Editor’s Note: Welcome to our “2020 Lakers Season In Review” series, where we’ll be looking back at every member of this Lakers roster as the offseason commences, and answering some questions about what they contributed (or didn’t) to the team’s 17th championship, as well as discussing what their situation is moving forward. Today, we continue with Avery Bradley.
How did he play?
Avery Bradley earned the starting point guard job during preseason, wowing his teammates with his defensive intensity during workouts, and he proved that he earned it early on. He was part of the most-used lineup this season for the Lakers, the regular-season starting lineup of Bradley, Danny Green, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and JaVale McGee. That five-man group had a net rating of 12.6, setting the tone for the team’s dominance during the regular season.
Bradley was seemingly a perfect fit with the Lakers’ stars, low-usage guard who could actually dribble and run some offense when defenses geared up on him. He shot 36.4% from 3-point range and had his highest effective field-goal percentage (52.6%) since his last season in Boston. He was also a physical and bruising defender at the point of attack, and particularly helpful on quick lead guards like Ja Morant. The Lakers even had the “Avery Challenge” when Bradley was injured as a way to motivate the team on defense.
Bradley ended his season on a high note. He shot 41.8% from 3-point range once the calendar flipped to 2020, and he scored 24 points in a win against the Clippers to prove that he could be the team’s elusive third option on offense. He never had a chance to make good on that promise in the postseason, though, as he opted out of the restart due to health concerns.
Once the Lakers got to the bubble, Bradley’s absence wasn’t as profound as would have been expected for the team’s starting point guard. Although he meshed well into the Lakers team concept, he wasn’t an individual standout. The Lakers were only 0.5 points per 100 possessions better with Bradley on the court. The Lakers could easily plug Bradley into their style of play. They could also easily plug in someone else.
Bradley filled the role they asked him to provide during the regular season, but they were fine with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso and Playoff Rondo assuming larger roles in his absence. KCP was a better shooter, Caruso a better defender, and Rondo a better creator.
Still, there was no denying Bradley’s utility during the regular season. He exceeded expectations after a couple of down years and helped the Lakers at a position of need.
What is his contract situation moving forward?
Bradley signed a two-year deal at the room exception last offseason with a player option for year two. That means that is his choice whether or not he wants to come back to the Lakers for a little over $5 million next season. Considering he hasn’t played since March — and the Lakers did well without him in the lineup — his market isn’t exactly at an all-time high. All indications are that he will be opting in to the final year of that contract to return to Los Angeles.
Will he be back?
It would be a surprise if Bradley did not start next season in a Lakers uniform. The Lakers could theoretically use Bradley in a trade after he opts in, but that seems like a poor way to treat a player who actively chose to continue his career with this team.
The real question is how Bradley will fit back into the Lakers now that they completed a successful postseason run without him. Will he be in the starting lineup again, or has Caldwell-Pope earned that spot ahead of him? KCP can be a free agent, and he may not want to re-sign with the team if he is once again backing up Bradley. The team might try playing Talen Horton-Tucker at the NBA level more next season, further squeezing Bradley’s minutes.
It could also go in the other direction. If KCP leaves, Bradley will have a larger role. The Lakers also could lose Rondo in the offseason, giving them more need for Bradley’s playmaking at the point guard position.
Those other variables likely won’t affect Bradley’s decision. Barring some unforeseen circumstance, he is coming back. His regular-season performance in 2019-20 suggests that is a good outcome for this team.