What Is Avery Bradley's Role with Boston Celtics Next Season?

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What Is Avery Bradley's Role with Boston Celtics Next Season?
Kamil Krzaczynski/Associated Press

There are still plenty of questions for the Boston Celtics to figure out before the 2014-15 season tips off. Will they trade for Kevin Love? Does it make sense to deal Rajon Rondo?

One thing’s for sure, though: Avery Bradley is going to be in green for a long, long time.

ESPNBoston.com’s Chris Forsberg reported that Bradley and the Celts agreed to a four-year, $32 million extension.

The deal certainly seems steep for a player with injury troubles, but there’s no denying Bradley had a solid 2013-14 campaign.

Bradley averaged 14.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists while shooting a solid 39.5 percent from three-point range.

Unfortunately, he also missed 22 games as Boston sputtered to a 25-57 record. 

Now that the Celtics have locked Bradley up for the foreseeable future, let’s examine what kind of role he’s going to have next season and why. 

 

John Minchillo/Associated Press

Which Position Will He Play?

Bradley came into the NBA pegged as a point guard, but he never developed into a particularly skilled passer.

Part of that obviously has to do with playing alongside a ball-dominant guard like Rondo, but Bradley simply was never comfortable driving into the teeth of the defense or running the pick-and-roll.

He had his most success last season when Brad Stevens moved him over to the 2 and let him do most of his work without the ball.

Bradley’s a smart cutter and has emerged as a decent outside shooter, so using him off the ball makes the most sense. 

Bradley told SiriusXM’s NBA Radio, “I really didn’t care what position my coach put me at because I was comfortable,” but it’s likely he continues to see big minutes at off-guard.

However, the C’s happened to draft two players who might also be best suited at the 2.

Marcus Smart played point in college, but with his size and athletic ability, he could be a nice fit beside Rondo in the backcourt. 

James Young could be an NBA small forward if he fills out, but right now the 6’6” shooter would have trouble containing 3s in the league.

Bradley has made himself into a better shooter than either of them, though, and the C’s like having someone who can stretch the floor alongside Rondo.

According to The Boston Globe’s Baxter Holmes, Danny Ainge believes a backcourt trio of Smart, Bradley and Rondo could work going forward.

Ultimately, expect Bradley to be back starting at the 2 unless he seriously struggles out of the gate.

 

Brian Babineau/Getty Images

How Much Will He Play?

Since he came into the league health has been a major concern for Bradley.

He played just 47 percent of Boston’s available minutes last season, per 82games.com, and has missed 54 games since the start of the 2012-13 season. 

While none of his injuries have been horrendous, they are the kinds of small, nagging issues that tend to get worse over a career. 

Bradley is still just 23 years old and could right the ship, but there’s a reason he’s never played more than 30.9 minutes per game.

Unless they wind up getting Love, the Celtics won’t be much of a contender next season, so it would make sense that they make playing Smart and Young a priority. 

Kelly Olynyk only found his stride late in 2013-14 because Stevens started giving him consistent starter’s minutes.

Young is a clear project who may not log more than 10 to 14 minutes per game, but Smart has the chance to earn major time right away, especially if his jumper improves.

Smart finally broke out offensively with a 20-point game in the Orlando Summer League against the Indiana Pacers, but he’d been struggling with efficiency before.

He still averaged a solid 14.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists in five games, but he connected on just 29.4 percent of his shots overall and a ghastly 25.7 percent from deep.

Ordinarily, that could keep a player from getting minutes, but the rebuilding Celts may opt to let him work out his issues on the floor.

Unless his decision-making is even worse than anticipated, Smart should be consistently logging 22 to 24 minutes per game at both the 1 and 2 spots. 

There’s also the matter of Marcus Thornton, acquired basically for free from the Brooklyn Nets, per NESN’s Ben Watanabe.

Thornton won’t play much, but he has the potential to log a few minutes off the bench as an offensive spark plug.

Given that there are 96 minutes in the backcourt and Rondo should take up most of the time at point guard, Bradley will likely be logging around 28 to 32 minutes per game.

 

How Featured Will He Be? 

It’s no secret that Boston’s offense struggled last year, but Bradley was one of the few offensive bright spots.

He continued to hone his game and closed the year strong by averaging 22.4 points on 47.1 percent shooting in the final five contests.

However, Bradley was also jacking 17.4 shots during that time frame, well above his 13.8 for the year, and hitting an unsustainable 52.9 percent of his three-pointers.

Bradley likely will never be a 20-plus-points-per-game scorer, but he could wind up being featured more as a third option alongside Rondo and Jeff Green.

Basketball-Reference.com
Bradley's shot heat map, courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.

Looking at Bradley’s shot chart (above), his preferred spots are pretty clear. 

He’s deadly from the corners but a little too reliant on long pull-up two-pointers.

He hits a strong 43.9 percent of his 16- to 23-foot jumpers, per Basketball-Reference.com, but those simply aren’t good shots to be taking.

While he and Rondo have undeniable chemistry, Bradley should look to improve his offensive game attacking the basket.

Per Synergy Sports (subscription required), Bradley shot just 40 percent on isolation plays and 42 percent running the pick-and-roll.

If he’s more of a threat as a scorer besides jump shooting, then Boston’s offense will open up and his teammates will get easier looks.

Obviously, on the defensive end, Bradley will be one of the most important Celtics.

Though his reputation as a stopper is a little overblown, there’s no denying how hard he works and his ability to pressure ball-handlers. 

Bradley only held opposing point guards to a 15.2 player efficiency rating and 2-guards to a 17.2 PER according to 82games, but part of that is because he was often guarding the other team’s best perimeter scorer.

Smart has high upside on the defensive end, and Rondo should be solid after an offseason getting his lateral speed back, but Bradley’s main role for Boston will continue to be on the defensive end.

That might limit his scoring responsibility, but there’s no denying Bradley is a key piece for the C’s on both ends. 

 

USA TODAY Sports

Statistical Expectations

Obviously, there is a chance for regression given that Bradley is going from a contract year to a place of long-term security, but he should make some improvements.

Another offseason to work in Stevens’ system and a healthy Rondo mean easier looks for Bradley off the catch.

However, he will likely lose some shots, and minutes, to Thornton, Smart and Young. 

He’ll also be doing even less playmaking than he did in 2013-14, so he could see his assist totals dip as well.

That being said, Bradley’s efficiency improved tremendously from 2012-13, and there’s no reason to think that trend will stop. 

Overall, Bradley’s numbers should be in the neighborhood of 14.6 points, 4.1 boards and 1.2 assists on 46 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent from three.

Maybe not $8 million worth of production, but it’s certainly a start.

And of course, this could all change if the C’s shake up their roster before the year tips off in October.

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