Avery Bradley has been chided by some fans of the Boston Celtics for his slow start to the season after signing a four-year, $32 million extension this summer. But in reality, Bradley is on the right track just 12 games into the year.
In addition to playing stout defense, the 23-year-old shooting guard is in the process of getting adjusted to a new role on the offensive end of the floor. Bradley is averaging just 14.1 points on 13.4 field goal attempts per game, which might appear underwhelming, but his scoring will likely increase as the year proceeds.
That's because regression will undoubtedly kick in for Bradley, since his three-point efficiency should rise from his current subpar 30.2 percentage. Bradley drained 39.8 percent of his threes in his two full healthy seasons and should find his final total much closer to that.
"I thought Avery Bradley had a lot of good looks today," coach Brad Stevens said on Sunday after Bradley's 1-for-8 three-point shooting performance against Portland. "He'll knock those down."
Stevens has the right idea, because they have continued to feed Bradley from downtown, as he's averaging 4.4 attempts per game from three. The 6-foot-2 shooting guard has hit only 12 of his 45 open or wide open three-point attempts, according to SportVU, so a historically stellar shooter like Bradley can only go up from here.
More on Avery Bradley
More on Avery Bradley
But, what's more interesting about Bradley is just how similarly the Celtics are using him to how they did at the end of last season. In August, I outlined Bradley's drastic change in shot distribution in his final 14 games of the 2013-14 season, and through 12 games this year, his distribution is virtually identical.
Down the stretch of the last season, Boston began utilizing Bradley more comparably to players like Klay Thompson, Wes Matthews, and Bradley Beal. While Avery is not yet on that level offensively, the Celtics clearly have the intentions of developing him with that ceiling in mind.
In Bradley's first 46 games last season, 50.4 percent of his field goal attempts came from mid-range and just 5.1 percent were above the break three-pointers. However, when the Celtics began experimenting, those totals changed to 40.4 and 21.8 percent, respectively.
The graph above details Bradley's shot distribution change last season and how that has carried into the 2014-15 campaign. Bradley's attempts from the corner and in the paint (including the restricted area) have stayed relatively consistent in all three stages, and he has sustained his usage from above the break.
Even though Bradley is hitting just 26.7 percent (8-for-30) of his above the break three-pointers, he's stretching the floor, which helps his teammates and himself. When defenders close out on him, he's better able to take one or two dribbles and pull up for a wide open mid-range jump shot.
Boston has used a myriad of different screens and play types to help spring Bradley loose for shot attempts, but his increased ability to create offense for himself has led to a more consistent scoring output even when his three-pointer isn't falling, as proven by pull up two-point jump percentage of 51.4 this season.
In the eyes of critical Boston Celtics fans, Avery Bradley has gotten off to a slow start this season, but don't be stunned when sooner rather than later he begins to experience a scoring surge from beyond the arc.