NBA teams fear the middle of the first round because it can make the drafting GM either a goat, genius or candidate for executive of the year.
The Boston Celtics' Danny Ainge has done a better than average job of finding talent in the latter stages of the draft, helping to remove the tarnish off of Celtic Pride. He has drafted the likes of Tony Allen, Al Jefferson, Kendrick Perkins, Delonte West, Rajon Rondo, Fab Melo, Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley.
Apart from the rookies, Bradley is the most intriguing of the new "young guns" that are on the 2013 squad. He entered college as the No. 1 high school player in the country, ahead of Kentucky’s John Wall. But the 2010 draft saw the Washington Wizard's draft Wall No. 1 overall. Bradley was taken by Boston with the 19th pick.
Bradley's rookie season was hampered by an ankle injury, and so were his sophomore and junior campaigns with the green. But through it all, he somehow managed to supplant the resident "rain-man," Ray Allen, by sheer heart and determination. Bradley's defense was able to fit in nicely with Doc's defensive philosophies which, in turn, rejuvenated the team.
Celtics management has navigated the waters of the middle of the first round with some success since Ainge took over. Lest we think he was spot-on all the time, his failures do include the likes of the immortal J.R. Giddens.
Boston is now looking at a backcourt of Bradley and Rajon Rondo; whenever AB recovers from double shoulder surgery, that is. This tandem represents possibly the best defensive guard combo in the league. It could be the most devastating if they were a few inches taller. Imagine Rondo at 6' 4'' and Bradley at a comparable height. We can only dream of such a thing.
A similar smallish duo that led its team to a championship was the Detroit Pistons' backcourt of Joe Dumars and Isiah Thomas. Dumars used to take on the tough defensive assignments and hit timely jumpers. Isiah ran the team and had a devil of a game that belied his 6-foot frame and was underscored by his boyish smile.
It can even be argued that newly-acquired Jason Terry is Boston’s new "microwave," a la Vinnie Johnson. All the Celtics need now is for the rest of the frontcourt to have a pseudo-Garnett attitude, and the "I hate Boston" bandwagon can be elevated to new levels.
Bradley's return to health does not guarantee him a spot as a starter. Courtney Lees' presence precludes that. Lee comes with a defensive reputation of his own, has more years under his belt and has playoff experience. If the former Houston Rocket develops chemistry with Rondo, then all bets are off for AB.
Bradley already has a top-notch rating as a defender and gives opposing guards nightmares before, during and after games. His ready-made understanding of NBA defense made his eventual presence in the rotation a reality. One thing about Doc: he rewards his players for defense because he knows the offense will take care of itself.
Bradley has a vote of confidence from his coaches, management and most of all from grizzled vets — KG, Pierce and Rondo.
Like Rondo, Avery's talents indicate that he will be part of the Celtic future if he continues to listen, watch and learn. If that occurs, they just might be considered the poor-man’s version of Thomas and Dumars.
If they bring banner No. 18 to Boston, they will pave their own path to NBA greatness and championship glory.
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