Sunday, July 8, 2012
Could Bradley's status entice a top guard?
By Chris Forsberg
Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty ImagesDoes Avery Bradley's injury entice the likes of Courtney Lee more?
If you're looking for a silver lining to the possibility that Avery Bradley will miss the start of the regular season, consider this: Boston's sales pitch just got a little bit more intriguing for prospective additions.
The Celtics have only the biannual exception left to offer outside free agents, which amounts to a maximum of a two-year, $4.1 million offer (or a single season at $1.975 million). That's unlikely to attract a front-line player -- unless it came with the potential for that player to be thrust into the spotlight in a talent-loaded starting lineup for a title contender.
Think of it this way: If the Celtics were completely healthy, the guard spot is top-heavy with Bradley and Rajon Rondo as starters and Jason Terry as the first guard off the bench. In that case, the Celtics would be offering a meager salary and couldn't guarantee heavy floor time (though you can make the case that fourth guard Mickael Pietrus averaged a solid 21.9 minutes per game last season).
Now, the Celtics can make the pitch that Bradley's health is in question and they might need a starter who would allow them to keep Terry in his preferred bench role at the start of the year. Is that enough to sway the likes of Courtney Lee, who could seemingly fetch more money elsewhere?
The difficulty with Lee is that he was in line for a solid payday. After earning $2.3 million last season, incentives allowed Lee's qualifying offer from the Rockets to balloon to $4.4 million. Houston initially submitted that offer, then rescinded it in order to pursue other players.
Coming off a season in which he averaged 11.4 points and shot 40.1 percent from beyond the 3-point arc while starting in 26 of 58 appearances, the 26-year-old Lee would have to be content to play at least one more season at a minimal payday. If he excelled in Boston, potentially aided by starter minutes at the start of the year, he would be in line to cash in down the road.
It's more likely that a veteran would be willing to take the reduced payday, and it will be interesting to see what the interest level of someone like Pietrus is. Remember that Pietrus was in line to be the one that replaced Ray Allen in the starting lineup last season until he suffered a concussion and missed much of the end of the regular season. Pietrus' misfortune allowed Bradley the opportunity to step in, and look how much his stock ballooned in limited time.
Pietrus seemingly makes a lot of sense if he could be convinced to take that smaller payday, particularly coming off right knee surgery (and remember that, while he played at the minimum last season, he also received part of his $5.3 million salary as part of a buyout with the Phoenix Suns).
The Celtics, of course, would be more intrigued by the likes of Lee given his age and upside. However, keep in mind that while Lee's offensive game is enticing, his defensive numbers aren't so dazzling. According to Synergy Sports data, he allowed 0.879 points per play last season, ranking in the 37th percentile. The Celtics would benefit from a defensive-minded player on the bench, though offense was clearly Boston's biggest bench woe last season.