Lakers to Make Final Decision on Contract for Veteran Starter

Russell Westbrook (left), Avery Bradley (middle) and DeAndre Jordan of the Lakers

Getty Russell Westbrook (left), Avery Bradley (middle) and DeAndre Jordan of the Lakers

At the end of the week, the Lakers have a decision to make that once looked pretty easy. Now it looks easy, for the opposite reason.

For a while there, veteran guard Avery Bradley was having one of the worst seasons among any starter in the NBA. The one comfort from that was that Bradley has a contract that is not fully guaranteed until January 7—that would be this Friday—and the team had the option of waiving him and creating a roster spot.

Bradley is slated to make $2.6 million this season as a veteran minimum signing, though because of NBA rules, only $1.7 million of that counts against L.A.’s salary cap.

Now, though, Bradley has returned to his traditional form, playing great defense and opportunistic offense. With a decision on Bradley’s future with the team looming, coach Frank Vogel was asked about Bradley on Sunday after he scored 14 points and logged four steals in the win over Minnesota.

“He’s done a great job for us all year,” Vogel said. “A difficult circumstance for him, bouncing around early in the season and obviously he is a part of what our culture has been the last couple years. He started with us two years ago and really, we just talked about it, having two-way players. He sets a great tone for us on the defensive side of the ball and he has really brought a lot on the offensive side as well.”

Bradley Had a Very Slow Start to the NBA Season

Bradley’s spot in the NBA was on tenuous ground to start the season, as he was signed in training camp as a veteran insurance guard by the Warriors, but was cut by Golden State in favor of Gary Payton II. The Lakers picked him up but he never quite hit his stride early in the year.

In the Lakers’ first 21 games, Bradley averaged 5.0 points and shot just 38.1% from the field and 34.9% from the 3-point line. In his last nine games, interrupted by a stint on the COVID-19 health and safety list, he is averaging 9.8 points and making 48.6% of his shots from the field and from the 3-point line.

He has made a 3-pointer in nine straight games and is averaging 1.8 steals in that span.

Bradley Has LeBron’s Backing

Most important for Bradley, though, is that he has generally played well when LeBron James is on the floor, acting as a floor-stretcher with his perimeter shooting when James (and others) find themselves double-teamed. It is no coincidence that Bradley has been at his best when James is healthy and on the floor.

“What he built his hat on his whole career is the defensive side of the ball, and that is what we are as a group, that’s what coach Vogel is, that’s what we hang our hats on as a group,” James said on Sunday. “So, it’s an immediate fit, that’s one. And he doesn’t do anything he is not capable of doing, you know. He knows exactly how to make his mark on the offensive end around guys who handle the ball, guys that attract a lot of double-teams, guys that attract a lot of eyes. … Over the stints we have had him in a uniform, he has played extremely well for us. When he is on the floor he just makes play on both sides of the floor.”

Read More