Avery Bradley is a pitbull on the defensive end. The 6’2″, 180-pound, 22-year-old point guard’s incredibly quick feet and even quicker hands have made him one of the NBA’s most feared backcourt defenders and earned him a spot on the 2012-13 All-Defensive second team. Factor in his incredibly fair $1.5 million dollar rookie salary and Bradley is one of the NBA’s true bargains. Entering the 2013-14 season, the Boston Celtics have some quality young talent that probably isn’t going to translate into a ton of wins and with Rajon Rondo rehabbing from offseason surgery, Bradley is about to be thrust into a feature role.
For most players, this would be an opportunity to showcase talent. The case is no different for Avery Bradley, but considering the way he played after Rondo’s injury, should the Boston Celtics be concerned? Should Avery Bradley? Playing alongside Rondo, Bradley was the perfect role player. He expended the majority of his energy and flourished on the defensive end, played off the ball on the offensive end (where he proved to be a terrific cutter and fantastic in transition), and with veterans like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in the fold, the Boston Celtics never asked too much of the former first-round pick. It was a terrific situation for him and his stock was extremely high.
After Rajon Rondo was injured, everything changed. Suddenly, the Boston Celtics asked Avery Bradley to be the point guard and get the team into their sets. Doc Rivers quickly discovered that Bradley simply wasn’t that type of player. Bradley isn’t a terrific ball handler, doesn’t have great court vision and cannot consistently make an entry pass into the post. It wasn’t long before Paul Pierce became the de facto point guard, a move that Boston needed to make and move that may have indirectly caused Pierce to break down physically in the 2013 postseason against the New York Knicks. The Celtics would go on to lose that series and Avery Bradley was a disaster, posting averages of 6.7 points, 1.3 assists and 1.8 turnovers on just 40 percent shooting from the floor, including a miserable 25 percent from 3. Suddenly, a budding star was perceived as just another run-of-the-mill, overrated role player.
So Avery Bradley enters 2013-14 with something to prove. Reports out of Boston are that Bradley has bulked up, spending a ton of time in the gym to prepare for a season which could yield huge personal rewards. He’ll need to erase the doubt created from his play in the 2013 NBA Playoffs in order to earn the contract extension he is likely due at the end of 2014. “I can’t wait for the season start,” Bradley told SLAM magazine when asked about an extension. “I’m in the gym every day trying to get better. I can’t wait until training camp.” With Rajon Rondo’s status in question, expect to see Bradley play a ton of minutes at point guard. Coach Brad Stevens has made it clear he does not want to see Rondo rush back, particularly when 2013-14 represents a Celtics team in transition. “Rondo hasn’t put a date on a return and we haven’t put a date on it,” Stevens mentioned when asked about the status of his star point guard. “I told him, whenever he feels best and he’s ready to come back, we’ll support him and we’ll be happy that he’s back. But it hasn’t been a specific date. Literally, I haven’t even asked that question in the past couple of weeks.”
All signs point to a bit of a wait for the return of Rajon Rondo and that likely means Avery Bradley will again get a chance to prove he can run an offense. This time he won’t have the benefit of veterans like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to fall back on. Instead, he’ll be flanked with guys like Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks. Is Bradley up to the task? He better be. His future in Celtic green may depend on it.