Avery Bradley's emergence as a starting-caliber guard in 2011-12 was the best news the Boston Celtics received during their checkered run up to the exceptional postseason we should have known they had in them.
Now comes the bad news.
After having shoulder surgery in July, the 21-year-old could miss significant time before returning to the floor. Head coach Doc Rivers appears to be preparing for the worst (via ESPN Boston's Jackie MacMullan):
"I don't like to put a time limit on injuries, but I don't think you'll see him before December—and there's a chance it could be closer to January," Rivers told ESPNBoston.com.
So what exactly does preparing for the worst entail?
The most likely solution is to start Courtney Lee and bring Jason Terry off the bench in the sixth-man, spark-plug role he's thrived at for so long.
It may seem tempting to start Terry based on his name and brand alone, but Boston's bench has the greater need for a scorer who can create his own offense. After all, with assist-machine Rajon Rondo in the starting lineup, just about anyone looks like a serviceable scorer—including Brandon Bass.
Even with guys like Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger adding some depth to a previously thin bench, Terry's ability to pull-up for quick-release jumpers from anywhere on the floor makes him one of the best bench scorers in the game.
He was built to supply points in situations where he doesn't have much help.
Lee, on the other hand, shares more in common with Bradley. First and foremost, he's a perimeter defender who—along with Rondo—should make the Celtics an absolute nightmare for opposing guards once again.
At 6'5", the 26-year-old also has the height of a traditional shooting guard, meaning he may even be a better match-up against some scorers than the injured Bradley.
Though defending is his claim to marginal fame, Lee is by no means a liability on the offensive end. He's athletic enough to get to the rim, but his bread and butter is spotting up for that corner three.
It should, because that's exactly where Bradley thrives, meaning Rondo should be able to pick up where he left off last season, kicking to the corner safety valve when his penetration draws the corner defender to the paint.
Lee averaged 11.4 points in 2011-12 and shot 40 percent from the line, proving he is a pretty efficient perimeter scorer, despite seeing less touches than some of his peers. His opportunity to start in place of an injured Kevin Martin similarly prove that he can hang with starting guards on both ends of the floor.
Of course, Terry has proven he's no slouch when it comes to hitting Lee's preferred corner shot, but he's also a far more versatile jump-shooter and better than Lee when it comes to handling the ball and scoring off the dribble—the kind of virtues you'd like to see out of a sixth-man.
The short-answer, then, to Rivers' dilemma is he won't have to change much at all. With Lee doing his best impersonation of Bradley, the Celtic's game plan should remain relatively unchanged.
The worst-case scenario may even work out well for the Celtics in the long-term. Lee and Terry wouldn't have had enough time to gel with their new team if Bradley returned immediately. Now they'll have plenty of opportunities to learn the ropes and make themselves as useful as possible come the playoffs.
In this instance, the silver lining to Boston's bad news is very real.
Celtics fans are no doubt eager to see Bradley healthy again, contributing to one of the league's deepest backcourt rotations. In the meantime, however, this team will survive just fine.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!