This has seemed likely even since Avery Bradley opted out of the player option that would have seen him return to the Lakers, but now it’s official. According to Bradley‘s agent, he’s leaving for the Miami Heat in free agency.
Bradley was a key starter for the Lakers before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the NBA season, playing aggressive point-of-attack defense while averaging 8.6 points and shooting 36.4% from three. Bradley’s mid-range game — he shot 44.8% from 10-16 feet — also gave the Lakers some valuable offensive diversity that they initially missed when he opted out of going to the NBA bubble, but they eventually made enough adjustments to compensate and captured the 2020 championship.
The team made attempts to make Bradley feel like he was still a part of their title run. Lakers general manager (and Bradley’s former agent) Rob Pelinka made Bradley one of his first calls after the team won the title to let him know that he’d be getting a championship ring if he wanted one. Head coach Frank Vogel said he texted with Bradley throughout the team’s run.
But when Bradley changed agents and threatened to enter free agency before eventually (and somewhat surprisingly) declining his $5 million player option to do just that, the writing was on the wall. Whether it was because he didn’t want to get traded, a sense of lingering awkwardness with his teammates after he didn’t join them in the bubble, a desire for a bigger role he was unlikely to receive behind Dennis Schröder and (hopefully) Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or Bogdan Bogdanovic, or simply the money on the table vs. waiting on the Lakers, Bradley has decided to leave.
The good news for the Lakers is that while Bradley was one of the better guard depth options on the market, they’ve literally won without him before. Now they’ll just have to do it again.