Baseline Times NBA Staff Contributor Matt McKenna is a lifelong Boston Celtics fan. Here is a raw and honest opinion from the Celtic fan within.
Avery Bradley has long been my favorite Celtic. Avery embodied what it meant to be a Boston Celtic. He started his career as a defensive specialist and worked tirelessly to become the two-way player he is today. Given my personal bias for Avery, I wanted to wait a few days before trying to give a fair and impartial opinion for the trade. That being said I still believe Danny fucked up. I understand that Avery was going to be hard to keep next year especially with Isaiah’s contract being up as well but the team did have his bird rights and could have gone into the luxury tax to keep him. If you look at championship quality NBA teams (Warriors, Cavs) they are frequently paying the luxury tax and that is just a price you have to pay to assemble a championship quality team. The Celtics with a starting lineup of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford and Aron Baynes, that lineup has the potential to beat the Cavs. The current lineup of Isaiah, Gordon Hayward, Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Aron Baynes, that lineup has no shot against the Cavs. NO FUCKIN SHOT, even in Danny Ainge’s wildest wet dreams.
The strength of the Celtics over the last few years has been their perimeter defense. They weren’t great during the first half of last season but over the three-season stretch in which they made the playoffs, perimeter defense has been their strongest attribute and that started with Avery Bradley. I’m not saying that Avery Bradley is the only reason that the Celtics excelled on defense because players like Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder are good defenders in their own right but they simply aren’t on Avery’s level. There is a reason those guys didn’t get the massive outcry Avery did from other NBA players when they didn’t make all-defensive teams.
To get to the finals the Celtics are going to have to go through the Cavs and Lebron James and Kyrie Irving. If you are going to beat the Cavs don’t you think you’d want the guy who Kyrie has said does the best job guarding him of anyone in the NBA on your team? Even if the Celtics were to get past the Cavs they would still most likely have the Golden State Warriors waiting for them in the NBA Finals. Luckily the Celtics match up well with the Warriors, splitting the season series with them in each of the last two years. One of the reasons the Celtics matched up so well with the Warriors is their perimeter defense and having a player like Avery Bradley who has the lateral quickness to stay in front of Steph and bothers bigger guards like Klay when they have to put the ball on the floor. No other perimeter defender on the Celtics has the lateral quickness to do things like that (maybe Terry Rozier on a good day).
On top of being hands down the best defensive player on the Celtics Avery was the second most dependable Celtic on the offensive side of the ball. Avery shot 46% from the field and 39% from three. He also showed an improved handle in his seventh season, showing signs of being able to create his own shot. Avery has improved offensively every year in the league, a trend that can only be expected to continue.
At the end of the day, I understand the decision to trade Avery Bradley, it came down to salary and Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart are going to be more affordable to keep on the team. That being said it isn’t a decision I agree with. Marcus Smart has shown almost zero signs of offensive growth in his first three years (slightly improved handle and passing in the pick and role), and Jae Crowder has gone from severely underrated to borderline overrated. If I ran the Celtics I would have considered trading both of those players and letting young guys with higher upside like Jaylen Brown, Jason Tatum and Terry Rozier absorb their minutes. A Crowder – Smart package would likely also have resulted in a better player in return than Marcus Morris. Marcus Morris a solid NBA player but there is a clear step down in quality from Avery Bradley. Avery Bradley is not a star player, but he has almost a star-level impact for this Celtics team. If the Celtics have true championship aspirations with their current core dealing Avery Bradley was a huge mistake.
Baseline Times NBA Contributor