Rockets Player: Avery Bradley, 6-foot-2 guard, 30 years old
2020-21 statistics in Houston: 5.2 points (31.4% FG, 27.0% on 3-pointers), 2.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists in 23.0 minutes per game
Professional Experience: 11 NBA seasons
Contract Status: Team option for 2021-22 at $5.9 million
Bradley and Kelly Olynyk were acquired in the late March trade that sent Victor Oladipo to Miami. However, Bradley wasn’t able to recapture his usual form after suffering a right calf strain with the Heat. He missed nearly two months after that injury before being traded to the Rockets, and the injury caused him to miss some games in Houston, as well.
Prior to the Feb. 3 calf injury, Bradley was much more efficient, shooting 47.0% from the field and 42.1% on 3-pointers with the Heat.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNXiXUhiJfI [lawrence-related id=46989,46863]
After Houston’s trade for Bradley and Olynyk on March 25, head coach Stephen Silas offered extremely high praise for Bradley by referring to him as one of the league’s top defenders over the past decade.
I envision Avery kind of being a multi-purpose guy. He’s one of the best one-on-one defenders in the NBA over the last 10 years. He’ll have that role. He’ll shoot his spot-ups, and he’ll use his veteran savvy.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nG3e3IC6lY0 General manager Rafael Stone referred to Bradley as someone the Rockets had “liked for some time” and indicated that Houston wanted to have him around as a positive influence to younger players.
Stone: One of the advantages of the rebuild construct we’re doing… I do think that there’s a place for veterans on your team, not just this year, but going forward. Stabilizing influences, helping your younger players develop in the right way, in a quicker way. I think having a good mix of old and young is actually attractive.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51XHW-5uEe4 The early optimism faded as the weeks progressed, though, with Bradley struggling to overcome his calf injury (the compressed schedule likely didn’t help). Even when he was able to play, Bradley’s shortcomings on offense appeared to outweigh his defensive value. From Houston’s perspective, though, they have to remember that Bradley was a 37.0% shooter from 3-point range over his previous four seasons (2016-17 through 2019-20), and his start with Miami (42.1%) was even better. At 30, he’s young enough to where age isn’t likely to be the cause of any decline. Thus, the probable scenario is that Bradley’s poor numbers in Houston were a product of injury and a small sample size, and he’s likely to bounce back when 2021-22 begins this fall.
Does Bradley want to be in Houston? That could be the most relevant question when it comes to his potential future with the team, and particularly the looming team option ($5.9 million) on his contract. If they wanted salary cap room this offseason, the Rockets would almost certainly decline that option. However, that seems to be unlikely, since it’s an underwhelming class of free agents — and any path to cap room likely requires renouncing rights to all internal free agents, including Olynyk. Houston would also lose various salary cap exceptions, such as the mid-level exception and bi-annual exception. It’s hard to see a 2021 free agent being worth those types of sacrifices. Moreover, even if someone was, it’s difficult to see why such a top player would choose Houston — coming off a year in which the Rockets had the NBA’s worst record. If Stone decides to operate above the salary cap, which appears to be a more realistic plan, they could easily retain Bradley and use him as a veteran mentor, similar to DJ Augustin. Like Augustin, Bradley’s expiring contract could also be useful filler for Stone to use in trades. The difference between the two situations, though, is that Augustin has clearly signaled a desire to be in Houston. With Bradley, it isn’t yet clear. If he prefers to play for a contender, the limited value he offers as a role player (to a rebuilding team) and his theoretical value as salary filler probably isn’t worth the cost of keeping a veteran against his will — and having that dynamic around a young, impressionable locker room. But if Bradley is comfortable with the fit, there are ample reasons to believe that his underwhelming start with the Rockets in 2020-21 could improve with better health in 2021-22. The ball is likely in his court. [listicle id=49691]