerebko. This leaves Boston with less than $2 million in cap room (if my math is correct) that they can use to sign Semi Ojeleye.
Bradley only had one season left on a contract that will pay him $8.8 million in 2017-18. He famously fired his agent in 2016 because he was reportedly upset with his contract. Bradley will be looking for a big payday in his next deal, and he could receive offers that are in the $20 million a season range. It would be essentially impossible for the Celtics to extend Thomas, Smart, and Bradley, who all are all up for extensions during the 2018 offseason. Smart will likely command less than Bradley, and it is clear that Thomas is currently Boston’s man after back to back offseasons that saw them acquire Horford and Hayward to create another big three in Beantown.
Morris will make about $5 million over the next two seasons and should help the Celtics front court with a frame of 6’9” 236 lbs. He averaged 14 points and 4.6 rebounds per game in 2016-17 for the Pistons. The hope is that he can boost his rebounding numbers when he’s not on the same side of the floor as Andre Drummond (13.8 rebounds per game in 2016-17). Boston’s current likely starting lineup could be Thomas, Hayward, Crowder, Morris, and Horford. However, the Celtics are reportedly still gauging the trade market on Crowder, so there could still be moves to be made. Boston still needs to acquire or sign a big man that can help them out on the boards.
The Celtics had to consider their future financial flexibility while navigating Hayward’s signing. Unfortunately, the best option was to deal a player who we watched grow from a 19-year-old rookie to an all-NBA defender. Bradley made tremendous progress over his time in Boston, and that’s what makes it sting even more to see him leave. He’s the type of player who will carve out a long career behind his defensive prowess along with his improving jumper.
Danny Ainge has made it clear that this game is truly a business, but it will be exciting to see how Boston honors Bradley’s legacy when he returns to TD Garden.