Many Boston Celtics fans would have never believed that one of the Big Three would lose their starting position during this season, but Avery Bradley has stepped up big for the C's in the absence of Ray Allen and it's time for the young man to keep his starting position.
Bradley has played extremely well as the starting shooting guard for the Celtics, averaging 13.7 points (52.5 percent shooting), 2.7 rebounds, .83 assists, 1.16 steals and .83 blocks per start over 37 minutes of play.
He has finally found his offensive stride and his really showing his strength while playing alongside Rajon Rondo. Bradley is cutting to the basket extremely well scoring at a high percentage in the paint, all while is becoming more confident in his mid-range jumper.
Overall, his offensive skill has matured greatly in the past few weeks, and he is becoming a threat to opponents.
The stats he puts up are not nearly as impressive as his defensive presence on the floor and the influence it has over the entire game. Bradley is beginning to create a name for himself as one of the best on-ball defenders in the league, and has received praise from many coaches for his ability to suffocate opposing guards.
Bradley's defensive intensity and ability to disrupt the offense has led to the best defensive numbers the Celtics have put up all season.
Ray Allen is still a very strong offensive threat and has a great ability to come off screens to pour in three-pointers. However, it is clear that he does not need to be a starter in order to keep his offensive production up. In fact, Allen brings the answer of the Celtics' biggest need off the bench: a dangerous scorer that can open up the floor.
Allen's defense has not been as productive as it was when he was younger, and this shift to the bench may actually allow him to remain efficient on defense against less talented players.
Looking into matchups, this move will actually give the Celtics the best opportunity for success in the playoffs. When Bradley was on the bench, the Celtics were wasting his defensive skills on backup point guards when he could be containing opponent's top offensive players. Further, shifting Bradley to the starting lineup allows him to play his natural position of shooting guard while playing alongside a very athletic and talented Rajon Rondo.
Rondo and Bradley combine for the best defensive backcourt in the NBA, allowing the latter to play the ball-handler while Rondo floats behind to force steals. In the game against Miami, Bradley's defensive skills against the best in the league were quite effective; this will come in handy during the playoffs.
Finally, Ray Allen coming off the bench matches him up against defenders that can't keep up with his shooting ability. This could actually allow him to be an even more efficient shooter, while keeping his minutes to a manageable amount at full effort.
Further, Allen will easily be able to keep up and defend the reserve players, as well as step in at any time during the game when a big shot is needed.
Moving Avery Bradley to the starting lineup revitalizes the Celtics and brings the starting lineup a bit more energy and athleticism, all while bringing the bench the scoring they needed. The combo of Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo could be the key to a Celtics run in the playoffs, and it brings the C's championship chances back into the light.
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