With the season over and the draft still more than a month away, we're taking a look back and assessing the season that was. That's right - it's report card time! Sixth in the series - Avery Bradley.
Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
Stat line: 9.2 ppg, 2.1 apg, 2.2 rpg, 28.7 mpg, 40.2% FG, 31.7% 3PT, 75.5% FT
Bradley missed the first 30 games of the season as he recovered from double shoulder surgery. Upon his return, Boston’s defense – which had struggled for much of the season - immediately reverted to its familiar place among the best in the league.
In just his third year as a pro, the 22-year-old Bradley has developed a well-earned reputation as perhaps the best on ball defender in the league and was named to the All-Defensive second team at year’s end, garnering 10 first place and five second place votes.
As the cliché goes, offense sells tickets and defense wins championships, but so great is Bradley’s merciless hounding of opposing point guards that his matchups with premier players have become appointment viewing. His domination of Stephen Curry following Curry’s 53-point explosion at MSG is but one example.
Bradley also easily leads the league in the highly coveted “backcourt steals on inbound passes that the camera doesn’t catch because it happened so fast that they were still showing a replay of the previous scoring play” statistic.
Per Synergy Sports via ESPN.com, Bradley held opponents to 0.697 points per play, the lowest in the league among those with at least 475 total defensive possessions. Bradley’s opponents shot just 30.8 percent against him and scored a mere 31.8 percent of the time, also a league low.
Things were not all roses for the Celtics’ version of Darrelle Revis, however. Bradley is not a gifted ball handler and the bulk of his scoring typically comes from smart back door cuts and corner 3’s. He is a terrific complement to Rajon Rondo, whose dribble penetration opens up those 3’s and whose sublime passing finds Bradley open on his cuts to the basket. This season, the Bradley-Rondo backcourt played just 11 games together before Rondo tore his ACL and as a result, Bradley’s numbers took a marked dive from last season. Despite playing 67 more minutes this year (that’s the equivalent of 2.3 games for Bradley), he actually scored 23 fewer points.
Bradley averaged 21.4 minutes per game a year ago, versus 27.8 this year, so a per 36 minute average is more telling.
Per 36 minute averages:
While Bradley missed just one game after returning to the lineup in early January, the effect of the shoulder surgeries seemed to take an increasing toll on him as the season wore on. While Bradley hasn’t used his injuries as an excuse, you don’t need a degree in kinesiology to grasp that double shoulder surgery could have a deleterious effect on a jump shot. Beyond throwing off his mechanics however, Bradley may have simply been weaker. He certainly appeared to have lost a good deal of muscle in his upper body, something Danny Ainge even mentioned during a Celtics broadcast, and which he attributed to Bradley’s inability to lift weights in quite the same way given his shoulder rehab.
In the playoffs Bradley was completely outplayed by Knicks point guard Raymond Felton, whom he was utterly incapable of staying in front of. Bradley provided little on the other end of the floor as well, scoring just 6.7 points in 31.8 minutes per game and hitting just two 3’s and four free throws the entire series.
His offensive struggles were as pronounced as his defensive acheivements, but Boston's identity is defense and it wasn't nearly good enough without Bradley. Extra credit points for gamely returning after major surgery and willingly assuming ballhandling responsibilities he simply isn't cut out for.
Bradley is on the books for just $2.5 million next season and the qualifying offer for 2014-15 is just $3.58. (Click here for a quick explanation on qualifying offers.)
He’ll have to improve his offensive game but at just 22 years old, Bradley is already a premier defender in the league and given his on court chemistry with Rondo, it’s likely he’ll be around for a long time. Expect the Celtics to sign him to a longer-term deal soon.
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