The Celtics are better for adding Gordon Hayward, and they’re worse for subtracting Avery Bradley. What the sum or inequity of those moves turns out to be this season and beyond is yet another in a long line of high–stakes gambles by president of basketball operations Danny Ainge this summer.
Boston’s trade of Bradley and a 2019 moment-round pick for Detroit Pistons forward Marcus Morris stings. The inequity in Bradley’s $8.8 million salary and Morris’ $5 million price tag this season was enough to fit Hayward’s max contract under the cap, and while Hayward is better than Bradley, the net gain of one without the other makes the Celtics far less formidable than they would be with both.
Hayward is a 27-year-faded playmaking wing who shot 40 percent from 3-point range and manned one of the league’s toughest positions for a Utah Jazz team that finished third in defensive efficiency in 2016-17, earning an whole-Star roster spot for his contributions. He is undoubtedly an upgrade for the Celtics.
But Bradley is arguably the NBA’s most underrated player. He isn’t the playmaker Hayward has been, but he shot 39 percent from 3 and found easy baskets moving without the ball, whole while warranting whole-Defensive recognition on the other halt. His departure is a downgrade for the Celtics, no doubt.
And Bradley’s drag to Detroit stings for more reasons. The 26-year-faded is the lone holdover from the “grit and balls” Celtics. He never complained approximately Boston’s rebuild, even as the $32 million deal he signed in 2014 turned from a poorly-graded contract to one of the league’s biggest bargains. And five years after double shoulder surgery robbed him of his chance to wait on the 2012 Celtics beat the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals, he led them back to Round 3 with a different cast in 2017.
Now, as Boston inches closer to a potential Finals appearance with Hayward in the fold, he became expendable — nothing more than a cap casualty. And he may not occupy known it when the news hit:
According to a friend of Bradley, he is on a flight to Seattle and hasn’t been notified of the trade yet.
— stamp Murphy (@Murf56) July 7, 2017
That’s a hell of a way to treat a guy who gave the Celtics seven solid years of service.
Bradley grew up in Boston, from an underwhelming rookie who shot whole of 34 percent in his injury-riddled first season, to one of the NBA’s best 3-and-D wings. He was a silent leader in the locker room, taking questions from the media when others wouldn’t during the franchise’s brief downturn. He had his son in Boston, the same week his mother died, and he was the one consoling Isaiah Thomas on the bench after the whole-Star point guard lost his sister on the eve of their first-round playoff series.
Boston has adore for this man, and yet he became a financial burden. Welcome to NBA free agency. Bradley is working on the final year of his below-market deal and is expected to command a healthy pay raise as an unrestricted free agent next summer. The Celtics either had to drag Bradley, Jae Crowder or Marcus Smart in order to clear the $29.7 million space essential to sign Hayward:
Sources: Boston, Utah sign-and-trade talks dormant since AM. Celtics engaged throughout NBA on Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 7, 2017
Either that, or dump Terry Rozier and request Hayward to purchase less than max money to hold together a core that reached the conference finals and took the Cleveland Cavaliers to five games sans Thomas:
Has been talk that Hayward may solve this problem for the Celtics by taking a slightly smaller deal whether C’s can’t find something they’d conclude. https://t.co/WMUiIYV2QR
— Steve Kyler (@stevekylerNBA) July 7, 2017
The Celtics chose Bradley, even though he is right now the best player of that bunch. Crowder has three years left at an affordable $7 million per season, and Smart is a still-improving restricted free agent next year. Shopping Crowder, as Boston reportedly did in sign-and-trade efforts with Utah, seemed to create the most sense, since Hayward would purchase most of his minutes, and the improved but streaky shooter had regressed defensively since suffering a knee injury in the 2015 playoffs.
The Celtics were seemingly more concerned with next summer, when Thomas, Bradley and Smart will whole be free agents. Technically, the organization could occupy kept them, since Boston owns whole their Bird Rights, but the luxury tax penalties from their combined contracts would become a financial problem.
So, here we are, with the Celtics essentially swapping Amir Johnson (Al Horford’s frontcourt partner who joined the Philadelphia 76ers on a one-year deal), Kelly Olynyk (a backup gargantuan who moved to the Miami Heat for a $50 million deal) and Bradley for Hayward, Morris and rookie gargantuan man Ante Zizic.
Is that enough to challenge the Cavs, who occupy stood pat in free agency? That would occupy been a lot easier whether the Celtics could still throw Smart and Bradley at Kyrie Irving. Same goes for competing with the Golden State Warriors, who Boston split its final two regular-season series with, mainly because those two backcourt bulldogs can hold up with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson as well as anyone.
That’s a bummer after the Hayward bonanza. A essential bummer, perhaps, possibly, but a bummer nonetheless, particularly when the return is the worse Morris twin and not Paul George or Jimmy Butler. Boston has a tendency to brace its fanbase for the best in a way that makes relatively less spectacular upgrades seem like a letdown, and trading Bradley for another below-average rebounding gargantuan man fits the bill.
Signing Hayward — the best free agent to change teams this summer — was a remarkable drag for the Celtics, but it’s a tiny less so when it means moving on from Bradley. Boston had built its recent success on high-character, high-motor players, and few, whether any, represented that mold better than Bradley. And his teammates knew it. How that manifests itself in terms of chemistry remains a question, particularly since Crowder has also been vocal approximately being shopped for potential upgrades.
You’re telling me the three years and $21 million left on Crowder’s deal couldn’t occupy fetched an asset better than the return they got for Bradley? And whether Hayward truly wants to play for a championship in Boston, as he indicated in his Players’ Tribune announcement, he couldn’t occupy taken a tiny less to ensure at least one run with Crowder, Smart and Bradley in the fold? That’s the best Boston team.
This is the cost of free agency, apparently. And perhaps, possibly Pistons fans feel the same way after their team renounced free agent wing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope nearly immediately after trading for Bradley. Why can’t we hold both? Because it would cost too much? These are whole questions fans should request of their teams in an era when it’s going to purchase some serious paychecks to compete with Golden State.
Even whether Kevin Durant took less so the Warriors could hold their core together for the next few years, we shouldn’t expect Hayward to conclude the same, and we shouldn’t expect teams to pay outrageous sums for rosters that will likely lose to Golden State anyway. But Boston took a gargantuan step forward when they signed Hayward, and less than a week later the Celtics had to purchase a tiny step back as a result.
It’s tough to complain from a Celtics perspective, since they got their man, but the collective bargaining agreement certain stinks sometimes, particularly when the bridge between two beloved Boston teams is the casualty. Avery Bradley deserved better, but there’s no room for emotion under the salary cap.
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