Throughout all of last season, while Avery Bradley bounced from the D-League to the end of the bench, Danny Ainge was criticized for yet another poor draft choice. However, with the way Bradley has played lately, he just might have been the biggest steal of the entire 2010 draft.
Bradley was drafted by the Celtics for his defense, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that he has turned out to be the best defender from the 2010 draft class. What did come as a surprise though was how good he really was on defense, because not only is he the best defender in his draft class, but, at least at his position, he is also the best defender in the league.
It would be a travesty if he didn't make First Team All-Defense, and if he had started all season long, he would have had a legitimate shot at Defensive Player of the Year honors. And this is just his second season as a pro, when it is all said and done, he could go down as one of the best defending guards ever.
With just that in mind, his selection at 19th overall seems like a bit of a steal. However, lately he has proven that he is more than just a defensive pest. In 13 games in April, he has scored double digits in all but three games, and during that time he has been perhaps the most efficient scorer in the league and certainly in his draft class.
During this month he has averaged 15.7 points per game on 54.8 percent shooting from the field and an unheard of 65.4 percent shooting from behind the arc (to put that in perspective, the highest three-point percentage for a season is 52.4 percent by Steve Kerr).
Comparatively speaking, of the 18 players picked before Bradley, only DeMarcus Cousins (who takes four more shots per game), Gordon Hayward (who is less efficient than Bradley from three-point range) and Kevin Seraphin (who takes two more shots per game) have all been as effective as Bradley offensively in the month of April. And keep in mind that none of them have had nearly the same defensive impact.
Of those players picked after Bradley, the only one that can stand up to Bradley is Jordan Crawford, who was selected eight slots after AB. But what sets Bradley apart from Crawford and all others who are his scoring equals, as well as his defensive ones, is his ability to score as the fifth option.
Every other player that has scored more than Bradley is a primary offensive option for their team. Bradley on the other hand has been able to make an equal offensive impact even though the ball is in his hands the least, along with the fact that very few plays are called for him.
Last night for the first time, we got a glimpse at Bradley as the primary offensive option, and he looked as good as anyone scoring a career-high 28 points on 12-of-22 shooting. It seems that he could be a first option on a lesser team and score 20 points a game. And someday soon, he may be the first or second scoring option for the Celtics—and when that day comes, he will probably be an All-Star (no one from his draft class has been an All-Star yet).
To review, from the 2010 draft class, Bradley is by far the best defender (on his way to First Team All-Defense honors, something no one else from the draft class has even been considered for) and as of late, the most efficient scorer as well.
So it is safe to say that Danny Ainge did not mess up this draft pick, and in fact, he probably had the most effective pick of the entire draft. Hopefully, we will be having this same conversation about JaJuan Johnson (who is in the same position as Bradley was a year ago) next season.
And if that is the case, then Ainge will have earned his reputation back.