Avery Bradley's short Celtic career has been a very interesting phenomenon thus far. Last year in limited minutes on the floor, Avery resembled a deer in the headlights on the court, esspecially offensively. This was understandable for a project rookie who would only be a sophomore in college at the time while being thrown into the mix with several NBA legends. More was expected from Avery this season having been a mid-first round draft pick going into year 2. After no more than 5 games, it looked like the Celtics had another bust on their hands. Avery was terrible.
Offensively, his strength was supposed to be his mid-range jumper which never ever seemed to go through the basket. He was supposedly a combo-guard with the ability to play both guard spots proficiently, but not only could he not score, his ball handling and distributing skills were awful. Aside from his defense, there was legitimately no evidence from his time with the Celtics that Avery Bradley would be able to last in this league. Jump ahead only two months later, and there's a legitimate case to be made for Avery Bradley to be the everyday starting shooting guard for the Boston Celtics, essentially making Ray Allen the sixth man.
Due to a rare opportunity where both Ray Allen and Mickael Pietrus have been unable to play due to injuries, Avery Bradley has started the past three games. The Celtics won each of these three games and seemed to control the lead throughout all three. During an eight game in thirteen day stretch played without an injured Rajon Rondo in late January into early February, Avery Bradley filled the void in the starting lineup at point guard. The Celtics surprisingly went 6-2 during this time where they only won a single game in their past six before Rondo's injury. Are the Celtics' winning ways with Avery Bradley in the starting lineup just a mere coincidence? I think not.
Avery Bradley was rated the #1 prospect in the 2009 High School recruiting class before eventually being passed by the likes of John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins during his senior year. After having a solid freshman season averaging 11.6 PPG and 1.3 steals for the Texas Longhorns in 2009-2010, he declared for the 2010 NBA Draft where he was drafted 19th overall by the Boston Celtics. Many analysts declared that Avery Bradley would become a sleeper pick by Danny Ainge. Those Celtics fans who had seen him play before were very happy with this selection. Although it has taken some time, it should come to nobody's surprise that Bradley is suddenly enjoying success in this league.
His background is very strong and the Celtics have won with him starting, but what is so great about his play you ask? Avery Bradley plays some of the best on-the-ball defense in the NBA and has given point guards fits this season while filling in for Rondo (ask Jameer Nelson). He may give up a few inches against shooting guards at times and can be vulnerable to a big-2, but his pesky play and quick hands usually keep them quiet as well. Offensively, it looks like Avery has suddenly found his niche as a quick, athletic slasher with a smooth mid range jump shot. It looks like Avery should be able to keep defenses honest from three point land although we haven't seen him hit a three this season until last Friday. Since then, he has shown more confidence taking this shot making two more since then. Avery's distributing and ball handling skills are lacking and does not fit the bill as a true point guard. Doesn't it make sense to keep him mostly at the shooting guard spot after analyzing this skill set?
Seeing a starting lineup with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen respectively filling the small forward, power forward, and shooting guard spots was a dream come true for Celtics fans. There was nothing like watching that first game against the Wizards back in November, 2007. This type of excitement for a Boston basketball team hadn't surfaced for over 20 years. The past four-plus years have been more than anything a Celtic fan could ask for. Times change and scenarios change, as they do, adjustments need to be made in order to be successful whether it is for a basketball team or a country.
The time is now for the Celtics to finally delegate one of these all-time greats to come off the bench. Percentage-wise, Ray is having the best 3-point shooting season of his career so this proposal certainly is not a knock on him. This Celtic bench has had some serious problems putting points on the board where head coach Doc Rivers has had to keep one of his starters on the floor to make this unit even function offensively. That being said, wouldn't the Celtic bench look a lot better having the best shooter in basketball with fresh legs playing next to them?
The Celtics' starting lineup currently has five players who can all score twenty plus points on any given night. This is the first time you can truly say this during this KG-Paul-Ray era as Brandon Bass brings an aspect no other starting big man next to KG has ever brought before (ok maybe Shaq for those 14 or so seconds.) Ray Allen's primary job offensively is to run around picks and try to find open shots for himself off of the ball. With three other more than capable targets for Rondo who is also more inclined to shoot than ever before, Ray has seen the ball thrown his way less and less while playing with the starters this season. Why have him run around tiring his legs at the very beginning of the game? Why not save them for more important times such as during stretches where the second unit is on the floor or when scoring becomes a struggle and his offense is truly needed?
Avery Bradley is a more than viable option to fulfill Ray Allen's absence in the Celtics' starting lineup. Thus far, his play alongside Rajon Rondo has not only been exciting, but successful while there seems to be some sort of connection between the two. Avery Bradley just may be a key building block next to Rondo for the next generation Celtics and I'd sure like to find out this year if possibly so. With Bradley starting, Ray probably wouldn't even have his minutes cut at all where he'd enter the game halfway into the first/third quarter while playing most of the remaining minutes including crunch time. He'd most likely see the ball come his way even more and I don't think he'd have the slightest problem with that. During most likely this era's Celtics' last run in the midst of a season where they have somewhat underachieved, why not give this a shot?