The Los Angeles Lakers have played 63 games this season. Of the 63 games they’ve played, Avery Bradley has been the starting point guard for 44 of them. In the games he didn’t start, he was either hurt, or recovering from an injury.
Suffice to say, he’s been an integral part of the success the team has enjoyed this season, particularly on the defensive end. According to Cleaning the Glass, the Lakers’ defense is 1.5 points better per 100 possessions with Bradley on the floor. The only players on the team with a higher defensive point differential are Alex Caruso (+3.4) and LeBron James (+9.7).
Unfortunately, the Lakers won’t have Bradley for the remainder of the 2019-20 season, as he’s decided to not make the trip to Orlando out of concern for the health of his young son.
In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, the Lakers’ general manager, Rob Pelinka, talked about Bradley’s decision, his reaction to it and what the Lakers plan on doing with their open roster spot.
“That was a process we wanted to stay close with Avery on,” Pelinka said. “We wanted to support him and his journey, but of course for our team it’s tough. It’s tough to lose Avery. His toughness, his defensive tenacity, he was a starter. But we completely understand his decision. Of course that’s a decision of mixed emotion from a basketball standpoint, as a friend of Avery’s and Ashley’s, and a former agent of their family, and as the GM of the Lakers, I was really hoping for them to have an opportunity to compete for a championship. But I understand that in this instance, safety and family is first, and that’s where things landed.”
“But as a result of that ... we will sign a replacement player,” Pelinka continued. “That’s the plan. And with the restart protocol, I’m sure you guys are aware that July 1 is the first date that we would be allowed to do that. There should be more updates then, we can’t really talk about forward-looking transactions under the NBA rules, but we are planning on signing a replacement player tomorrow.”
In terms of how it affects the team on the court, Pelinka said it was “too early to talk about rotation or starting lineup,” but he’s confident that the Lakers’ chemistry will make the integration of the new players the Lakers have added “seamless.”
One of those new players is expected to be J.R. Smith. According to multiple reports, the Lakers will sign Smith as Bradley’s replacement. They also added Dion Waiters shortly before the season was suspended.
It’s unclear if Smith or Waiters will be able to make up for what the Lakers are losing in Bradley, but it’s clear management wants to continue to be aggressive, and the timing of Bradley’s decision allowed them to do that. Now, they await Dwight Howard’s decision.