Avery Bradley will return to action for the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday against the Orlando Magic after missing the past 13 games with a hairline fracture in his right leg, according to Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times.
The 29-year-old guard will reportedly be on a 20-minute playing restriction.
Bradley played well to start the season, averaging 9.6 points, 1.8 assists and a steal in 27.4 minutes per game (10 starts) while shooting 48.8 percent from the field. While his three-point shooting (28.6 percent) has been a disappointment, he's made up for it with solid defense.
With Bradley on the court this season, the Lakers have given up just 98.6 points per 100 possessions, a better mark than the Milwaukee Bucks' No. 1 defense. When he's been off the court, however, that number has jumped to 104.6.
"Bradley has really a one-of-a-kind ability to just set a tone defensively with his tenacity in picking the ball up full court," head coach Frank Vogel told Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times over the weekend. "And just everybody understands you can't dribble the basketball around the guy. So I think that just impacts the overall energy of the group, and I think our guys have worked hard to overcome that."
The offense has been better when he's off the court, however. Los Angeles' offensive rating with Bradley on the court is 107.9 but shoots up to 113.6 when he sits. The lineup of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, JaVale McGee, Danny Green and Bradley has played 103 minutes together, with a solid net rating of 6.5.
It's been the team's second best lineup that has played together for 50 or more minutes, trailing only the grouping of James, Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, Alex Caruso and Kyle Kuzma (a whopping 29.8 net rating).
So getting Bradley back will help the Lakers, though they've continued to roll without him and are 21-3. But the team's identity will be different once the veteran guard returns.
"Just having another elite defender out there, it just puts some more pressure on everything else," Vogel said. "It changes the matchup. [Kentavious Caldwell-Pope] is now guarding the starting unit's best player, rather than coming in [with the second unit]—and a lot of teams come in with a great second-unit scorer. And Alex [Caruso] is assuming that role. So it just affects your depth."