A flurry of transactions left the Lakers spending all their cap space and then (finally) executing the Anthony Davis trade, but that does not mean they’re done in free agency. With their $4.8 million room exception still available, the Lakers still had an ability to add one more player who could, hopefully, contribute this upcoming season. Seems as though they’ve found that player in Avery Bradley:
There was a question of whether the Lakers were saving their room exception for Andre Iguodala should he end up getting bought out by the Grizzlies, but with Memphis posturing as if they intend to either keep or trade the former Warrior, the Lakers will not wait it out and instead turn their focus to Bradley.
While I, personally, am lukewarm on adding Bradley (more on this later), I do understand why the Lakers would invest their last meaningful financial resource in him. Bradley has a reputation as a plus defender who is a capable three point shooter. These skills are always in demand and Bradley, who is still only 28, offers them at a point in his career when still young enough to play real rotation minutes, but not at a stage where he’ll be asked to play extended minutes as a key starter.
The hope, then, is that as a reserve, Bradley can provide energy and tenacity defensively for shorter spurts and allow the Lakers some additional depth behind, and in tandem with, Danny Green and KCP to guard the league’s better wing players while also hitting enough shots to be a threat from deep when flanking LeBron and/or Anthony Davis. Again, that’s the hope.
My areas of concern are twofold. First, Bradley is a listed 6’2″ and has traditionally done his best work defending point guards and average sized shooting guards. While there’s value in having a player fill this role, the Lakers really need someone who can defend the bigger wings of the world — especially now that Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are with the Clippers. Bradley, for all his fight and ability to play a bit bigger than he is, guarding true SF sized players is a task that is probably beyond him. Over his career, his defensive versatility has been an ability defend either guard position, rather than sliding up to handle small forward sized players.
Second, Bradley’s shooting from distance is, essentially, league average over the course of his career. A deeper dive into his shooting also reveals an interesting trend: last season, when taking “open” shots (defender within 4-6 feet of him) he only converted 26.8% of his 3 pointers. In the 2017-18 season, that number was only 25.4%. When defenders are 6+ feet away from him, however, his numbers jump up to 40.4% and 43.1% over the past two years, respectively.
In other words, if Bradley is absolutely wide open, he can knock down the 3 ball with good consistency. Otherwise, the results are not that pretty. If you’re looking for a silver lining, playing with LeBron and Davis should net him more of the really open looks. That said, one has to wonder how many minutes he’ll get with those two players if being slotted behind Danny Green and, potentially, KCP. Those two, for a variety of reasons, offer more utility in LeBron/AD lineups than Bradley would.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Bradley is a fine enough addition to a roster that could always use more perimeter toughness and competitiveness defensively. I do believe, however, at his size (and the resulting lack of defensive versatility in the context of team needs) and overall shooting ability, using the room exception on him is probably a mis-allocation of resources when looking at this signing in a vacuum. I’d have preferred a player like this at the minimum.
Of course, this signing wasn’t made in a vacuum. It was made at a time in free agency when the market is thin and mostly void of players who can capably defend big wings, so pivoting to a player who can offer what Bradley does do well makes sense. I get it. I really do. Bradley can help and be a useful player not only as a stand-alone rotation guy, but as insurance in case of injury to players who should be slotted in front of him when constructing the depth chart.
Whether that’s worth the resource the Lakers used to sign him is a different story. Today, I’d say it’s not, but that will bear out over the course of his deal.