It's been nearly five weeks since Avery Bradley last suited up for the Boston Celtics and, although his presence may not make a difference in terms of winning and losing games, it makes a difference in terms of him winning or losing this offseason.
Set to become a restricted free agent at the conclusion of the 2013-14 campaign, Bradley has already missed a total of 19 games this season including the Celtics' last 12 in a row.
Those same 19 absences now push his career total to 70 (not including his rookie season), meaning that he's missed 30 percent of his games between the 2011-12 and 2013-14 seasons, per Basketball-Reference.
While it might be a little premature to label Bradley "injury prone" it's certainly something the Celtics should keep in mind throughout the negotiating process. Both of his shoulders shouldn't pose any problems down the road after having corrective surgery on them back in the summer of 2012 and the current ankle injury he's dealing with doesn't seem to be much more than a severe sprain. However, from a financial standpoint, the Celtics need to do their best to keep themselves protected from another Bradley injury down the road, which means the $7-8 million (per year) type of deal Bradley is apparently seeking might be a little too much.
But if the Celtics are in fact serious about Bradley being a part of their future then I would suggest they try to construct an incentive laden pact. They could guarantee him something like $6-6.5 million per year and then pay him an additional $500,000 if he plays in 65 games and another $500,000 if he appears in 75 games.
Boston is fortunate in that they have every imaginable advantage when it comes to renewing Bradley's contract. Assuming they extend a qualifying offer his way, they'll have the right to match any offer sheet Bradley could potentially sign with another team as well as the ability to properly gauge what his value is around the league. If a team comes along and offers him something ludicrous then Danny Ainge can let him walk for nothing and save his money for another player or he could look into executing a sign-and-trade with that team to collect more assets for the rebuild.
Given the fact that Bradley is enjoying arguably his best offensive season of his career this year, in addition to his already stagnant defense, it is essentially guaranteed that one of the other 29 teams will offer him something ridiculous. Prior to February, Bradley had increased his per game scoring average from month to month, starting the year off with 8.0 in October, 13.0 in November, 15.6 in December, and 16.3 in January.
It's clear that Avery Bradley is a valuable piece that any team would love to add to their roster, especially since he's added an offensive game to his repertoire. All that means nothing, though, if he's unable to remain on the court for a healthy (no pun intended) majority of the season. I'm in favor of bringing Bradley back but only for an appropriate price that doesn't end up hurting the Celtics in the long run.
According to Jay King of MassLive.com, Brad Stevens told the media last week that Bradley may return this coming Friday against the Phoenix Suns. Hopefully, for Bradley's sake, he does return this weekend and proves for the remainder of the season that he is worthy of the type of money he's asking for on the market. If he can do that, he'll effectively steal some of that leverage from the Celtics and make it his own.