BOSTON — The re-signing of Avery Bradley has received a mixed bag of reaction from Celtics fans over the past couple of days. Some people see the deal as another plus in the team’s rebuild, helping Boston fortify their backcourt long-term with Marcus Smart and potentially Rajon Rondo. Others have looked at the high price tag (four years/$32 million) and have been left to wonder how a player who has played in just 205 out of a possible 312 Celtics games over his past four seasons is worthy of such a hefty raise.
Both sides have valid points, but a closer inspection of the circumstances surrounding Bradley’s contract reveal that this may be a better deal than most anticipate. Let’s take a look at a few of the factors on why that’s the case.
You can’t judge a contract in free agency without looking around at what other players are getting around the league. The deal that bears noting here is the three-year agreement that the Detroit Pistons have made with shooting guard Jodie Meeks this week. The pact will pay Meeks, a sharpshooter from 3-point range who also offers very little on the defensive end, over $6 million per year.
The Celtics weren’t getting Bradley anyway for less than $6 million per year, as his reps reportedly turned down a four-year $24 million extension in December, according to Jared Zwerling of Bleacher Report. When you factor that into consideration, and keep in mind that Bradley is a better player than Meeks, it’s understandable that the Meeks deal pushed Bradley’s value up. That specific contract makes $8 million seem like fair value on the open market for Bradley.
The Salary Cap
Another complaint I’ve seen in the past couple of days has been the length of the signing. Critics have wondered why the Celtics would commit so much of their salary cap to a player with durability concerns. The counter I would have to that argument is that the salary cap is expected to rise considerably in the next few years. For the 2014-15 season, the cap number will jump from $58 million to roughly $63 million and that trend will continue for the remainder of the decade as the NBA revenue pool continues to grow.
So while Bradley’s $8 million per year may appear to be a significant cut of a team’s salary cap now, by the final years of the four-year deal it will take up a much smaller percentage of the team’s payroll. As the cap rises in future years, bigger contracts will be doled out to free agents (in relation to the cap rise), making locking up Bradley long-term beneficial on that front too.
It’s amazing to think that after four years in the league, Bradley is a mere 23 years old. Despite missing over 20 games last season, he’s coming off career-bests in a number of categories, including points per game, rebounds per game, and 3-point field goals made. All of this came on a subpar offensive team that Boston had last year, which put an extra onus on Bradley on that end of the floor.
Does anyone really think Bradley is done improving at age 23? I certainly don’t. His durability is a legitimate concern but his prime years should come over the next four seasons. Surrounding him with more talent should only enhance his game as well. The best from the shooting guard is yet to come.
Ultimately, all of these factors should outweigh any concerns about Bradley’s health for the next few seasons. The Celtics’ medical staff had to give the green light to this deal so there is no reason to believe that Bradley’s durability issues will linger in a major way moving forward. That fact combined with the price of doing business on the open market makes this Bradley deal one the Celtics probably won’t regret down the road.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.
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