Avery Bradley: The Emerging Star
I remember the first time I knew Avery Bradley was going to be a special player in this league. It was early on during his second season, the season shortened by the collective bargaining agreement. Rajon Rondo was hurt the night before and Doc called on 21 year old Avery Bradley to replace the all-star point guard. Not only would this be his first career start, but he was matched up against future hall of fame point guard Steve Nash.
From tip-off, Avery had a confidence and swagger to him that really stood out on the court. During the game he had 3 steals on Steve Nash and pushed the ball up the court for easy layups in transition. He finished the game with 10 points, 3 steals, and 4 rebounds and he held Steve Nash to only 11 points on 3 of 6 shooting.
Following that Phoenix game, with Avery Bradley as the starting point guard, the Celtics went 6-1 and were +90 over that time frame. They also held opponents to just 80 points per game in that time frame, compared to the 91 points per game the team allowed prior. Over those seven games Avery Bradley showed us the foundation of the player that he would eventually become: an opportunistic slashing guard with a developing jump shot and elite defensive instincts. He moved back to the bench upon Rajon Rondo’s return, but finished the season as a key reserve of the Celtics bench.
Ever since, Avery Bradley has only progressed as a player. He tightened up his technique on defense and has become one of the league’s premier defenders; so much so that this past season he was named a first team all defender. While he was gaining recognition for his defensive capabilities, he was also quietly working to improve his offensive game. Since 2013 he has been averaging 14.8 points a game, and although in 2014 he had a decline in points, his effective shooting percentage has only increased in that time.
This past summer he said that he wanted to be known for more than just a defender. He spoke often about the work he has put in to the offensive side of his game, and it’s shown on the court this year. He added a quick, catch-and-shoot three ball to his arsenal to pair with his already lethal mid-range jumper. In addition to his 18.9 points per contest, he’s averaging 2.4 three pointers a game on 41% shooting. For perspective on how good of a year he’s having shooting so far, Klay Thompson is averaging 2.3 three pointers a game on 32% shooting. Factor in his all-defensive capabilities and his new found success on the glass, 8.3 rebounds per game, and you have the makings of a special basketball talent.
Avery Bradley is the last remaining Celtic of the Kevin Garnett era, and with that, he brings the same heart and hustle that those Celtics teams exhibited. Playing alongside future hall of famers like Paul Pierce and Ray Allen only helped Avery become a better professional and a harder worker. He still holds onto the blue-collar, defensive identity that the Big 3 era Celtics had and it has helped shape Avery into the player he is today. The Celtics keep talking about their pursuit of a star, but they may already have one on their roster in 25 year old Avery Bradley.
Written By: Alex Bernstein (@FansTakeSports)