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Boston Celtics Trade Throwback #4: Avery Bradley to the Pistons

Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

After seven seasons in Boston, the Celtics traded Avery Bradley to the Detroit Pistons in 2017.

Though he was never an All-Star, Bradley enjoyed a solid career with the Celtics.

The 19th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, Bradley was known for his elite defense. Although, Bradley was regularly among the Celtics’ leading scorers during his prime in Boston and became a top-tier 3-and-D player with the team.

Eventually becoming Ray Allen‘s replacement with the Celtics, Bradley looked like he could be a long-term player for the team. He was the perfect complementary guard next to point guards like Rajon Rondo and Isaiah Thomas and had his best performance during the 2016-17 season.

Bradley averaged 16.3 PPG, 6.1 RPG, and 2.2 APG (all career highs while with Celtics) and played a key role during their playoff run that season.

The Texas alum was selected to the All-Defensive First Team in 2016 three years after getting selected to the All-Defensive Second Team. And in his final win as a Celtics player, Bradley hit a game-winning three-pointer against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

So why did the Celtics trade the then 26-year-old Bradley to the Pistons, and was it the right call?

Boston Celtics Trade Throwback #4: Avery Bradley to the Pistons

Full Trade Details

Boston Celtics receive: Marcus Morris

Detroit Pistons receive: Avery Bradley and a 2019 second-round pick (later became Isaiah Roby)

Why the Boston Celtics Made the Trade

After finishing as the unexpected No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, there was a complete roster shakeup for the Celtics in 2017.

This is because of the team signing Gordon Hayward to a max contract during the offseason. To have enough cap space to sign Hayward, however, the Celtics needed to move some contracts around.

Interestingly, only four players from the 2016-17 season remained with the Celtics the following year–Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Terry Rozier.

Bradley was scheduled to make $8.8 million for the 2017-18 season, and the Celtics needed to trade him for a cheaper contract.

The Celtics were trying to build a team to finally take down the Cavaliers and, eventually, the Golden State Warriors. These two teams had met in the previous three NBA Finals showcases. The Celtics were the NBA’s best bet to put a stop to that.

Although the Celtics were atop the Eastern Conference the season before and added Jayson Tatum through the draft, GM Danny Ainge wasn’t satisfied.

Bradley proved to be a good player in Boston, but he was never going to be the second-best scorer on a championship team. This is especially true when the opposing teams have players like LeBron James, Steph Curry, and Kevin Durant.

He improved every year, but he wasn’t the ideal fit for what Ainge was building. Bradley was an elite glue guy, but Ainge was aiming for more versatility and position-less basketball. These were both boxes Bradley didn’t check off.

Although Bradley was a top-tier on-ball defender, he was only able to defend guards. This was unlike the then 23-year-old Smart, who was known to be able to guard all five positions.

Smart’s come-up, along with Bradley’s injury history and impending free agency in 2018, made the Washington native expendable.

Why the Detroit Pistons Made the Trade

The Pistons were 37-45 the year before and finished as the No. 10 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Even though they missed the playoffs, there was a lot of talent in Detroit in 2017.

The Pistons rostered Andre Drummond, Tobias Harris, and Reggie Jackson. And with all these guys being under 27 years old at the time, they had a young core that could lead them for years.

In theory, adding Bradley was going to give the team a defensive ace whose scoring was going to be complementary next to Harris and Jackson. And although he hadn’t made it to the NBA Finals yet, Bradley had a lot of playoff experience both as a role player and second option. In fact, Bradley played in five playoff runs during his seven years in Boston (but was on the roster for six).

While Morris was a good two-way player for the Pistons, the team needed to add to their backcourt with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on his way out.

Outside of Bradley having an expiring deal, there was little risk for the Pistons to make this trade. Plus, with the guard coming off the best year of his career and being around the same age as their main core, the fit was obvious on paper.

Aftermath of the Trade

A Bradley-Morris swap didn’t necessarily shake the NBA world, but it was still a noteworthy trade at the time.

The Celtics traded Bradley, their longest-tenured player at the time who was the bridge between the “Big Three” era and the pre-Tatum and Brown era.

As for the Pistons, they traded a solid two-way player in Morris who had just had consecutive career-best years with the team.

Over six years later, it’s a good time to dig deeper and see how this trade worked out for the Celtics and Pistons.

Boston Celtics

The 2017-18 season was a roller coaster for the Celtics.

Boston had championship aspirations after eventually acquiring Kyrie Irving from the Cavaliers later in 2017. However, a shocking season-ending injury to Hayward in the opening game nearly put a stop to that. This was especially true with Irving eventually missing over two months due to injury to end the season.

Amazingly, the Celtics still finished with a 55-27 record and made noise in the playoffs powered by their young stars.

The team eventually went on to lose to the Cavaliers in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Since this trade, the Celtics have made the playoffs each year and made it to the 2022 NBA Finals, where they lost to the Warriors in six games.

The Celtics are currently the betting favorites to represent the Eastern Conference in the 2024 NBA Finals.

Marcus Morris

Morris enjoyed a bit of success in his two-year stint with the Celtics.

In 129 total games, including 74 starts, Morris averaged 13.8 PPG and 5.8 RPG on 43.9 FG%. Plus, the self-proclaimed second-best “LeBron James stopper” played impressive defense throughout his time in Boston.

Morris’ most notable game with the Celtics came in a 125-124 2OT loss to the Washington Wizards on March 14, 2018. The Kansas alum scored 31 points and grabbed nine rebounds while shooting 50% from the field. Morris also tallied two steals and an assist.

In 2019, Morris left Boston and signed with the New York Knicks.

On February 6, 2020, Morris was sent to the Los Angeles Clippers in a three-team trade. Morris signed a 4-year, $64 million extension with the Clippers in November 2020.

Interestingly, a deal was in place earlier this offseason that would have sent Morris to the Wizards. This was a part of the original three-team trade with the Celtics that landed them Kristaps Porzingis. The trade eventually fell through, and Morris is still on the Clippers roster.

Detroit Pistons

The Pistons ended the 2017-18 season with a 39-43 record. Despite the two-game improvement from the previous season, the Pistons still missed the playoffs as the No. 9 seed.

Head coach Stan Van Gundy and the team agreed to part ways after four seasons together.

However, it wasn’t all bad for the Pistons.

In January 2018, the Pistons made a blockbuster trade with the Clippers to acquire Blake Griffin.

The next season, Griffin’s first full year with the team, the Pistons improved to 41-41 and made the playoffs for the second time since 2009. The Pistons were the No. 8 seed.

In the first round, the Milwaukee Bucks swept the Pistons.

The Pistons have yet to return the playoffs and are coming off a year in which they finished 17-65, the worst record of the 2022-23 season.

However, with young stars like Cade Cunningham and Ausar Thompson, the future is looking bright in the Motor City.

Avery Bradley

Expected to be a defensive ace in the Pistons’ backcourt, there were decently high hopes for Bradley after his trade from the Celtics. However, Bradley didn’t help his cause as an impending free agent.

When on the court, there was a clear regression in Bradley’s game on both sides of the ball. Bradley’s scoring was inconsistent, and his defense had taken a step back.

It became clear that Bradley wasn’t a good fit with the Pistons. The team eventually shipped him off to the Clippers in the Griffin trade. This move reunited him with his former head coach in Boston, Doc Rivers.

Since his trade to the Clippers, Bradley has become a journeyman.

After re-signing with the Clippers in 2018, the team traded him to the Grizzlies in 2019. The Grizzlies waived Bradley that summer.

Shortly after, the former Celtics guard joined the Los Angeles Lakers, reuniting him with Rondo. Los Angeles went on to win the 2020 NBA Championship, giving Bradley his first and so far only ring.

In November 2020, Bradley signed with the Miami Heat before they traded him to the Houston Rockets in 2021.

On September 26, 2021, Bradley signed with the Warriors. The Warriors waived Bradley before the regular season.

Bradley reunited with the Lakers for the 2021-22 season and is currently a free agent.


Morris offered solid two-way play for the Celtics for two years. He was versatile and provided additional wing scoring next to Tatum, Brown, and Hayward.

At a time where Brown and Tatum weren’t the stars they are today, Morris was the perfect veteran player next to them.

Still, Morris was only with the team for two years and was never a long-term option for Boston.

As for Detroit, Bradley regressed during his time there and didn’t last for a full season. However, the team was able to flip him in a package for Griffin.

The 2020 NBA champion will be 33 by the end of 2023, and with his injury history and overall regression, it’s unlikely he will ever play in the NBA again. Still, he won a championship in 2020 and was selected to two All-Defensive teams throughout his 12-year career.

In all, the Celtics got more out of the trade than the Pistons did. That said, being able to flip Bradley immediately to acquire a star in Griffin deserves some recognition.


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