Site Manager’s Note: This guest post comes to us from Colin Connors, a site writer for ESPN TrueHoop’s Raptors Republic. He has been doing free lance works for our sister sites Mavs Moneyball, Bright Side of the Sun, and The Dream Shake, and reached about to me about doing this post. Hope you enjoy!
Coming off his worst in recent memory, Avery Bradley’s value might be at an all-time low. That’s a good thing for the Grizzlies. A recent Marc Stein report suggested that Avery Bradley is a primary target for the Grizzlies mid-level exception this summer. To say Bradley’s stock took a hit from his injury-plagued season that saw a sports hernia surgery keep him out of all but 46 games (including only 6 with the Clippers) would be an understatement. Coming off of a career year in Boston, Bradley burst out of the gate strong this season (17.7 ppg and 46% 3FG in his first 16 games, per Basketball Reference) and was reportedly looking for “double or more” his current salary of 8 million per year on his next deal.
Many even believed that was a modest estimate, considering Robert Covington appeared to set the “quality 3 and D” market when he signed for 15.5 million a year. Considering that the mid-level exception for Memphis would be roughly $7.5 million, if the Grizzlies get him at even 80% of his previous on court production, that would be a steal. Besides, they’re a bit of a match made in heaven.
Defensively, it’s been years since the Grizzlies were a “Grit ’N’ Grind” top-five level team. Due in part to an aging core, and part due to the lack of quality individual defenders (save for the great Tony Allen) to surround Mark Conley and Marc Gasol. If the Grizzlies manage to acquire Bradley, a two-time All-Defensive selection (first team only two years ago!), he would immediately become their best perimeter defender in years—and at a bargain rate. Although Bradley’s defense faltered this season, that likely is a product of his injury issues and the adjustment period that comes when learning new defensive schemes.
Make no mistake: Bradley is still one of the top on-ball defenders the league has. Even though it would lack a lot of switch-ability, a lineup with Bradley, Conley, Gasol, and the youthful Jaren Jackson Jr. would immediately be (at least on paper) one of the top 5-10 defensive starting lineups in the Association.
As great as his defensive potential is, Bradley’s greatest addition would likely be on the other side of the ball. For years the Grizzlies’ front office has chased a bonafide 3 and D wing to space the floor for Conley and Gasol. In fact, many would argue that the lack of such a player is what kept them from reaching their highest potential in years prior. If acquired Bradley would be the best complimentary wing piece the Grizzlies have had in years. Adding both Jackson Jr. and Bradley’s ability to stretch the floor (38% for Detroit this year) to the Grizzlies offense would afford Conley and Gasol’s patented pick and roll the most space they’ve arguably ever had.
Additionally, Bradley is a well-known great cutter which would make him even more effective as he would help to prevent stagnation in five-man shooting lineups like Conley-Bradley-Parsons-Jackson Jr.-Gasol that, theoretically, would be a nightmare to guard.
A one year contract on the mid-level exception with the Grizzlies is just as enticing for Bradley as it allows him to return to the free agent market next year when more teams will have cap space and he won’t be coming off of an injury. Considering his somewhat fleeting youth, Bradley likely only has one multi-year big contract left in his NBA life, and he has to earn it this year. At 27, the Grizzlies would be getting a motivated two-way player in the dead center of his prime looking to earn the payout of his life. With all that motivation in mind, it’d be quite uncharacteristic of Bradley -- who is a league known workhorse -- if he didn’t come into this year at least close to the player he was to start this season.
Bearing in mind Robert Pera’s claims that the Grizzlies want back to 50 wins and playoff relevancy this season, and that the only way for them to improve is through their mid-level exception, buying low on Bradley is the best option to return to them to their prior form (or at least close enough). Best case scenario, you’re getting a highly motivated former First Team All-Defense 3 and D wing in his prime on one of the best deals in the league. If he returns to his former self, Bradley very well could be the piece that propels the Grizzlies back into the west’s upper middle-class and they would have a great chance at re-signing him.
Worst case scenario? He is injury plagued all year and the Grizzlies waste only five million for one year against an already $105 million payroll.
That sounds worth the risk to me.