With Avery Bradley’s value skyrocketing of late, the time to trade him could be now.
Continuing the trend of his career-best season thus far, Boston Celtics shooting guard Avery Bradley showed out once again in his team’s 105-95 win over the struggling Miami Heat on Sunday night.
More from Hardwood Houdini
Bradley shot an impressive 9-of-17 from the field and 2-of-5 from three-point range in 34 minutes of action, compiling 20 points for the second time in three games while snatching five rebounds. With his 7.5 boards-per game average, five grabs on the glass seems like an off-night, which showcases how far Bradley has advanced his impactfullness over the past few seasons.
As Bradley sits firmly in the midst of the All-Star discussion in mid-December having boosted his scoring average to 18.0 points per game with his contract set to expire following the 2017-18 campaign, the question arises. Should the Celtics trade him?
Despite the amount of attachment that Boston fans may have dedicated to Bradley following his recent rise, the answer could be yes. While Bradley’s game has expanded to accompany a career-high 42.6 percent mark from the three-point line and an improved array of shot-creating moves, Celtics fans witnessed first-hand his inability to place the team on his shoulders in the absence of Isaiah Thomas while the All-Star dealt with a nagging groin injury.
For Boston to become a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference, the team cannot continue to be a one-man train in the fourth quarter, relying solely on Thomas for offensive production when baskets are direly needed. Immediately upon returning to the squad, Thomas dropped seven points over the span of the final 5:33 to lead the Celtics to a skid-concluding win over the Charlotte Hornets before piloting a silencing of the Heat with 10 fourth-quarter points on 3-of-4 shooting. Without the presence of Thomas, these are victories that the Celtics simply fail to garner. Thomas’ usage rate has climbed to a career-high 33.2 this season, and Boston’s reliance on him is only magnified in the final quarter.
Bradley had the opportunity to showcase his potential to become the closer without Thomas in the lineup in tightly-contested games against the Raptors and Thunder a weekend ago. Despite posting efficient marks from the field, Bradley was unable to replicate Thomas’ ability to create offense for himself and others when the opposing defense tightened up over the course of the fourth quarter. This led to the Celtics hoisting up ill-advised three-point attempts late in the shot clock without fostering any offensive momentum, ultimately leading to a three-game losing streak while Thomas watched from afar.
If Bradley is unable to take the next step into becoming a viable No. 1 or No. 2 offensive option in pressurized situations, it could be time for Boston to move his services in exchange for someone that is comfortable commanding the offense in these types of scenarios. Additionally, the Celtics have the likes of Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier, two tenacious defenders with the potential to surpass Bradley’s offensive repertoire in the coming seasons, waiting in the wings should they make a move. While Bradley has earned the reputation as one of the league’s most feared perimeter defenders, Smart possesses the same intensity on that end of the floor and could morph into a First-Team All-Defense candidate. Rozier’s offensive approach is leaps and bounds ahead of what Bradley brought to the table in his second season with the team, and he has the potential to become the go-to guy off of the bench should Smart jump into the starting lineup.
What makes moving Bradley more attractive of a premise is the haul that the Celtics could garner for him. With a First-Team All-Defense nod under his belt and his offensive game expanding, Bradley makes for an excellent trade target when combined with the allure of one of the Brooklyn Nets two upcoming draft selections. Bradley’s contract signifies nothing short of highway robbery on the Celtics end, as the Texas product is due just $8.2 million this season and $8.8 the next, making him a considerable bargain for any team willing to trade for his services.
If a team such as the Sacramento Kings believes that they have the means necessary to entice Bradley to remain with the franchise following the expiration of his contract, they could be enchanted with parting ways with embattled superstar DeMarcus Cousins in exchange for a potentially-franchise altering contingent of draft picks. With the advancements in Bradley’s arsenal, perhaps he could entice a team such as the New Orleans Pelicans to let go of the league’s leading scorer, Anthony Davis, if the Celtics agree to toss in one or both of the Nets’ upcoming selections.
At this stage of the game, the Celtics need a superstar-caliber talent who can match Thomas’ ability to take matters into his own hands in the latter stages of tight games. Bradley does not appear to have the capacity to claim this responsibility, however, his improved skill set combined with a few draft picks could intrigue a team into sending someone who can fill this role in Boston’s direction.