The Celtics have agreed to sign restricted free agent guard Avery Bradley to a four-year contract worth $32 million, according to the Boston Herald and The Boston Globe. Boston, which is still technically over the salary cap, was able to re-sign Bradley by way of his Bird rights.
Bradley, 23, averaged 14.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.1 steals for the Celtics last season while fighting through lingering injuries. He is one of the best young defenders in the league – a genuine menace to opposing ball handlers capable of applying pressure for 94 feet. No shot, dribble, or even step comes easily against Bradley, whose activity and lateral quickness keep him consistently between his defensive assignment and where that player wishes to go. His offensive game, though, is a perpetual work in progress.
“Seeing that this is my first time (in free agency), I’ll probably be calling my agent a lot, seeing what’s going on, but I’m going to try not to stress myself, just get in the gym every day," Bradley told the Herald previously. "After the draft I got in the gym, so that’s just how it is. The key is to do the same work every single day. I have to push myself even when I don’t want to do it.”
Bradley made strides on that end last season by hitting 40 percent of his shots beyond the arc, but otherwise Bradley has been so unsure with the ball as to cause the Celtics some problems on offense. Those difficulties are eased by moving Bradley off the ball as often as possible (where he's far more comfortable as a cutter and spot shooter), though doing so requires the Celtics to have other, bigger (Bradley stands at just 6-2) guards capable of handling the ball. At present, Rajon Rondo and the newly drafted Marcus Smart fill that need.
Grade: C-plus. Valuable though Bradley's defense might be, this is a handsome payout for a player whose best current means of offense is staying out of the way. Not every player on the floor need be able to create, though it's important for even defensive specialists to project some kind of offensive threat. Bradley doesn't, not yet anyway. Should his sharp perimeter shooting from last season hold or improve, he'll earn defensive attention beyond the arc and register a more positive offensive influence through spacing. If not, Bradley's game could become couched in limitation – useful in the specific but more narrowly applicable than his pay grade would suggest.
Bradley has time to grow both into his game and this new contract. Just as important: His work ethic and attitude give indication that he can be trusted to do so. Already Bradley has improved from his timid rookie season, gradually building out his offensive function to the point of panicking less and making quicker decisions with the ball. Those little developments are crucial for a player bound for a minor offensive role, even as some of Bradley's bigger-picture offensive skills linger behind the curve.