What Bradley's Return Means for the Celtics
Boston Celtics’ Avery Bradley has only been back for two games. But his impact has already paid huge dividends. Despite being on a minute’s restriction (37min in 2 games) Bradley’s return was the difference in the game on Wednesday. Being on the court in crunch time versus the Cav’s was crucial in the victory. His improved 3pt jump shot and elite on-ball defense was on full display in the final minutes. With 1:09 left Bradley hit a huge 3 to give the Celtics the lead. Just two possessions later Boston lead by 2 with under 30 seconds to go. Bradley then makes the defensive play of the year for the Celtics putting the clamps on Kyrie Irving. The Celtics don’t come out with a win without Bradley on the floor to close that game. As his minutes climb back into the 30’s Bradley should give the Celtics the extra boost fans were hoping for at the trade deadline. His impact on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball should give Boston enough ammunition to at least hold on to the 2 seed in the East.
The most underrated part of Avery Bradley’s game is his improved scoring ability. He’s improved consistently throughout his career in almost every statistical category. This season Bradley has set career marks in scoring, field goal %, 3pt %, rebounds, and assists. Bradley is also one of just 5 players this season who are averaging at least 17 PPG, 47% FG, and 40% 3PT (with at least 40 3PA). The other 4 players are CJ McCollum, Bradley Beal, Klay Thompson, and Goran Dragic. Pretty good company. Bradley’s always been a great off-ball player with hard cuts as well as good spacing and above average floor awareness. He’s worked hard on his jump shot since coming into the league. After hitting just 62 of 185 3pt attempts in his first 3 seasons, Bradley has already hit 80 of 194 in his first 38 games this season. Turning a weakness into a strength, Bradley’s perimeter shooting has allowed him to step into the secondary scoring role next to Isaiah Thomas. A role that will crucial come playoff time.
Bradley’s reputation on defense is well-known. If there was any doubt Bradley put it to rest after Wednesdays’ game. Despite being undersized at 6-2 180, Bradley’s incredible tenacity as an on-ball defender allows him to match up well with any 1 or 2 guard in the NBA. Bradley’s smaller size allows him to be quick on his feet and stay in front of ball handlers as we saw against Kyrie Irving. Bradley has also shown above average strength for his size which prevents much bigger guards and wings from overpowering him. With his quick hands and knack for getting into the passing lane its no surprise he averaged 1.5 steals per game last season. Put all these attributes together and you have a elite defender at the guard position. Although the Celtics defense has taken a step back this season, the return of Bradley should certainly help. Limiting the Cavs to under 41% for the game and 30% on 3’s is a great start.