By: Kenny Doyle
The Celtics needed to clear $300,000 to be able to sign Gordon Hayward to the max contract he agreed to. Many thought the guy on his way out to make the room was Jae Crowder, but today the Celtics traded Avery Bradley and a 2nd round pick to the Detroit Pistons for SF/PF Marcus Morris. The Celtics are making this move with the idea that Morris could be their starting power forward next season. He’s a solid stretch four in today’s NBA, a career 35.5 percent 3-point shooter at 6’9”. For Celtics fans though, losing Avery Bradley is tough.
Before being traded, Avery was the longest tenured Celtic. He was the last player to have been on the team with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and the last member of the 2011 ECF team. One of the league’s top defenders, Avery was revered by his peers as one of the toughest players to score against. His defense on players like Kyrie Irving was a marvel to watch. Avery’s ability to check opposing point guards so that Isaiah Thomas could be hidden off ball only increased his value for the Celtics. So why did they trade him?
Well, Avery’s contract was up after the end of this season and Tim Hardaway Jr just made 71 million dollars. Avery is going to get an offer over 20 million annually next year, and the Celtics can’t afford to pay him that much. With Thomas and Bradley both becoming free agents next offseason, the Celtics would have to pay a historic luxury tax bill to keep that team together. For a team that isn’t one of the 2 best teams in the NBA, that’s a tough ask. Avery isn’t worth what he’s going to make. Ultimately he’s not a 20 million dollar player on a championship team. Those contracts should be saved for All-Star level players.
The Celtics have perhaps the perfect Avery replacements in Marcus Smart, but he is up after this season as well. Hopefully this deal means the Celtics will definitely be re-signing him. There are multiple different lineup combinations the Celtics can roll out to replace Avery, including ones with Jaylen Brown at the 2 or Gordon Hayward and Jae Crowder as the starting 2 and 3. Smart seems like the clear first option because he’s the only one who can guard an opposing team's top guard every night. The brand of tough and physical defense that Marcus plays is a little different from Avery’s fundamentally sound style, but is usually just as effective. The Celtics still have a player who can give opposing guards nightmares, and is even a little more versatile than Avery.
Avery’s stellar defense and 16 PPG will be tough to replace, but when Smart played big minutes last year he posted some of the most versatile stat lines in NBA history. The only other players to post the stat lines that he did twice in 1 week are NBA legends. Smart is a better passer, rebounder, and stronger than Avery. His ability to post up other guards makes him a more versatile offensively than Avery. The thing Avery does that is better than Smart is shoot, and with reports and videos suggesting Smart has been improving his jump shot, Smart is on track for a breakout season if he gets the starting job next season. If he can get up to around 35-36% from 3 point land it would do wonders for the Celtics.
Losing Avery is hard, but the Celtics have enough roster versatility that it made sense to deal him. It frees up minutes for Brown and Tatum, and Marcus Morris is coming in having only averaged 1 ppg less than Avery this past season. The Celtics couldn’t afford to pay Avery, Thomas, Horford, and Hayward. The fourth player they pay over 20 million has to be a superstar. An Anthony Davis type. It’s not easy to let go of Avery, but it was a smart move for the Celtics to decide they weren’t resigning Avery and to get what they could for him. #ThankYouAvery