After Avery Bradley got off to an excruciatingly slow start this season, Boston Celtics fans began to question whether or not the front office should've signed him to a four-year, $32 million extension last summer. Now the 24-year-old shooting guard is putting the sleeper hold on those doubters with his recent play.
In Bradley's last 16 games, he's hitting a ridiculous 48.3 percent of his threes, which is third in the league since December 23. After starting off the year at an underwhelming 29 percent from downtown, I wrote that it was important for fans to relax:
Avery Bradley is off to a slow start statistically, but he's on the right track
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 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...
...[Boston has] 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.
And that's exactly what has happened.
I won't pound my chest like I'm KG and scream "I told you so," but I will say that some Celtics fans really need to be more patient with young players. Bradley's emergence in the past month just serves as just another reminder to take your daily chill pill.
My main point in my November article was that Bradley took the same shots he did at the end of the 2013-14 season, when he exploded and showed what he could someday be capable of. It just so happened that he was missing the shots that he normally makes. Let's once again look at his shot distribution going back to last season:
After attempting just five percent of his shots from above the break in his first 46 games of last season, he jumped up to 22 percent and has maintained that balance. Bradley started the year clanking most of his attempts off front iron, but he's now draining them at a ludicrously high rate.
Here are Bradley's three-point percentages from both the corners and above the break during those same sets of games displayed above:
Will he sustain rates of 44 and 53 percent the rest of this season? No, of course not, but that's what regression is all about. Bradley is now exceeding his expected level of play after underperforming to begin the year. At some point he'll experience regression going the other way, where he'll settle down between 37 and 41 percent from three. When we look back at this season, we'll see him right around his typical percentage, and no one will bat an eyelash or whine about his slow start.
Bradley's slow start shooting from above the break is virtually identical to his start from last season, except that he broke out of the slump 22 games earlier. As discussed before, he was also shooting much more frequently, just like he did in the final 14 games of 2013-14. Now, since December 23, Bradley is dominating from behind the arc as one of the best three-point shooters in the league.
Bradley hasn't revised his form and play types haven't changed, so the answer is probably "nothing." Think about it this way: talented baseball players sometimes go through long hitting slumps, but when they bounce back, they do so in a flurry. Avery Bradley is attempting the same shots he did before, but he's making him simply because he was due.
There's nothing magical about that.
Next time a developing Boston Celtics player struggles for a period of time, remember to stay patience. Think about Avery Bradley's shooting performance from the past two seasons and consider that dips in production are all part of the natural process a player takes before they reach their potential.