Tony Bradley saw no evidence last season to dissuade him from expanding his range.
The 22-year-old center, acquired by the Sixers from the Pistons in exchange for Zhaire Smith, took three long-range shots in his 58 appearances for the Jazz. He made all of them.
“That’s exactly what I’ve been working on,” Bradley said of his shooting earlier this week. “I believe I can be a stretch. I shot three threes this past season and I made all three of them. So I believe I am a stretch five.
"I think that I can even get the rebound and push it and take a couple dribbles. I don’t have to go all the way to the basket; I could do a dribble handoff, or just get it past half court. I believe I can push the ball. So those are the things I’ve been working on especially. Stretching the floor, pick-and-pop, things like that.”
Bradley, the 28th pick in the 2017 NBA draft after spending one season at North Carolina, has at least shown himself to be effective at the rebounding part of the “grab it and go” equation. He averaged 14.5 rebounds per 36 minutes last year. The 16.1 percent of missed offensive field goals he rebounded put him in the 99th percentile among big men, per Cleaning the Glass.
With one more year on his contract before he becomes eligible for restricted free agency, Bradley can’t be classified as a long-term Sixers project. The way he sees things, though, there’s a good opportunity to develop this season by being around three-time All-Star Joel Embiid and eight-time All-Star Dwight Howard.
“I’m just a learning guy,” Bradley said. “I love learning and just trying to grow and find different things and ways to improve, especially defensively. Coming to Philly now with guys like Dwight Howard and Joel Embiid, I’m just looking forward to continuing to grow and watch what they’re doing, and see what I can learn and take from them to improve my game, especially defensively.”
In the event of an Embiid or Howard injury, Bradley would likely slide into an important role. He has meaningful playoff experience, unlike the recently waived Norvel Pelle, and has a more technically sound, efficient offensive game (not even considering his theoretical outside shooting). The Sixers seem to believe that Bradley, who played 44 G-League games over his first two professional seasons, has a better chance to help the team than both Pelle and Smith.
“I honestly don’t know a lot about Philadelphia,” Bradley said. “But when I heard the news about the trade, I was very excited. I didn’t think I was going to Philly but when Coach Doc (Rivers) called me and he was just so excited, I was excited.”
The other young big man on the Sixers, rookie Paul Reed, is actually just a year younger than Bradley. Referred to as “super underrated” by president of basketball operations Daryl Morey on draft night, the 58th pick shares Bradley’s self-belief in his jumper.
Reed has slightly more of a three-point shooting track record than Bradley, having converted 34 of 103 long-distance attempts (33 percent) during his three seasons at DePaul. His versatility, open-court speed and defensive impact are what he’s best known for at this stage. Reed averaged 15.1 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 1.9 steals as a junior. He signed a two-way contract Saturday, according to The Athletic’s Derek Bodner, which means he’ll be able to go back and forth between the G League and NBA and can spend as many as 50 games with the Sixers this year.
“I’m grateful and I’m excited that Philly took a chance on me,” Reed said. “As far as a chip on my shoulder, I got a really good chip now. I feel like every team that passed up on me, they’re going to regret that decision. I’m excited to go with Philly and learn, earn my minutes and show teams that they really missed out on a good player.”