This training camp should be a little different than most for the Boston Celtics.
But with change comes opportunity, and Avery Bradley will have a good one in 2013-14.
Rajon Rondo is expected to miss the first few months of the season, which means someone has to step up and run the show in his absence. That someone is Bradley, who'll be making a challenging transition from off-guard to point guard without much help around him.
Bradley has been solid for Boston in a part-time role, where his energy and athleticism have sparked the team on both sides of the ball.
Now, he'll have to channel that talent and use it to manage games as the Celtics' floor general.
Changing positions, roles
Many 4s and centers are seamlessly interchangeable, while shooting guards and wings can also easily mix and match.
But a point guard requires a specific mentality and skill set that you just can't manufacture. Bradley is going to have to overcome his lack of instinct for the position, which coach Brad Stevens will factor in when designing his system and sets.
Bradley will need to adjust from being the guy who finishes offense to the one who initiates it. Normally a player who thrives off energy, he'll now have to balance that internal speed with poise—making the simple, patient pass versus being aggressive and pushing the envelope.
Scoring versus playmaking
Bradley has always been considered a scorer, even as a consensus top-five recruit out of high school. It's tough to just flip the switch and suddenly become a point guard.
As a decision-maker, Bradley will have the challenge of balancing scoring with playmaking. The area in which young combo guards typically struggle is knowing when to activate scorer's mode and when to try and facilitate the offense.
Recognizing how to attack each scoring opportunity, whether it's by dribble penetration, passing or shooting, will help determine his efficiency as a point guard.
Must make defenders pay for going under screens
As the point guard, Bradley will have the ball in his hands a lot more often. That means he'll be getting the ball screens—normally, Bradley plays off the ball where he waits for plays to develop from the corner or wing.
Bradley is super quick off the dribble. When he gets a ball screen, defenders are hesitant to fight through it due to their fear of getting caught and ultimately beaten to the rack:
Even if it doesn't result in a layup, Bradley is still a threat to make a play once he turns that corner. He'll have to take advantage of these opportunities, whether it's driving and dishing to a shooter, dumping it off to a dunker or taking it in for an easy two.
To prevent Bradley from getting into the paint, defenders are likely to sag back or slip under ball screens. They ultimately concede the open jumper, but it keeps him out on the perimeter.
In the play below, Brandon Bass is setting a pick on Bradley's man. But Bass' man chooses to sag back and steer clear of the clutter around the ball. This way, he's doesn't get caught having to switch, where he'd be vulnerable defending Bradley one-on-one on the perimeter.
Sagging back ultimately keeps Bradley from penetrating:
But by sagging back, he gives Bradley plenty of room for a pull-up jumper. And that's where Bradley must make defenses pay:
According to Vorped, Bradley was erratic in the mid-range and brutal from downtown last season. These are numbers he'll have to pick up in a full-time role, especially as the team's primary ball-handler:
If he can convince opposing teams that he's a constant threat to knock down pull-up jumpers, defenses will be forced to fight through screens. And by doing so, they'll be vulnerable to Bradley's quickness, where he can get into the paint and make plays.
The Celtics will be relying on Bradley to contribute heavily offensively. He'll be playing point guard, but he'll also get his chance to produce as a scorer.
Without many scorers on the roster, I'd expect Stevens to run plenty of ball-screen action with Bradley as a means for creating scoring opportunities.
Lack of weapons
It doesn't help Bradley that Boston shipped Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry over to Brooklyn. With Rondo out, Bradley's top two weapons will now be Jeff Green and a player to be named later.
Outside of Green, the Celtics are really deprived of offensive talent. Bradley is going to have to find a way of generating offense with the ball in his hands. That means creating scoring opportunities off the dribble, whether they're for himself or his teammates.
Regardless of how he performs as the Celtics' starting point guard, Bradley is a terrific asset to have in the lineup. He's an elite perimeter defender and promising offensive spark plug.
But for him to succeed as Rondo's fill-in, he'll need to adjust his mindset, balance scoring with playmaking and knock down the jumpers that defenses give him.
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