If the first two Boston Celtics preseason games are any indication of the year to come, then get excited for a new-and-improved Avery Bradley. Brad Stevens has used Bradley similarly to how Doc Rivers did during the Big 3 era. But Bradley has since developed significantly, making him an all-around threat.
MORE ON AVERY BRADLEY
MORE ON AVERY BRADLEY
At Celtics Media Day Bradley had the line of the day, stating that "long twos aren't as good as a three-pointer," and we've begun to see that become a reality overseas.
Bradley hit 7-of-8 three-pointers this week, and all of those attempts came from the corner.
This is notable because under Rivers in 2012, 22.6 percent of Bradley's shot attempts came from the corner three, and that has declined to 13.9 percent the past two seasons under Stevens.
Bradley has shot 38.7 percent from the corner in his career (slightly below the NBA average of 39.2 percent during that time), so increasing his attempts from that area could lead to a higher efficiency going forward.
That's especially true after he displayed a move on Thursday that he rarely used in past years: the side-dribble.
Stephen Curry popularized this move last season and around the league more players have used it this preseason. The defender closes out and Bradley simply dribbles to the side to stay behind the three-point line.
If Bradley can incorporate it into this game he could very well make aggressive closing defenders pay, by hitting a three, instead of giving the defense what they want: a mid-range attempt.
Here's what Bradley has typically done for years when the defender runs him off the line: a one-dribble pull-up to mid-range.
This isn't necessarily a bad play; in fact, Bradley was pretty good at it, as previously covered on CelticsBlog. But it's not as efficient of a shot as launching an open three.
And if Bradley's able to utilize the side dribble effectively, it's a new element to his game that could lead to more quality shots for the Celtics.
Operating from the corner could also lead to more plays like this:
Bradley used a V-cut to juke the defender out of his shoes and then sliced to the rim, and David Lee was ready with an accurate bounce pass.
The Celtics can run different plays out of this set. Sometimes Bradley might run through Lee and take a dribble handoff, which was a popular play used last year. But with a skilled passer like Lee now on the roster, the opportunity for more basket cuts like that could be there all season.
For all the talk about the importance of a three-pointer, nothing beats a layup.
That's also why Bradley added dribble hesitation moves to his arsenal.
Bradley might've missed the layup in the play above, but focus on the process over the results. Bradley put the shimmy on the defender and got to the basket. Those shots will fall, and he might even draw fouls at a higher rate.
Avery Bradley is evolving before our eyes. The key now will be for him to sustain these learned behaviors over the course of the season.