Avery Bradley finds himself in an interesting position. An 11-year NBA veteran, Bradley went from being a cornerstone for the Boston Celtics to playing for three different teams each year for three of the last four seasons. Now, he's a member of the Warriors training camp roster.
And while his spot on the team isn't concrete, his confidence isn't lacking.
"I think I might be the best on-ball defender in the NBA," Bradley proclaimed Tuesday afternoon after the Warriors' first day of training camp while speaking to the Bay Area media for the first time.
Is that statement actually true? At one point in time, yes. But a lot has happened since then.
However, the confidence Bradley -- and Steve Kerr -- have in his defensive abilities gives him a greater chance at cracking the Warriors' regular-season roster.
"He's been one of the best on-ball defenders in the league," Kerr said shortly before Avery made his comment. "Great off-ball cutter, a good three-point shooter, a very very good NBA player."
With Klay Thompson is not scheduled to return to the court until late November or early December, the Warriors are still without a player who can defend the opponents' guards.
Even when Thompson does come back, he won't likely have the same defensive tenacity or ability he did two years ago before his consecutive ACL and Achilles injuries.
The Warriors aren't going to find someone who can defend Kawhi Leonard and James Harden quite as Thompson did, but they ought to try and find someone who can at least hold them over. Bradley could be that guy. In fact, if he can make the roster full-time, he could be an option to start at shooting guard until Thompson is ready to play.
At one point in time, Kerr and Bradley were correct in saying Bradley was atop the league in on-ball defending, being named to the All-Defensive team two times. Having last received the honor after the 2015-16 season, there's nothing to suggest Bradley won't be able to revitalize his career with Golden State.
At 30 years old (31 in November), Bradley hasn't completely entered "old guy" territory yet -- he's a few months younger than Draymond Green -- and is still at or near his prime physically. And most importantly, Bradley still carries the mindset of an elite defender.
"To be a great defender you have to go out there and not worry about being embarrassed and just give it your all on every single possession," Bradley said. "You know, offense, you're not going to make every shot. But on defense, if I just give effort, that's all defense is. And not being scared, being open and taking the challenge. This is an entertainment league. a lot of guys back away from that competition, but I look forward to it each and every night."
The biggest caveat working against Bradley is his health. He played in just 10 games last season for the Miami Heat, missing time due to Covid-19, a knee contusion and calf strain.
If he can stay on the court, Kerr is confident Bradley could make an impact -- whether it's with the Warriors or elsewhere.
The second thing working against Bradley, at least with Golden State, is the presence of Gary Payton II. Like Bradley, Payton could address the Warriors' needs for a player to defend other guards and wings. Payton and Bradley are of similar build and both have had an injured past, but Payton is a few years younger.
But, if the Warriors are looking to add another veteran player to the locker room, Bradley's 11 years in the league will surely suffice. Although Bradley isn't the same player he was when he was named to the league's All-Defensive team, he's built up a reputation for himself.
He clearly still believes in it, as does Kerr. And according to Bradley, some players around the league believe in it too.
"I know every guard around the NBA and they know about me," Bradley said. "They know the night before that they better prepare because I'm going to come at them every single possession."
If he's able to back up his words and reputation during training camp, he may be able to get himself onto the Warriors' roster and into a clearly defined role.
"I know I still put some fear in some guys' eyes and their minds and that's a compliment," Bradley said. "That makes me want to continue to work hard and get better and like I said, go out there and prove it each and every night I get an opportunity."