Some thoughts and analysis after Avery Bradley agreed to re-sign with the Boston Celtics for four years, $32 million:
• TOP PRIORITY SECURED: Without the necessary cap space to pursue big-name free agents, and likely needing other dominoes to fall before they can navigate the trade route, the Celtics moved quickly to lock up the one player they could spend to secure. They made Bradley a priority when free agency opened Tuesday, and little more than 24 hours later, they have their starting shooting guard in place for four more seasons. The Celtics could have waited to see how the market played out, but with players like Jodie Meeks agreeing to deals of $6 million-plus early in the process, they spent to ensure it kept Bradley away from potential bidders (particularly those that lost out on other top targets).
• PRICE TAG IN FOCUS: The biggest grumble you'll hear about the deal is that Boston overpaid. Reports last fall suggested that Bradley turned down a four-year, $26 million extension and, with a tip of the cap to his advisers, parlayed that to an increase of $1.5 million a season. Did Boston spend too much?
We asked the wizards at ESPN Stats & Info to crunch the salary numbers for the league's top shooting guards. The 40 top-paid shooting guards last season had an average salary of $7.25 million, with 11 earning $8 million or more (Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, Dwyane Wade, Eric Gordon, James Harden, Ben Gordon, Tyreke Evans, Rodney Stuckey, Marcus Thornton, O.J. Mayo, and Monta Ellis). At this early juncture of the summer, at least 11 will earn $8 million-plus next season (sub out Gordon and Stuckey for Paul George and Bradley).
With a rising salary cap, deals are likely to become only more lucrative moving forward. What looks like a splurge up front might look more like the league average for a starting shooting guard by the end of this deal. The Celtics are banking on the fact that the 23-year-old Bradley continues his development and exceeds his pay rate by blossoming into a consistent two-way force.
The risk for the Celtics is that they eventually add or develop another starter-caliber 2-guard, and Bradley would likely be overpaid in a reserve role.
• BACKCOURT SECURITY: While the future of point guard Rajon Rondo is uncertain, as he expects to explore unrestricted free agency next summer, the Celtics now have Bradley and first-round draft picks Marcus Smart and James Young under long-term control (with a low-cost, nonguaranteed option in Phil Pressey adding depth as well).
• BRADLEY IN FOCUS: Bradley's offensive consistency returned last season after he struggled with his shot coming off double shoulder surgery the year before. He shot nearly 40 percent beyond the arc and pledged to make the 3-point shot a focus this offseason. While Bradley's defense wasn't quite up to his lofty standards last season, he's regarded as one of the league's most tenacious on-ball defenders. Bradley will spearhead Brad Stevens' attempt to establish a defensive DNA (and that process will be aided whenever the Celtics add a legitimate rim protector behind him).
• FINAL THOUGHTS: If the Celtics afforded themselves only one splurge this offseason while keeping the future in focus, then Bradley seems like a safe way to spend that money (though pessimists will worry about his injury history). They know what they are getting: a tireless worker who won't rock the boat and fits the direction the team is headed. While Rondo's future is unclear, the Celtics do like him paired with Bradley. What's more, Bradley's defensive energy ought to rub off on defensive-minded Smart and aid his progress. Moving forward, it's imperative that Bradley show he can overcome the "injury prone" label and find consistency at both ends of the floor to show he's worth the price tag of this deal.