The Tony Bradley experiment is coming to a crossroads.
The former sixth man on the 2017 NCAA champion Tar Heels took his family’s advice over that of basketball professionals and entered the NBA draft. He was selected with the 28th pick by the Los Angeles Lakers and eventually wound up with the Utah Jazz.
His first two seasons guaranteed Bradley just north of $2.5 million. Taxes, of course, took a big chunk of that and his pushy parents probably got much of what was left, as the 6-10 Bradley was sent down to the Utah Stars of the G League. In his first 2 pro seasons, Bradley played in 12 of the NBA Jazz’s 164 games.
So where is Bradley now? Still with the Jazz in the NBA Summer League, getting off to a great start. Tuesday night, he played 27 minutes, scored 26 points and had 16 rebounds and three blocked shots in the 86-71 victory over the Cavaliers summer league team.
With the Jazz fortifying their roster through free agency and being picked among the favorites in the Western Conference next season, will they extend Bradley the team option for a third season or let him go into free agency? Having played only as a reserve his one college season, Bradley had to know he wasn’t NBA ready.
He opted for the draft and hoped he would go in the first round and get the guaranteed money, which wasn’t enough to last a lifetime. Had he stayed at Carolina at least one more season, his game would have flourished as a starter for Roy Williams and his draft position might have moved him up to the lottery, or top 14, where the guarantee was at least three times as much.
So let’s call bad judgment on Bradley’s part an experiment. The first part of it sort of worked when drafted right at the end of the first round. Instead of trying to improve his game in college, he did so with the Jazz in training camp and then in the G League for two years. Getting that money might have seemed like a good choice.
But here’s where the experiment gets dicey. Unless Bradley plays his butt off in the NBA summer league and improves his free-agent stock, he will likely have little bargaining power and may catch on with another NBA team for a shot at making its regular-season roster. If that doesn’t happen, Bradley will likely sign to play in Europe where he will make nice money and have a good life.
But if that’s the result, this one-time 5-star recruit’s experiment failed badly.