Last night, Boston Celtics fans witnessed Avery Bradley taking over most of the game against the Philadelphia 76ers which ended up in a victory for Boston, 109-101. Throughout the past few weeks, Bradley has shown some significant signs of growth, whether it’s his defensive or offensive game, or his development as a point guard. Since Rajon Rondo’s season ended in January, Bradley is averaging 10.8 point per game, nearly three points more than in the 12 games with Rondo in the lineup. He’s made the case that he is no longer a bench player and deserves every minute Doc Rivers gives him.
Bradley has and is still developing into a point guard, which is what the Celtics originally had him play when he was a rookie. However, he never was comfortable or confident in that role, and it wasn’t until last season that Bradley became a shooting guard and threatened Ray Allen’s minutes by his stellar play on defense. His stifling defense on some of the better guards in the league bought him minutes, but he wasn’t known much for his offense until the latter part of last season.
We fast forward to yesterday: Bradley scored 22 points against Philadelphia, but it was how he was scoring that was impressive. Last season he was a slasher, finding lanes to the basket on the baseline and getting the easy layup behind the opponent’s front line. But now he’s developed a mid range game to go with his perimeter shooting and ability to drive to the basket. Bradley is no longer hesitant on offense and he’s looked for his shot, which is something he never did when Rajon Rondo was on the floor. Unlike Rondo, Bradley is able to bring the ball up the court and consistently knock down the 15 to 20 foot jump shot. He’s always been known for his defense and his offensive game was always overlooked, but now it seems like he can balance both and be just as effective on both ends of the floor.
With the lack of depth at the guard position for the Celtics, Bradley has played a majority of his minutes bringing the ball up the court. Last night he continuously ran the floor, always looking for the fast break opportunity, and most of the time made the right decision. One area where he does have trouble is in the half court offense. This is where having a true point guard does benefit Bradley’s game. In Philadelphia there were a few times where he could have gotten the ball down on the post to Kevin Garnett or Brandon Bass, but elected to swing the ball on the perimeter, or if he did look inside, a turnover was the likely result. But seeing that this is his first year playing full-time as a point guard, it’s understandable that he would struggle from time to time.
Overall, Bradley has really come into his own. Since January his game has developed much more than if he was coming off the bench all this time. Right now it’s hard to say what the ceiling on his potential is because every night he seems to play better on both ends of the court. Some people say he’s like Bruce Bowen, but Bowen was never a great offensive player able to put up the numbers Bradley has over the last few weeks. Bradley is showing his worth by being a jack of all trades on both ends of the floor. Rondo’s game may interfere with the way Bradley does things on offense, but we’ll just have to wait and see what next year brings to determine whether two elite guards can coexist in the backcourt.