Pistons acquire Celtics’ Bradley, cut ties to Caldwell-Pope

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Avery Bradley

What had been a fairly quiet offseason for the Detroit Pistons got a lot more interesting with a pair of roster-shifting moves Friday.

The Pistons traded forward Marcus Morris to the Boston Celtics for guard Avery Bradley and a 2019 second-round draft pick.

Bradley, a 6-foot-2 combo guard, is regarded as one of the best perimeter defenders in the league and his acquisition spells an unexpected end to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s tenure with the Pistons. Caldwell-Pope was a restricted free agent, set to get a hefty pay raise — possibly a maximum offer sheet in the range of $25 million per season.

Rather than commit to a contract that could have been four years and $106 million, the Pistons moved on from Caldwell-Pope, rescinding his qualifying offer of $5 million, making him an unrestricted free agent, free to sign with any team.

How new Pistons roster affects playing rotation

The Pistons, already over the salary cap, would have been in a financial bind if they were pushed to match a max offer sheet for Caldwell-Pope — which would have put them above the luxury tax and above the NBA’s luxury-tax apron, a threshold that would have restricted the other moves they could have made financially.

Instead, they opted for the trade for Bradley, 26, who has one year remaining on his contract, at $8.8 million; next summer, he could become an unrestricted free agent. According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, the Pistons have the ability to offer a two-year, $19-million extension to Bradley, but with the escalating contracts in the NBA, it’s highly likely that Bradley would want a bigger contract on the open market.

“We are excited to bring one of the top two-way guards in the NBA to Detroit. Avery is an elite defender who can guard (both backcourt positions),” Pistons president-coach Stan Van Gundy told The Detroit News. “He is also a very good scorer and 3-point shooter. Most importantly, he plays as consistently hard and brings as much energy on a nightly basis as any player in the league.”

The deal appeals to the Celtics because it frees up some cap space to acquire All-Star wing Gordon Hayward, who opted this week to join Boston over the Utah Jazz and Miami Heat. The Pistons feared going into the perilous waters of the luxury tax to retain Caldwell-Pope without drastically upgrading the existing roster, which finished 37-45 last season and missed the playoffs.

Bradley, 26, has been selected to the NBA’s all-defensive team twice — second team in 2013 and first team in 2016 — and averaged career highs of 16.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists last season with the Celtics, where he’s played for his seven-year career.

“It’s no secret that Avery had been one of my favorite players, and on behalf of our entire organization, I’d like to thank him and Ashley for all of their contributions on and off the court,” Celtics president Danny Ainge said Friday in a team statement. “Avery did a lot of the dirty work and often didn’t get the recognition that he deserved. But our coaches, staff, his teammates, and our fans who watched him play every night appreciated what a special player and person he is.

“We are excited to add a high-quality player with the versatile skillset that Marcus possesses. He will be a great fit for our team.”

Marcus Morris

Morris, 27, was a durable and versatile starter in his two years with the Pistons, playing in 159 of 162 games. He averaged 14.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists after being acquired from the Phoenix Suns, along with Reggie Bullock and Danny Granger, for a 2020 second-round pick. Morris also represented a valuable contract for the Pistons, with two years and just $10.4 million remaining on his deal.

“Nothing but love for Detroit,” Morris texted The Detroit News on Friday afternoon.

Bradley projects to become the Pistons’ starting shooting guard, with first-round pick Luke Kennard and newly-acquired combo guard Langston Galloway as backups. It also opens playing time for the previous two first-round picks, Stanley Johnson and Henry Ellenson, at the forward positions.

Johnson said Morris was a key member of the roster and welcomed what Bradley can bring on both ends of the court.

“Marcus was very helpful to me in my first two years. He’s a great player and an even better teammate,” Johnson told The Detroit News. “I’m very happy to have Avery; I respect the hell out of him.”