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Robb: Avery Bradley Contract Looks Like A Steal Early On

BOSTON – One of the first free agents to find a home this offseason was Celtics shooting guard Avery Bradley.

At the time Bradley's new deal was signed, a sizable number of detractors took Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge to task about the four-year $32 million pact with Boston's 2010 first round pick. Criticisms from the masses at the time of the signing seemed somewhat understandable, if not valid.

Many felt Bradley had shown plenty of promise in his first four seasons, but his injury history (he's played no more than 64 regular season games any season) made the deal appear to be a bit of a risk for the rebuilding Celtics. Why give so much money to a player with constant health issues in the midst of a roster makeover?

Just three months later though, it's fair to say we won't be hearing that question from most Celtics fans for the foreseeable future. What makes me confident about the change in attitude on that front? Let's look at a couple of factors that has turned the Bradley deal into potentially one of the biggest steals of the summer in free agency.

The NBA's new TV $24 billion TV deal has changed the complexion of the league on a number of levels. Player contracts are one such department. As Zach Lowe of reported earlier this week, the salary cap is expected to skyrocket over the next couple seasons, potentially to as much as $80 million for the 2016-17 season. That's a $16 million jump from this current season.

Needless to say, with that much money in play, the market for all free agents is going to go way up. By locking up Bradley to a long-term deal this summer the Celtics made sure they wouldn't have to pay a premium for Bradley, if he were to hit the open market in a couple seasons. Instead, $8 million annually for the next four seasons is guaranteed to look like a very team-friendly contract through the 2017-18 season.

Bradley himself has no regrets about his decision to commit long-term, even after the TV deal shook up the complexion of the free agency market.

"No, not at all," Bradley said earlier this week when asked if he had second thoughts about his deal. "I'm happy to be here. I was just telling someone, anything can happen so I'm happy that I have another four years here and I get a chance to play with the Boston Celtics."

Orlando Magic v Boston Celtics
Avery Bradley of the Boston Celtics shoots the ball against the Orlando Magic on November 1, 2013 at the TD Garden (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

So the fact the Celtics have Bradley locked in at a premium discount already as a 23-year-old is just the start of the good news. Through three games this preseason, the fifth-year guard is showing the world that he isn't done making strides in his offensive game.

The young guard has stepped up with Rajon Rondo out of the lineup yet again to show off his improved stroke from 3-point range, shooting an incredible 58.3 percent from downtown over the past week. Many of those attempts have come from the top of the key, where Bradley has worked the most to expand his range.

"I mean that's something I worked on," Bradley said of his 3-point range, "But I'm really going to take what the defense gives me. Most importantly, I do have that confidence now to be able to take that shot, so hopefully it just translates this year and I'll have that confidence now playing with my new teammates."

This development has been a key factor in the Celtics offense looking far better this year, as teammates Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk have combined with Bradley to give Boston a number of threats from beyond the arc.

Bradley's defense paired with rookie Marcus Smart has also been a joy to watch as the duo has wreaked havoc against opposing defenses prior to Friday's loss to the Raptors.

The bottom line here is the current day Bradley is a good value at the moment and his play should only get better as he enters his prime over the next few years. Ainge has several tough personnel decisions waiting for him as the team continues to retool over the next couple seasons, but he deserves credit for ensuring that Bradley will be a part of Boston's core for years to come at a discounted price.

Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.


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