Boston Celtics: 5 Reasons Avery Bradley Will Succeed as Boston's Starting SG
Boston Celtics shooting guard Avery Bradley will eventually return to the starting lineup once he recovers from offseason surgery to repair injuries to both of his shoulders. Those injuries cut Bradley’s breakout 2011-2012 season short, and likely cost the Celtics an appearance in the NBA Finals.
Once he returns, it will take Bradley time to work his way back to the level that he was playing at towards the end of the regular season. But here are five reasons why the Boston Celtics will be at their best with a healthy Bradley taking over as the starting shooting guard.
Been There, Done That
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Avery Bradley started 28 games for the Boston Celtics last year, filling in for Ray Allen as he struggled with an ankle injury for most of the year. Bradley played so well as a starter that Celtics coach Doc Rivers decided to leave Allen in the sixth-man role once he finally returned to the lineup.
It was obvious to anyone that watched the Celtics after the All-Star break that the team was better off with Bradley’s youthful energy and tenacious defense in the starting lineup, and his confidence seemed to grow with each additional game played.
In those 28 starts for the Celtics, Bradley averaged a respectable 12.3 points per game, a 50.4 field-goal percentage, an 80.4 free-throw percentage and a surprising 46.5 three-point percentage. Those numbers were even better over 15 starts in April when Bradley averaged 15.1 points per game, a 52.0 field-goal percentage and a 54.5 three-point percentage.
Even if Bradley misses the first month or more of the regular season, the 21-year-old should eventually return to his late-season form and help lead Boston on another extended postseason run.
Avery Bradley’s 3rd Year with the Celtics Will Be a Charm
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Avery Bradley shocked many when he applied for the 2010 NBA Draft after just one year playing for Rick Barnes and the Texas Longhorns. But when the Boston Celtics selected him with the 19th pick of the first round, it seemed like an ideal fit for both sides.
His elite perimeter defense was never questioned. But at just 6’2”, he was considered to be too small to be an NBA shooting guard, and hadn’t shown enough ball-handling ability to be a legitimate point guard.
Boston didn’t need to rush Bradley with Rajon Rondo firmly entrenched as the Celtics’ point guard and Ray Allen still performing at a high level as the starting SG. Learning from the C's veterans was the best scenario for the young star's development.
Bradley didn’t immediately thrive when he was thrust into Boston’s starting lineup last season; but Doc Rivers was smart to temper his expectations for the then second-year guard. Rivers only asked Bradley to play the type of defense that he was always known for and not force anything on the offensive end.
Now entering his third year with the Celtics with those 28 starts under his belt, Bradley knows exactly what it takes to be successful at the NBA level and where he fits in the Celtics' system. That will make him that much better when he finally returns from injury.
Avery Bradley's Offensive Game Has Evolved
Even the most optimistic Boston Celtics fan was surprised by the offensive production that Avery Bradley contributed to the team last season.
His athleticism suggested that he could be an effective slasher and move well without the ball. But nothing in his brief college or pro careers indicated that he’d develop the shooting touch that he displayed for the Celtics during his time in the starting lineup.
Bradley may never become a 20-PPG scorer for Boston. But knowing that he is not a liability on the offensive end of the court will give him a level of confidence that will permeate through the rest of his game and make him an effective starter for the Celtics.
Boston Doesn’t Need Avery Bradley to Be a Big-Time Scorer
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Avery Bradley won’t ever be confused with former Celtics marksman Ray Allen. But with the additions of guards Jason Terry and Courtney Lee, along with the return of forward Jeff Green, Bradley doesn’t need to be.
Terry is instant offense off the Celtics' bench, and has thrived throughout his career as one of the NBA’s best sixth men. Lee has developed into one of the NBA’s best three-point shooters and will be another valuable weapon off the Boston bench.
The Celtics will gain another versatile scorer with the return of Green, who missed the entire 2011-2012 season after heart surgery.
Paul Pierce is still capable of averaging close to 20 points per game, and the rejuvenated Kevin Garnett remains a reliable source of offense in the post.
Add it all up, and you’re left with a Boston Celtics team that doesn’t need Avery Bradley to do anything more than play lockdown defense and knock down the occasional jumper.
And if the shot isn’t falling on a particular night? The Celtics have plenty of other scoring options to pick up the slack.
Avery Bradley is a Great Complement to Rajon Rondo
What Avery Bradley represents to the Boston Celtics is just as important as his on-court contributions. After two years of answering questions about Boston’s future beyond the Big Three era, the 21-year-old Bradley represents the future of the Celtics.
Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce remain the heart and soul of the Celtics, but this is clearly Rajon Rondo’s team now; and Danny Ainge retooled Boston’s roster during the offseason to make sure the Celtics take full advantage of Rondo’s prime years
Along with Bradley, the Celtics have a core of young players including Jeff Green (25 years old), Courtney Lee (26), Brandon Bass (27) and rookies Jared Sullinger (20), Fab Melo (22) and Kris Joseph (23), that should prevent Boston from falling out of playoff contention once Garnett and Pierce are no longer in the picture.
Bradley, in particular, is a quiet, reserved player who is not constantly thinking about his next shot attempt. He will have no problem ceding leadership responsibilities to Rondo to placate the temperamental point guard.
There’s no reason to believe that Rondo and Bradley won’t spend the next four years or more being one of the NBA’s best defensive backcourts.