Celtics and Pistons trade ultimately makes sense for both teams

Boston Celtics' Avery Bradley warms up before playing the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 4 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals, Tuesday, May 23, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
AP Photo/Tony Dejak

The Boston Celtics did what they needed to do: they’ve cleared $3.8 million in salary and have enough cap space for Gordon Hayward’s max contract. As The Vertical’s Shams Charania first reported, the Celtics are sending Avery Bradley and a 2019 second-round pick to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Marcus Morris.

For the Pistons, this trade is definitely a win. Giving up Morris for the return of Bradley, the superior player, and a second-round pick is a fantastic deal, giving them an elite perimeter defender and talented offensive player. Bradley has grown over the course of his career and has improved a lot with the ball in his hands, running off screens and creating his own shot more often. He recorded 16.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game last season, adding his best performance yet from 3-point range with a career-high two makes a night at a 39 percent rate (he shot a career-high 46.3 percent overall, too).

This brings Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s time with the Pistons to an end as well:

For the Celtics, it’s clear just how tough the market was for Bradley in their situation. It’s easy to poke fun at Danny Ainge for getting the worse return in this trade, but he had no leverage whatsoever. Every team knew the Celtics were desperate to clear cap space and dump a player, and Bradley’s contract situation didn’t help Boston, seeing as he hits free agency next summer and could very well demand a max deal. Taking on an expiring player always tarnishes their trade value somewhat.

It’s unfortunate for the Celtics that they had to include a pick, but they have enough players and picks in tow as it is. Tossing in a second-rounder is no big deal, and Ainge did well to get back a solid player that he can use. Plus, it would have been a nightmare trying to organize the rest of the team while also giving Bradley a max contract next summer, so this way he keeps the value of Jae Crowder’s low salary and still has elite defense with Marcus Smart.

Morris gives the Celtics even more versatility. He can provide a little defense at either forward position with his strong 6’9″ frame and can keep the floor spaced well enough. He shot a cooler 33.1 percent from 3 last season on his way to 14 points per game, but over the last four years combined he hit a reasonable 35.6 percent of his 3s with 1.4 makes per game. The Celtics have a ton of big wings who can switch now, which is the kind of optionality that any coach would love to have at their disposal in this age of basketball, especially someone who can get creative like Brad Stevens.

The question now is what the Celtics do with all these forwards. They obviously have Hayward at small forward and have a host of wings who can operate at the 3 or 4 in Crowder, Morris, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Even though they managed to keep Crowder’s highly valuable contract (three more years for just over $22.09 million), he adds to this logjam of forwards and the frontcourt is still left in need of some size, shot blocking and rebounding. The duo of Morris and Al Horford won’t be stopping any tough rebounding team on the glass, so more help is needed down low even if both Ante Zizic and Guerschon Yabusele join the team.

If the Celtics look to trade Crowder and go forward with Hayward (who has replaced him, anyway) and their young guys in Brown and Tatum, they’ll once again have leverage to get a good return now that he can be sold as a cheap, valuable piece, rather than money that has to be dumped.

Whatever happens next for the Celtics, it made sense to get a decent player in return for Bradley before the concerns of his free agency crept up a year down the line. Meanwhile, the Pistons get a really good two-way guard and will avoid overpaying Caldwell-Pope right now (a player, albeit a young one, with flaws in his game, issues of consistency and poor efficiency after shooting 39.9 percent last season).

Given the circumstances, both sides did well.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.

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