No doubt, Avery Bradley has evolved dramatically as a basketball player. He was once a young kid who could barely dribble the ball past half court, but he has now matured and is thriving as one of the most exciting two-way guards in the NBA.
But Bradley is entering restricted free agency for the first time this summer and there is no guarantee that the Boston Celtics resign him. It's also unlikely that we'll see the Celtics return to their extension offered before the season, according to Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald.
Avery Bradley’s future with Celtics up in air | Boston Herald
Consider that Avery Bradley - one of the C's brightest hopes in the last four seasons - could easily join the departed.
Bradley's ongoing brittleness considered, the C's are unlikely to return to the four-year, $24 million extension that was previously offered. The injury issue may also limit what he finds on the market this summer.
If another organization jumps in and offers Bradley something outrageous, it's possible that we'll see the Celtics lose him to free agency and get nothing in return. If that happens, they'll have to turn their attention free agency or the draft to find a potential replacement at the two-guard position.
Fortunately, the 2014 NBA Draft will provide them with loads of options. Let's take a look at ten players the Celtics could select as a replacement for Avery Bradley:
If the Celtics keep their own first round pick (guaranteed top 8), they'll have a number of high-end choices, including Kansas' Andrew Wiggins, Australia's Dante Exum, and Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart.
Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Arguably the top prize in this year's draft is Andrew Wiggins, a 6-foot-8 wing out of Kansas. While raw as a scorer, Wiggins is explosive and will be able to get to the rim at will if he tightens up his dribbling. Even if that doesn't happen, the 19-year-old will be a knockdown shooter from mid and long range, thanks to his seemingly effortless form.
Wiggins' greatest value may come on the defensive end, where he uses his excellent agility and his long 84-inch wingspan to bother opponents, get in passing lanes, and block shots. Wiggins' combination of size and speed would also allow the Celtics to switch on nearly every pick-and-roll, which is something they preferred to do last season.
The greatest hurdle for Andrew Wiggins is undoubtedly his attitude. Despite possessing outstanding athleticism, he currently lacks the mentality to utilize it to his full potential, often avoiding contact, or lacking the will to be "the man." Perhaps, Wiggins is just an ordinary player in an extraordinary body, or maybe it will take the proper coaching to awaken the beast inside.
Dante Exum, Australia
If there's one player teams will regret passing on, it's Australia's Dante Exum. Not much is known of Exum, but with impressive performances at the Nike Hoop Summit and FIBA Championships, enough has been seen to virtually guarantee the 18-year-old guard as a top five pick.
At 6-foot-6, Exum could easily slide in for Bradley at the two-guard. Exum is a fantastic ball-handler and possesses an elite first step, which he has clearly adapted from players like Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose (who happen to be his two idols). However, Exum must improve as a shooter, though he has fantastic mechanics to build on. With a determined attitude, there is a good chance that Exum will achieve any goals he sets for himself.
Drafting Dante Exum would not only give the Celtics a replacement for Bradley; it would also provide them with an heir apparent for Rajon Rondo in the event that he leaves the team via trade or free agency. Skills-wise, Exum is the prototypical modern combo-guard, but his height and length will allow him to play either position at a high level.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
At 6-foot-4, Marcus Smart is undersized to play shooting guard, but so is Avery Bradley, at only 6-foot-2. But, like Bradley, Smart is a ferocious defender, with outstanding lateral quickness and a "you shall not pass" mentality. In that sense, Smart is a rim protector, since ball handlers seldom get to the paint. Smart averaged 2.9 steals per game in his collegiate career, and will likely carry that success over to the NBA.
The problem with Smart is finding his position on offense. He hasn't developed the passing skills to be a true point guard, yet he still lacks the consistent shooting mechanics of a prototypical two-guard. With a subpar 29.9 three-point percentage and some horrific mechanics, Smart has a long way to go as a perimeter scorer. However, he arguably has the best dribble out of any player in this draft, as he gets to the rim at ease, where he draws fouls and finishes at a high rate.
Despite the concerns about finding Smart a position, we've seen other 6-foot-4 combo-guards make a Hall of Fame career with below average perimeter shooting, elite ball-handling skills, fierce defense, and a killer mentality -- you know, like Dwyane Wade. Maybe Marcus Smart has "it", even if "it" doesn't include three-point shooting.
Trade Down or Trade Up
If the Celtics trade down with their top first rounder, or up with their first from Brooklyn, there are two options for them at the back-end of the lottery. Those players are Michigan State's Gary Harris and Michigan's Nik Stauskas.
Gary Harris, Michigan State
Michigan State's Gary Harris might actually be a clone of Avery Bradley. Like AB, he's a terrific defender, a knockdown spot-up shooter, an improving pick-and-roll playmaker, a threat in transition, a bit undersized (6-foot-4), and a gritty leader. I'd argue that Harris has one of the highest floors of any player in this draft, as I see little chance that he completely busts.
The Bradley to Harris transition would be seamless, since both have similar skillsets, but that's exactly why there could be better options. Both of them still need to improve their above-the-break three-point shooting, which is important for a two-guard in Brad Stevens' motion offense. But Harris' abilities as a complimentary scorer and a top-notch defender would ease the potential loss of Bradley.
Nik Stauskas, Michigan
If you like players with pretty jump shots, you'll love Nik Stauskas, one of the finest three-point shooters in this year's draft. With a picture-perfect shooting form, the 6-foot-6 guard shot 44.2 percent from three and 82.4 percent from the line this season. But Stauskas isn't just a spot-up shooter, since he scores equally well off the dribble, which will make him a serious threat on the NBA's open floor.
Stauskas' defense leaves a lot to be desired, since even average college players burned him, but he brings a high work ethic that will certainly help him at the next level. Nik Stauskas might be the perfect shooting guard in the draft for Brad Stevens, since he brings both deep shooting range and playmaking abilities in the pick-and-roll.
Moving Jeff Green to SG
Boston could also replace Avery Bradley by finding a starting small forward like Croatia's Dario Saric and Creighton's Doug McDermott, and then shifting Jeff Green to the two-guard position. Part of Green's value is his versatility, since he can essentially play three positions: shooting guard, small forward, and power forward.
Dario Saric, Croatia
One of the fast risers on my big board is Croatia's Dario Saric. After winning the Adriatic League title, Saric proved that he could become a great NBA player. With rare versatility on offense, Saric could fill up the box score with points, rebounds, assists, and blocks.
Pinning Dario Saric's draft positioning is difficult, since he could easily go top six, or drop to the back of the lottery. Regardless, the Celtics have spent extensive time scouting him because of the glut of skills he will bring to the NBA.
Doug McDermott, Creighton
In extraordinary fashion, Doug McDermott amassed 3,150 points over his four-year career at Creighton. McDermott was one of the best college players of all-time due to his incredible work ethic, which allowed him to constantly build on his game on his way to becoming a complete scorer.
That's exactly what Doug McDermott will bring to the NBA: versatile scoring. McDermott can drain shots at an elite rate from deep, but he also has a unique mid-range game, and the ability to score at the rim. If Boston selected McDermott, it wouldn't be much of a surprise to see him make an impact during his rookie year.
Picks #17 through #30
If the Celtics keep their pick at number 17, P.J Hairston, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Jordan Adams, could be an option for them. But it wouldn't be surprising if one of them slipped to the back of the first round, where the Celtics could trade for an additional pick to snatch them.
P.J. Hairston, D-League
After being exiled from North Carolina, P.J. Hairston had a successful stint in the NBA D-League, averaging 21.8 points per game. Hairston is a below-the-rim player, but he is excellent in the half court because of his outstanding skills as a spot-up, off-screen, and off-the-dribble shooter.
The problem with Hairston is that he doesn't bring much else besides scoring. He doesn't rebound or pass very well, though his defense is better than advertised. P.J. Hairston also might have some attitude concerns, since he already has had problems with the law, but positive player interviews could change the league-wide perception of him and raise his draft stock.
Bogdan Bogdanovic, Serbia
At 6-foot-6 with a huge 83-inch wingspan, Bogdan Bogdanovic brings great size alongside his ideal skills at the shooting guard position. The 21-year-old from Serbia has a fantastic three-point stroke, though he must improve off the dribble to complete his game.
In addition, Bogdanovic brings point guard skills to the table, since he is a solid ball handler and a skilled passer. Bogdanovic might not be the flashiest pick in this draft but the Celtics could use him like a poor man's Manu Ginobili as a pick-and-roll playmaker.
Jordan Adams, UCLA
UCLA's Jordan Adams is a do-it-all shooting guard that could end up being the steal of the first round. Adams is only 19-years-old but already has a high IQ, magnificent instincts, and natural scoring touch from anywhere on the court. He's the model of efficiency, performing at a high level as a cutter, slasher, spot-up shooter, and as a pick-and-roll ball handler.
Jordan Adams might lack the high-end athleticism many other players have, but it's obvious that he just knows how to play the game and will continue to improve. It wouldn't be surprising if Adams elevates his stock to borderline lottery status by the time group workouts are completed, which is right where the Celtics could be picking.