Well, if our poll results are any indication, people seem pretty split on the Celtics' decision to draft Avery Bradley with the 19th overall selection in last night's NBA Draft.
So, let's try and break this selection down, by looking at some positives and some question marks regarding the choice.
Well, with news of Rasheed Wallace's official retirement breaking last night, the Celtics will have just five players under contract heading into next season (assuming Paul Pierce stays with the team). So, in the most basic sense, drafting Bradley will help fill in the roster (assuming he makes the team). With Nate Robinson a free agent and with no guarantee of his return on the table, the Celtics potentially filled the void of backup point guard with this selection (more on that in a minute).
Bradley's defensive capabilities seem to be his strong suit, and appear to be what drew the interest of Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers. Even though Tom Thibodeau is now off coaching the Chicago Bulls, it's a safe bet to assume the Celtics will still be a defensive team next season, so it never hurts to add a player who is committed to defense the way Bradley appears to be. Here's NBA Draft.net's description of Bradley's defense:
What should make Bradley a late lottery to mid-first round pick is his ability to be a lock down defender ... He uses his long arms and persistent nature, constantly causing havoc for whoever is handling the ball... His off the ball defense is no different, and if you watch him follow his man around the court, you'll notice the focus and concentration he has on trying to prevent his man from getting the ball ... His defensive intensity shows he takes pride on this side of the ball, and makes it seem like he wants to be the best perimeter defender in the league, which he might have been his freshman year at Texas...
At the very least, it sounds like whoever's coaching the Celtics next season (coughcoughcomebackDoccoughcough) won't have to worry about the effort this kid will play with.
A few more positives, and some question marks after the jump...
If Bradley does indeed earn a spot in the rotation next season, it sounds like his defense could be the reason why, as both Doc Rivers and Bradley himself reiterated that it's the strongest part of his game right now. Although he's undersized for a two-guard (ESPN has him listed at 6'2 while NBADraft.net lists him at 6'3. Tony Allen's 6'4 and Ray Allen's 6'5 to put things in perspective), he sports a 6'7 wingspan, which should help him when it comes to contesting the shots of taller opponents. He averaged 1.3 steals per game last season for the Longhorns, racking up 44 total thefts in the 34 games he participated in. If he and Rajon Rondo find the court together, the Celtics could unleash a devastating full court press, with those two guards spearheading the attack. And, on the flip side, how about the idea of Rondo and Bradley on a fast break together?
Yet we can't forget about his offense in the midst of paying so much attention to his defense. I've heard and read that his catch-and-shoot game is one of his stronger assets on the offensive end (his jump shot was rated an 8 out of 10 on NBADraft.net), along with a decent in-between game, and superior quickness (9 out of 10 on NBADraft.net). That quickness could very well become an asset while slashing to the hoop, or when it comes time to keep opposing shooting guards in front of him. He shot 43.2 percent from the field in his only season at Texas, but he also hit an encouraging 37.5 percent of his three-point field goal attempts.
He scored a career-high 29 points against Colorado back on January 9, hitting 12 of his 14 field goal attempts, including all three of his three-point field goal attempts. He reached the 20-point plateau four other times for Texas last season, including a 25-point outing in a 91-51 rout of Nebraska on February 13. He knocked down nine of his 12 field goal attempts, including six of his seven tries from three-point nation.
He's also ambitious, as he's already stated that he wants to win the Rookie of the Year award next season. I suppose you have to admire his confidence.
Even with Nate Robinson on the team last season, critics still enjoyed harping on the Celtics' supposed lack of a backup point guard, and, according to Doc, the Celtics plan on playing Bradley at that position. So, while it might seem like the Celtics filled in the backup point guard void, they appear to be doing so with a player who might not be a natural point guard. The fact that the C's are saying Bradley will have to "learn" the position isn't exactly comforting. Bradley averaged just 2.1 assists per game at Texas last season, compared to 1.5 turnovers per game. Based on those stats and everything else we've heard so far, people will undoubtedly question his ability to make plays for others.
Boston's brass will hopefully get a feel for how Bradley will be able to contribute midway through the summer (although he will not play on the Celtics' Summer League team due to a sprained ankle he suffered during pre-draft workouts), as, if he becomes more of a project with potential, as opposed to an immediate impact type of guy, there are a number of veteran point guards swimming in the free agent waters this summer (Luke Ridnour, Steve Blake, Shaun Livingston, Chris Duhon, Anthony Carter, etc.), but those decisions could come down to cost.
Speaking of Robinson, I suppose the addition of Bradley puts his future with the Celtics into question. The C's just drafted a player who plays a similar position, could fill a similar role (with more of an emphasis on defense), and should come at a cheaper price. While nothing's set in stone, after this move, I wouldn't be shocked to see Robinson elsewhere next season.
The one glaring stat that sticks out when mulling over Bradley's numbers from last season is his ghastly free throw percentage. He shot just 54.5 percent from the stripe at Texas last year, and we're all too familiar with point guards struggling at the free throw line. However, Bradley shot just 66 total free throws in 34 games last season, which doesn't even measure out to two free throw attempts per game. If you're an optimist, I suppose you could make the argument that the more free throws he shoots, the better. A little repetition could do the kid wonders, and could potentially put him on track for decent success at the line in the future. After all, he appears to be a pretty good outside shooter, so why the issues at the free throw line? But, if you're a pessimist, I suppose you'd want to harp on his apparent inability to get to the free throw line. Was it a matter of not being aggressive enough going to the rim, or being too reliant on that jump shot of his? In nine of the 34 games he played in last season, he did not attempt a single free throw.
I'm also curious about what the Celtics' plans for Bradley's future are. Clearly he's not your point guard of the future, because Rondo and his $55 million contract already hold that title. So, is he your backup point guard of the future? Or, are we waiting to see how well his offensive game translates to the NBA, with the possibility existing that he could be our shooting guard of the future? But then, say that last scenario does unfold, the Celtics could be looking at a backcourt that's fairly undersized. Do the Celtics hope Bradley develops and then use him as a trade chip down the road? Clearly all of these questions will not be answered for some time, but I couldn't help thinking about them last night.
Finally - and this is no fault of Bradley's - the Celtics, for the most part, failed to address their lack of front court depth in the draft last night. Luke Harangody stands at 6-8, but it remains to be seen how he'll fair going up against the larger, stronger bodies of the NBA, and he could channel his game towards the perimeter. If he does do that, then he won't be much help at all to the Celtics along the frontline, with the lone possible exception being he'll draw opposing big men out of the paint.
With the draft now behind us, it seems as though the Celtics will aim to solve their front court problems through free agency or some sort of trade. Teams can begin speaking and negotiating with free agents on July 1, and can begin officially signing them on July 8.