Stan Van Gundy came into Summer League unsure his last two No. 1 picks were ready to challenge for rotation minutes. He saw enough from Henry Ellenson and Luke Kennard over 10 days in Orlando to make Friday’s trade that opens the door to minutes for both of them.
In dealing Marcus Morris to Boston for Avery Bradley, the Pistons set off a chain reaction that greatly changes the complexion of the Pistons – and effectively ends their pursuit of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a restricted free agent whose next contract is likely to start at $20 million a season or more.
With Morris gone, Tobias Harris figures to get the bulk of his minutes at small forward in 2017-18. That opens an opportunity for Ellenson to share time with Jon Leuer at power forward. It also likely means Stanley Johnson – who last season played most of his minutes at shooting guard – will become Harris’ primary backup at small forward, which could leave Kennard a more likely option behind Bradley at shooting guard.
Bradley helps Stan Van Gundy achieve a number of organizational off-season goals. Van Gundy wanted to add perimeter defense, 3-point shooting and ballhandling. He gets all of that with Bradley. In that sense, Bradley is a high-end version of the free agent the Pistons added, Langston Galloway, another guard capable of defending either backcourt spot, making plays off the dribble and shooting above the league average from the 3-point line.
Bradley is coming off a tremendous season in which he was poised to make the All-Star team but missed nearly six weeks from mid-January to late February with a strained Achilles tendon. While Caldwell-Pope was often cited by Van Gundy as a player who competed hard virtually every night, the Pistons lose nothing in that area with Bradley, a dogged competitor.
He was Boston’s second-leading scorer at 16.3 points, behind Isaiah Thomas, and second-leading rebounder at 6.1 – a remarkable figure for a 6-foot-2 guard. He shot 39 percent from the 3-point line on 5.0 attempts per game and is considered one of the league’s top perimeter defenders. In fact, when the NBA All-Defensive team was released last week and Bradley just missed the cut to make the second team despite picking up 12 first-team votes, it sparked outrage on social media from players in both conferences.
Bradley, 26, is a seven-year veteran who came to the NBA primarily as a point guard but has played mostly at shooting guard for the Celtics since their acquisition of Thomas and drafting of Marcus Smart.
But he’s certainly capable of giving the Pistons minutes at point guard if needed and would provide the same luxury of being able to defend opposition point guards that Caldwell-Pope gave Van Gundy. A backcourt of Bradley and Galloway would be among the best defensive pairings in the Eastern Conference.
Bradley became expendable in Boston because of the depth the Celtics have created with a trove of recent first-round draft picks but mostly because of their need to shed salary to fit newly signed free agent Gordon Hayward under the salary cap. Bradley is due to be an unrestricted free agent after the 2017-18 season.