Avery Bradley's return to the Celtics is not guaranteed

Jared Wickerham

In fact, he could be in for a long wait this summer.

The Celtics potentially have a lot of moving pieces this summer.  They might be swinging for the fences in a "fireworks" trade.  There's no telling what direction they'll go with the NBA Draft.  They still have a bit of an unbalanced lineup.  Then there's the issue of Avery Bradley's free agency.

Everyone likes Avery Bradley and the Celtics reportedly offered him a contract extension this past season so he's certainly in the team's plans.  For his part, Bradley plans on sticking around.

Bradley: 'This is where I want to be' | Comcast SportsNet - CSNNE.com

And while no one knows how the Celtics and their rebuilding efforts will play out, Bradley reiterated to CSNNE.com that he wants to be part of it. "Of course this is where I want to be," Bradley told CSNNE.com in a phone interview on Thursday. "I've been in Boston for four years and I love it; I love the fans, the front office. I definitely want to be back."

But plans can change in an instant.  If the Celtics draft Dante Exum or Marcus Smart (and have no plans to trade Rajon Rondo) then they might be less inclined to break the bank for Avery Bradley.  If they make a trade that brings in a guard, the result could be the same.

Bradley and his agent know this.  They also know that good basketball teams don't bid against themselves, so they'll hit the market and see if they can get an offer from someone else.  The Celtics have the right to match any offer, but will they?  It will mostly depend on high the offer is.

What is Avery Bradley’s future with the Celtics? - Adam Kaufman - Boston.com Sports

Ultimately, the decision over whether to retain Bradley will come down to dollars and sense. If the asking price is north of $6 million per year, it doesn’t make sense. He has age, promise, and defensive talent on his side, but lacks a consistent offensive game and is hampered in the almighty games played category. The two-guard certainly won’t get the annual $8 million salary he is said to be seeking in free agency, not from Boston or anywhere else.

That declarative statement sounds good in theory, but it only takes one team that falls in love with him and over-reaches with an offer outside his market range.  If Bradley really wants to maximize his value, he'll wait till the major free agents are signed up.  Some teams will miss out on the big names and have money to burn (and some will have pressure to "do something" to move forward).

Bradley did what he could to boost his worth this year.  Everyone knows that he's a defensive stud, but he's improved his offensive game greatly.

Should the Celtics hold onto Avery Bradley at all costs? - CelticsBlog

Bradley set career highs in field goal attempts and makes per game this season, while also improving his three-point shooting and overall scoring. His points per game jumped to a career-high 14.9 points on 44% shooting, and Bradley's three-point stroke also improved, as he averaged 39.5% from behind the arc.

The key issue that could bring him down is his propensity to get dinged up.  After recovering from surgery on both shoulders, this year he battled ankle problems and only played 49 games as a result.  You can (correctly) say that history doesn't predict the future, but when negotiating, history is one of the only things to tangibly point to.

Another thing to keep an eye on is the potential for a sign-and-trade.  If the Celtics do swing a big deal, there might be interest in moving Bradely in that deal (potentially even in a 3 team deal).  Of course it would require Bradley's cooperation, but if that means getting him his biggest payday, he's sure to consider it strongly.

He's earned the respect and admiration of the fans and front office in Boston so there's a very good chance that he'll stick around.  But there's too many variables to be sure of anything at this point.  So his status is very much up in the air.

It could be a long summer of waiting patiently for Avery Bradley.  Followed by a flurry of activity where he's forced to make life altering decisions on the fly.  For now, all he can do is work on his conditioning and his game like the rest of the Celtics.

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