Given, a whole lot of the "Boston Celtics staying afloat in the East" thing will be predicated upon Paul Pierce's efficiency as a high pick-and-roll playmaker, either as a midrange shooter, slasher, or passer. His effectiveness in turning that high usage rate into baskets for himself and others will play an enormous role in Boston's' offense, which no longer boasts one of the league's best point guards as the focal point. Not to oversimplify, but Pierce just can't struggle with his shooting if the Celtics are to be even remotely decent on the offensive end.
But, don't put it all on "The Truth," who has struggled recently and isn't getting any younger as the days pass. Some of the burden must be allocated to Avery Bradley, who will likely see a bump in minutes played without Rajon Rondo -- this would mean that Bradley will get his chance to orchestrate the pick-and-roll and take advantage of favorable matchups, rather than playing strictly as a complimentary cutter and set shooter from deep. We know all about his defensive skills, but herein lies the perfect opportunity (of course, the circumstances aren't exactly ideal) for Bradley to prove his worth on the other end of the floor and provide Doc Rivers with another scoring threat on the perimeter.
Is Bradley merely a defensive specialist with limited offensive skills? Can he create his own, without an elite floor general doing the work for him?
To answer these questions in the affirmative, Bradley must first revert back to his offensive output in 2011-12, which proved to be a relatively successful one in two particular aspects: shooting from the corners and cutting without the ball. Bradley has fallen off significantly, at least up to this point. He is shooting roughly 47% at the rim and 39% on corner three-pointers, per NBA.com, which signifies both a significant regression from last season -- by comparison, Bradley converted on about 63% of his attempts at the rim and 56% of his corner three-pointers in 2011-2012 -- and a possible cause for concern moving forward. One bright spot has been Bradley's midrange shooting, which has improved to an impressive average of about 48% from right inside the three-point line (albeit using a smaller sample size), but he still needs to be more efficient when attacking the basket and spotting up deep in the corners. Last season cannot prove to be an outlier if the Celtics are to retain any semblance of offensive efficiency without Rondo in the rotation.
Nobody's saying that Bradley can significantly impact the assist column by locating open shooters -- he's averaging a meager 0.9 APG this season -- but scoring will be at a premium, especially when Pierce and Kevin Garnett aren't on the floor to carry the burden. Currently averaging a career-high 8.2 shot attempts per game, Bradley should continue plugging away with his penetration, midrange shooting, and catch-and-shoot three-point attempts -- and then some, since Rondo's 12.2 shot attempts per game will have to go somewhere (hopefully, they doesn't translate into the all-too-eager Leandro Barbosa overshooting.)
What better way is there to develop a promising young talent than by letting him loose on the offensive end? Let's be real, it's not like these Celtics are going anywhere this season anyway. Everything has lined up for Bradley to assert himself.
To complement Pierce's fair share of the ball, Bradley must do two things. One, he needs to resist the temptation to defer to his veteran teammates by attacking in both pick-and-roll and ball reversal situations. And, two, Bradley must finish the play when he gets the chance, which pulls up those declining shooting percentages and enables him to pressure opposing guards in the backcourt -- by far his best defensive skill.
A more aggressive Avery Bradley can only pay dividends in the short run, and will surely aid in his development as we look to the future.