In his one season with the Lakers, Avery Bradley has pretty much delivered what the team wanted when he was signed in the summer for a relative bargain deal, two years and $9.8 million, with next season coming on a player’s option.
He has been an excellent perimeter defender, often taking the assignment on the opponent’s top offensive producer. He has been a decent secondary ballhandler who can make enough 3s (36.4% this season) to force defenses to stay honest. He averages only 8.6 points but on the Lakers that is good enough for fifth in the scoring hierarchy.
Should the Lakers go to Orlando for a restart of the season as planned, Bradley has indicated he will not go with them. Bradley, along with Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving (who is out with a shoulder injury regardless), has been leading a small-scale player revolt against plans to have the league resume activities at Disney World beginning on July 30, with a potential Finals series running into October.
The chief concern (though not the only one) from the Bradley and Irving faction has been the distraction from social justice issues that a return of the NBA would cause.
Should the season comeback not be derailed, the Lakers, then, would need to sign someone to take Bradley’s place. He certainly appears serious about his willingness to hold out.
Irving and Bradley put out a lengthy statement to ESPN on Monday and while Bradley did not specifically say he would not play, he indicated that going back to finish the season was a strictly financial decision and that, too often, those financial decisions, “have prevented us historically from making sound decisions.”
They went on: “This is not about individual players, athletes or entertainers. This is about our group of strong men and women uniting for change. We have our respective fields, however, we will not just shut up and play to distract us from what this whole system has been about: Use and Abuse.”
Bradley Appears Serious About Sitting
While others have latched onto the rhetoric Irving and Bradley used, it is unclear how many players will sit out when the NBA comes back. It would be a major reversal, though, if Bradley did decide to play. Teammate Dwight Howard has shown reluctance to suit up again for L.A. while protests are ongoing around the country, but Howard has not ruled out playing again.
Should Howard sit out, the Lakers would likely bring back center DeMarcus Cousins, whose knee injury in August was the impetus for L.A. to take a chance on Howard. But replacing Bradley is more complicated.
The leading option should come as no surprise given that the Lakers are led by LeBron James. But the Lakers will have other choices, too.
He’d be the obvious choice. Smith reportedly had a good workout with the Lakers before the team ultimately chose to sign Dion Waiters in March and his longtime relationship with James gives up the upper hand in the hunt for a Lakers roster spot. Smith is a wildcard and prone to poor decision-making (obviously) but when he is making his 3s, he can win you a game or two.
The Rockets released Gerald Green because he was recovering from a broken left foot but if he is healthy and in game shape, he is a confident scorer who knows his role. Green is not a great perimeter shooter but at 36.1% for his career, he is reliably average. Playing with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, reliably average is ideal.
The Lakers have been shaky on the effectiveness on Rajon Rondo as the team’s backup point guard, though Rondo’s reputation as a playoff super-performer might be enough to keep the team satisfied with having him as the primary option. Still, if the Lakers want to go with another backup choice at point guard, Johnson is a good defender and solid ballhandler, though he struggled with his shot last season.
Crawford, who is now 40 years old, is not lacking in experience. But he might simply be too old for another go-round. He averaged 7.9 points on 39.7% shooting, 33.2% from the 3-point line, for Phoenix in 2018-19 and could not get a contract to return this season. He told ESPN in March he has been waiting for the call back to the league.
“I’ve been training as if I’m playing,” Crawford said. “I work out every single day. I was working out today actually and I’ve always loved it. I know I can help, in some regards, in some capacity.”
Stephenson is still technically under contract in China but if he can wriggle out of that, he would make a solid addition at both ends of the floor for any team with hopes of contending. Stephenson was a Laker last year and the experience did not necessarily go well, but with L.A. a more veteran and title-focused bunch this time around, a reunion would make some sense.