Avery Bradley’s game continues to grow for Celtics


Avery Bradley’s game continues to grow for Celtics

Every weekday until Sept. 7, we'll take a look at each player at the Celtics roster: Their strengths and their weaknesses, their ceiling and their floor. We continue today with Avery Bradley. For a look at the other profiles, click here.

BOSTON – The value of young NBA players has a certain ebb and flow about it as ability and opportunity often take time to find common ground.
And then you have players like Avery Bradley, who has been the basketball equivalent of a blue chip stock; a steady performer who always provides a nice return for those who invest in him as the Celtics have.
The sixth-year guard began his career as a high-energy defender who could score on crisp cuts to the basket. Bradley then added a steady corner 3-point shot followed by a fairly reliable mid-range game. Now, he can shoot the 3-ball with confidence from pretty much any spot on the floor, and every now and then he can throw one down on a perennial All-Star, one of whom almost became his teammate this summer.
But every player has a point in which their game doesn’t get any better.
Is Avery Bradley there yet? And if so, what’s the floor to his game if he has indeed already peaked?
You hear players talk all the time about going into the offseason and working on specific parts of their game for the following season. But few seem to back that talk up as well as Bradley, who comes back every year with a different aspect of his game noticeably stronger than it was the previously.

Bradley comes into the season looking to put behind him a disappointing postseason mired by a hamstring injury that significantly limited him in the the first-around playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks.
Instead, he would rather build off of what was arguably his best season in the NBA.
The 6-foot-2 guard earned all-NBA Defensive First Team honors, but it was his scoring that really provided a much-needed boost many nights for Boston. He finished the season with a career-high 15.2 points per game average with an effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) of .520 which was also a career high.
Bradley has shown signs of being a really good two-way player which will certainly allow for him to be enter the conversation as a potential All-Star.
What really stands out about Bradley is his impact on winning.
He appeared in 45 of Boston’s 48 wins last season. In those victories, Bradley had a net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating) of +14.2.
The sixth-year guard played in 45 of Boston’s 48 wins last season. In those 45 wins, Bradley had a net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating) of +14.2.
Of the 34 losses, he was in the game for 31 of them. In those 31 losses, his net rating was -10.2.
Only Isaiah Thomas (+14.3 in wins, -10.7 in losses) has a bigger defensive rating swing in wins and losses among Boston’s regular rotation players.
Like most of Bradley’s teammates, his individual success and potential accolades are directly tied to how the team performs overall. Similar numbers to last season coupled with a few more wins prior to the All-Star break, could be enough to where Bradley’s name is in the conversation as an All-Star long shot which is tremendous growth for the 25-year-old.
THE FLOOR FOR BRADLEY -  Defensive stopper
Being “just” a defensive stopper is a pretty good ‘worst case’ scenario for any player. For Bradley, to be marginalized like that means he has taken a step or two back in terms of his overall growth as an NBA player.

His defense has been far and away his bread and butter in the NBA. Bradley has been on the short list of potential all-NBA defenders for the last three or four seasons, often taking a backseat on the list to former Celtic Tony Allen and Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul.

When then-coach Doc Rivers made the decision to put Bradley in the starting lineup ahead of Ray Allen during the 2011-12 season, the decision was made in large part because of the defensive presence Bradley brought to the game on the perimeter.
Indeed, his defense more than anything else will keep him on the floor for extended periods of time. And while there are a number of analytic measurements that give you a sense of how good Bradley is defensively, what he does best – contest shots – stands out.
NBA.com/stats show that this past season, Bradley’s strong presence on defense was limited opponents to shooting 2.2 percent less from 3-point range when he was guarding them. Bradley was slightly better than that overall with opponents shooting 2.3 percent less when he was defending them.
Bradley’s defense is fueled in large part because of the tremendous effort he makes at that end of the floor, which has played a major factor in him suffering a number of injuries which that led to multiple surgical procedures that shortened two of his four trips to the playoffs.
But again, Bradley’s defense is exceptional and consistent for Boston. But if that’s all he’s bringing to the table this season, that’s not going to be enough to move the needle in terms of the Celtics’ growth or his personal development.

Blakely: Stevens has this coaching in March stuff down

Blakely: Stevens has this coaching in March stuff down

Sometimes we forget that a big part of why Brad Stevens is in Boston is because of what he has done as a coach this time of year.

He led a pair of Butler teams to deep postseason runs before coming up short in a pair of national title games.

Well, he’s embarking on a different kind of March Madness in leading the Celtics to a string of improbable wins, the latest being a 105-100 victory at Portland on Friday night.

It was the kind of victory that when you start to roll out the reasons why Stevens should be this season’s Coach of the Year winner, folks will use the win at Portland as an example.

The Blazers are not only one of the better teams at home, but they came in having won 13 of 14 games with the lone loss coming to Houston, which has the best record in the NBA.

But what made the victory so unexpected was the cut-and-paste lineup Stevens has employed because of a long rash of injuries.

Kyrie Irving missed his fifth consecutive game and is expected to be lost for another three to six weeks after having a procedure to on Saturday to help alleviate some of the soreness in his left knee.

Jaylen Brown has missed several games with a concussion, but he has progressed to where he's now questionable for the game in Sacramento on Sunday night. 

Boston was also without Marcus Smart (right thumb) who won’t be back until sometime in the playoffs.

And that doesn’t factor in Gordon Hayward (dislocated left ankle) or Daniel Theis (torn meniscus, left knee), both out for the season.

It’s easy to chalk up Stevens’ success to great Xs and O’s work.

But he’s doing more than that.

He’s inspiring a level of confidence in players that generated results exceeding all expectations; that is, expectations outside of their locker room.

Even when this team struggled with no clear signs of hope on the horizon, they didn’t blink.

Rather than use their less-than-ideal state as a justification for poor play, they funneled that energy and focus into becoming a better team - not better players, but a better team.

Because frankly, that is what we’ve seen from this group all season. Of course, you have your star in Irving, but this team has been a get-it-done-or-else squad all year that doesn’t get too locked into the success or struggles of any one teammate.

And that has allowed Boston to withstand the kind of injuries to key players that would have crippled many other teams.

But with the lack of bodies, there has been a lack of respect for how good this team really is.

Stevens has tapped into that and used it to help focus this team on playing great and most important, giving themselves a chance to win regardless of the opponent, regardless of how dire a situation may be.

And that has created the kind of March Madness Celtics fans are absolutely lovin’ right now.



Optimism that Kyrie will be back for playoffs

Optimism that Kyrie will be back for playoffs

Kyrie Irving underwent a left knee procedure on Saturday that will keep the five-time All-Star guard out for at least the start of the playoffs.

The Celtics indicated that Irving will be out for 3-6 weeks.

According to the Celtics, the procedure was to remove a tension wire in his left knee. The wire was originally placed there as part of the surgical repair of the fractured patella injury Irving suffered in the 2015 NBA Finals when he played for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Removing the wire is expected to lessen the irritation it was causing in Irving’s left patellar tendon.

The fractured patella injury from in 2015 has fully healed and, according to the Celtics, Irving’s knee has been found to be “completely structurally sound.”

The timetable for Irving's return is roughly the same as that of Celtics guard Marcus Smart, who last week had surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right thumb. 

Irving, who turned 26 on Friday, finishes his first regular season with Boston appearing in 60 games while averaging 24.4 points per game on a career-best 49.1 percent shooting from the field.