With the uncertainty surrounding Rajon Rondo's return date this season, Avery Bradley could potentially get plenty of time playing the point guard position. In the past Bradley's results on the offensive end of the floor have been mixed, but if there's one thing for certain: we know "AB" is one of the elite perimeter defenders in all of basketball.
Nicknamed "pit bull," alongside his teammate Courtney Lee, Bradley harassed opposing point guards with his tenacious full court press, as well as his nifty ability to pick off passes and start a fast break going the other way. No one will argue against AB's defense, because after all, not that many players can get what they want against him.
The question surrounding Bradley is his ability to improve as an offensive player. Bradley was a top-ranked player out of high school but underwhelmed in his only year at Texas. He fell all the way to number 19 in the 2010, much to the pleasure of Danny Ainge. But after riding the bench his rookie year and spending some time in the NBA Developmental League, Bradley started to make his mark during the 2011-2012 season, averaging 7.6 points to go along with world-class defense.
But shoulder injuries derailed his season and he wasn't able to play in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat. After getting double-shoulder surgery, he eventually returned to the court on January 2, 2013, but Bradley appeared to be a shell of his former self offensively.
I wasn't exactly surprised to see Avery Bradley's shooting numbers dip this past season. After shooting 40.7 percent from three-point range in 2011, we saw that number drop all the way to 31.7 percent in 2012. He also shot only 43.1 percent from two-point range last season, compared to 51.2 percent in 2012.
In my opinion, two main factors contributed to this drop in production. First, he still wasn't 100 percent from his double-shoulder surgeries. In the past players like Rudy Gay have been slow to recover and restore their shooting percentages. After another full offseason to rehab, Bradley should now be completely recovered. Secondly, Rajon Rondo's injury this past year removed his ability to score on his patented backdoor cut play. Once Rondo returns -- whenever that is -- Bradley will be able to score with ease at the rim, and thus opening up the rest of his game on the perimeter.
So, what should we expect from the 2013-2014 version of Avery Bradley? Our CelticsBlog.com team discusses on ESPN.com's "Summer Forecast."
Whenever I think about Avery Bradley at his best, I think about how well he played with Rondo for that stretch run late in 2012. And whenever I think about how well they played together as a duo, I think about Joe Dumars and Isiah Thomas. You've got the brash point guard and born leader at one spot and the quiet, soft-spoken professional at the other. That's who I want Avery Bradley to be: Joe Dumars. With Rondo back in the fold, we're going to see more consistent play from No. 0. He was uncomfortable playing the point in Rondo's absence and his play fluctuated. He'll always bring the tenacity on defense, but offensively, he's best cutting behind defenses and spotting up for jumpers. If he can get steady minutes, Bradley fans can expect 12-14 points per game and cracking the first team All-Defensive list.
I expect him to be one of the best defenders in the game and I am really hoping that he develops his corner 3-point shooting and gets back to making smart, sneaky backdoor cuts that lead to easy buckets. Hopefully removing the part time point guard duties from his plate will help him to focus more on what he does well on offense.
After recovering from double shoulder surgery for over a year, I think Avery Bradley's shooting numbers should return to his form in 2011. Without having to handle much of the ball-handling duties, Bradley will also get the chance to expound the majority of his energy on the defensive end. After being named to the All-Defensive second team last year, I think he will be on the first team this season.
Both Bill and I predict him to be on the All-Defensive first team this season. At the shooting guard position, Bradley's main competition will be former Boston Celtic, Tony Allen. I think Bradley will have a much larger role on this team, and therefore more people will notice his ability to be a difference maker. Plus, with Rondo back, I think Bradley will go back to playing the full court press the entire season.
Jeff brings up a great point about Bradley playing the point guard position. I agree and would prefer to see Bradley play primarily as a shooting guard, getting as little time as possible at point. Defensive, it really doesn't matter if AB defends one or two-guards, the problem is that offensively he just isn't that good of a ball-handler. Bradley is much better playing off-the-ball, and letting the play come to him through backdoor curs and transition basketball.
With only two years left on Avery Bradley's rookie contract, this is a crucial year for him to prove that he is a difference maker on a contending team. Pre-surgery, he already did just that; but he must do it again with an entire roster and coaching staff.