Nobody said signing Gordon Hayward wouldn’t pay its prices. Paying Hayward the max was evident, but it still meant somebody had to go, and unfortunately, that person was Avery Bradley. This trade wasn’t a fan favorite, as everybody thought it would’ve been Jae Crowder who got the boot, but it was necessary and had to be done. It’s an unpopular opinion, but trading Avery Bradley was the best move for the team.
No Celtics’ fan should be happy about trading a player with the skill set that Bradley possesses; I’m not glad that he’s leaving. I say that him being traded was the best move, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy about him leaving. Avery Bradley is the most underrated player in the entire NBA. He’s one of the most elite on-ball defenders this league has to offer. From where he was when he came to Boston as a rookie to now, he’s taken strides and become the type of player nobody thought he’d become. He went from being a player who was only expected to be a good defender, to being one of the better two-way guards in the league. Someone had to go, and it sucks that it had to be one half of the fun-to-watch Isaiah Thomas/Avery Bradley backcourt, but it was going to happen eventually.
Next offseason, Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Marcus Smart are all due for new contracts. Isaiah and Bradley would be unrestricted free agents, while Smart would be a restricted free agent. There was no realistic way of the Celtics keeping all three of these guys, especially now with the signing of Hayward. Now with Hayward in Boston, one of them had to go, and it wasn’t going to be Isaiah. Avery Bradley is 26, and just about to enter his prime. He’s improved every season since he’s been in the league and I expect him to become even better in Detroit. Marcus Smart is only 22. Sure he has his moments when he can’t hit a shot to save his life, but he’s a bulldog on the court and plays every game as if it’s his last. He’s a scrappy player with a winner’s mentality, makes game-winning plays, and can stand toe to toe with the best of them. And like I said, he’s only 22. His contract won’t be as massive as Bradley’s next offseason, and he still can become that All-Star guard that people expected him to become when he got drafted. I’m thrilled we kept Marcus Smart, as he still has room to improve and has an attitude only a Celtics fan can love.
Losing Bradley means we lose out on our best on-ball defender. This now means Isaiah has to step up on defense. Now before we get crazy here and say that Isaiah is not capable of playing any type of defense, let’s look at it this way. Last season Isaiah Thomas averaged 30 points a game. This is because there was no other player on the team to rely on to create their own shot or run the offense. Now with the addition of Gordon Hayward and even Jayson Tatum, Isaiah will not have to be a 30 point per game scorer. He was unable to play his best defense due to being drained of all his energy from doing everything on the offensive end. Now that he has help on offense, he can conserve his energy a lot better on offense and play as good of defense as he can on the other end of the court. He’s 5’9, so it won’t be the most stellar defense, but it’ll be as good as it can be. He won’t fill the hole that Bradley leaves behind, but he will have the ability to be a much better defender than he ever was.
Now let’s talk about the guy we got, Marcus Morris. No, not the Morris twin we went to war with against the Wizards in the playoffs, but the other Morris brother. I like the fact that we got back Marcus Morris because he immediately comes in and helps the team. He’s an excellent offensive player and can be a good defender. He’s making a combined $10 million over the next two seasons, which will give the team more flexibility to resign Smart and Isaiah while still being able to add other guys. He’s not the best rebounder, only holding a career average of four rebounds per game, but that’s what happens when you play alongside a guy like Andre Drummond that grabs every board he sees. He’s another guy that helps take the scoring load off of Isaiah’s shoulders. I believe he’ll fit in just fine in Boston, and the fans will love him. Similar to Marcus Smart, he has a killer mentality and will not back down from anybody. That’s the heart and grit that Boston fans love.
All in all, I’m content with what transpired today. I’m upset seeing Avery Bradley go off somewhere else, but the band-aid had to be ripped off sooner or later. This was bound to happen, so Danny Ainge made sure he got something in return before Bradley went someplace else in free agency and we got nothing in return. Morris makes an immediate impact, and our offense is still looking like it’ll be one of the best in the NBA next season. We still need help with rebounding and having a paint presence, but I’m sure Danny Ainge isn’t done dealing quite yet.
To Avery Bradley, thank you for giving us your all every time you put on a Celtics’ uniform. You were the definition of what a Boston Celtic should be, and you made us proud. Every year you improved your game and worked to become a player nobody expected you to become. Good luck in Detroit next season, you’ll always be a Celtic at heart.