Yes, I went there. Avery Bradley should start over future Hall of Famer Ray Allen.
I know it sounds crazy and probably won’t happen. Ray has only come off of the bench four times in his career before. Why start now, right? Well, a great reason for that is because Avery Bradley is on a tear. In the past 6 games, Bradley is averaging 15.3 points on 53 percent shooting and has functioned very well with Rajon Rondo. According to 82games.com the line up that features Bradely, Rondo, Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass, and Kevin Garnett currently have a +/- rating of +40.
Their defense is allowing a stingy .81 points per 100 possessions when Bradley is on the floor and its no coincidence. Bradley was drafted because of his quickness and persistence on the defensive end of the floor. He is known as a ball pressure player and can stick to many guards in the league. In a loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Monday, Bradley held Manu Ginobili to 5 points on 2 of 6 shooting.
In a league where you need perimeter defense more than ever, Bradley can defend that area of the floor like not many other players can. This is what he brings to the table that Ray Allen doesn’t. While Ray isn’t the worst defender in the world, he’s never really been stellar at it. Keep in mind that Allen is getting older and you should want to conserve his legs at this point in time. Coming off of an ankle injury can be a lingering thing–you don’t want that to hinder Allen during the playoffs.
As far as his psyche should be concerned, Ray has always been a strong minded player. He has also stated that he would be okay with coming off of the bench if that’s what coach Doc Rivers wanted to do. Doc has always preached unbuntu to the Celtics, which means togetherness for those of you who don’t know yet. This would be considered and ultimate unbuntu move.
Most of this is hypothetical because, in the NBA, people are creatures of habit. They don’t like to ruin tradition. As I stated before, Ray Allen has come off of the bench only four times in his 15 year career before. We all know that age old saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks–the same would apply here. This would be a different routine for Ray Allen which could then hinder his production.
Also, the floor spacing could be in danger as well. Teams will be ready for Bradley with the more time that he sees on the floor. Bradley isn’t as much of a shooter as he is a slasher. By that I mean in a spot up situation, Bradley would prefer to catch and drive rather than catch an shoot. Teams will be ready for that and play to that weakness. In the last 6 games Bradley has only made 2 three point shots; its obvious that he doesn’t want to take these shots. When the opponent sees this and decides to respect him on the drive they’ll take away his lanes.
Combine that with the inconsistent jump shot of Rajon Rondo and we could have a party in the paint just yet. Passing lanes would be clogged and driving lanes would be closed. You would be sacrificing offense for some more perimeter defending.
With Ray Allen, we don’t have to worry about offensive production. This man has made the most three point shots in NBA history. He has nothing left to prove to the NBA. They’ll always have to respect his shot, which in turn, keeps the opposition from bludgeoning the paint.
When you think about the Celtics style of play, though, its more of a slow paced defensive trend. According to basketball-reference.com the Celtics rank 27th in offensive efficiency with 100.9 points per 100 possession and second in defensive efficiency with 98.8 points per possession. There is a clear imbalance there.
With Ray starting for most of the season, the Celtics offense was still pretty stagnant. They were ranked 20th in pace in the NBA and it isn’t going up any time soon. With Bradley in the game, it at least gives you a chance to get faster an push the tempo more. You probably won’t score as much anyway, so why not bolster your defensive unit? I think the move would be a good one.
There’s a division race in the balance, though, so I highly doubt it happens. But if you really want to teach unbuntu, this would be the perfect moment to do so.