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Defensive Usage: 12.1
Defensive PPP: .73
Net DRtg: .7
WAM: 95.82 (4)
Scouting: 92.2 (3)
Speed and Athleticism: 18.6
Avery Bradley’s speed and athleticism aren’t quite at the highest level of any shooting guard, but they're very close. What’s more important is that he uses what he has as well as anyone in the league.
His footwork is practiced to the point of perfection.
There is artistry to the way he plays.
Always leaning his head forward, he forms a kind of “triangle” with his feet, with the “fulcrum” of it centered on his opponent.
Doing that enables him to shuffle his entire body with an exceptional deftness that keeps him, always, always, always in front of the ball-handler. It is amazing how seldom he is beaten. Of all the guards in the NBA, he is the hardest to beat off the dribble.
That’s why he has the lowest points per play of any player with at least 400 defensive opportunities.
Size and Strength: 18.9
Bradley has decent size for a point guard, but at 6’3” and 180, he’s slightly below-average for a shooting guard. That doesn’t appear to hinder him much, though. He is among the best in guarding almost every play type recorded by Synergy.
Bradley doesn’t “use what he has” so much as he avoids letting it be a hindrance. He is quick enough that it’s just hard to set a clean pick on him. If players try to post him up, he’s able to use his quick feet to keep the opponent from pivoting cleanly, and many times it either results in them taking a bad shot or walking.
His only struggle is coming off of screens where his smaller stature is harder to compensate for. Even there, he gives up just 1.03 points per play, which is still close to the top third of players in the league.
What makes Bradley’s effort so sweet to watch is how he controls it. He is like a jet engine.
Think about this the next time you fly. Basically, what’s happening is that you’re riding a controlled explosion. There is this massive release of energy, but it’s perfectly controlled. That’s Bradley’s defense.
Many players who try to play frenetic end up playing frantic. While there’s energy there, it often ends up being a plane wreck because it’s uncontrolled. With Bradley, though, his body control is so perfect that none of that effort is wasted.
For example, a lot of high-energy players when rushing to close out on a shooter will do one of three things: They’ll pull up short, go soaring past the shooter on a pump fake or foul.
With Bradley, he measures his jump perfectly, always extending himself in front of the shooter without going past him. It’s not just that he gives maximum effort; it’s that he doesn’t waste any energy or momentum doing so.
Basketball Intelligence: 18.0
The best way to always be in position is to always know where to be. Bradley just never seems to be out of position.
Perhaps after his body control, the most impressive thing about him is his court awareness. He always seems to be able to keep track of where everyone is on the court, where he is in relation to them and where he needs to be. You’ll often see him rotate almost before the play even develops.
When he gets a hand on a ball, he doesn’t always try to pick it up. He’ll more frequently tap it to a teammate, or if that doesn’t seem possible, he’ll bounce it off the opponent and send it out of bounds. Nearly 14 percent of his opponents’ possessions end in turnovers because of that propensity. Other players could learn from this.
He has a bit of a reputation for being a gambler who shoots passing lanes. I did not see that. I think sometimes people just assume that about players who have a high steal rate. Or else, he resolved the issue last season.
The Boston Celtics gave up more points when Bradley was on the court, but this seems like one of those situations where it is more coincidental than causational. When Bradley was on the court with the starters, the Celtics' defensive rating was 98. When Jared Sullinger replaced Garnett in that lineup, the rating dropped to 112. That suggests the issue was Sullinger, not Bradley.
Bradley is a good help defender, but so is Garnett, and that did help Bradley’s numbers a little bit. That, and the fact that he can only guard one of the wing positions, is why he “only” gets an 18.6 here.