The following is a guest post by Ben Fountain, a writer for our Red Sox site, TedsArmy.com. If you are a Sox fan, we highly suggest you check out the terrific work of Ben and all our writers on Ted's Army. You can also follow Ben on Twitter @BJFountain
But with what has been the most pleasant of surprises during this shortened season, Avery Bradley has taken the big step from prospect to player during a time when his team needs him the most. The way Bradley has played since the All-Star Break, has allowed Allen to rest his ankle and even have some believing that not only could he relegate the greatest three pointer shooter of all time to the bench, but that it's the better move for the Celtics.
With the lockout eliminating Summer League & limited practices, it was supposed to be a brutal season for all the young players to try and develop into quality NBA players. So how in the hell did Avery Bradley become the outlier of it all?
Just a little confidence & patience.
Defense gave him the chance to crack the rotation. His speed & air tight D on guards gave fans a glimpse of what he could he bring to the table and opposing players work even more just to get the ball across half court. As great as his defense was, his offense was as forgettable; he wasn’t anywhere comfortable running the offense or taking a shot and it showed in his shooting splits of 44/9/68. He had some chances to start early on when Rajon Rondo & Ray Allen but the minutes evaporated once they were healthy.
If he wanted any more time he needed to figure out the Celtics system & how to harness his freakish athleticism. His defensive efforts allowed him the opportunity to stay out of Doc’s infamous dog house and on the court and to his credit, Doc gave Bradley a pretty long leash, and that’s not given to any young guys in the Big 3 era without reason. He was hoping Avery would have the light bulb go off and put together something that resembled an offensive skill set.
Doc would also go out of his way to defend Avery & his shooting saying back in January: “at some point, a ball will go in, he’ll slow down, and he’ll make the in-between jump shot. Because that’s what he can make and he can make that consistently."
He was on to something alright. After a couple decent nights, the come out party for Bradley was on March 25th against the Wizards when he went off with the combination of back door cuts and 16-20 foot jumpers, including his third career three pointer. Ever since then, it’s been the AB show. Over the past 17 games, Bradley has averaged 15.5 points, while shooting 54.5 percent from the floor. He's also a whopping 19 of 33 from downtown. 55.8 percent. This is the same person that only shot 12 3's in the first 45 games of the year.
To see the evolution of his game in the matter of weeks has been delightful. He's success has also led to one on the best lineups in the league: when Rondo, Bradley, Pierce, Bass, & KG, on the floor they score exactly 113 points per 100 possessions, the seventh best lineup in the league (minimum 200 minutes played). On the defensive side, they allow only 94.3, which is best in the league. That's a difference of 18.7 points. It's a small sample size but a high percentage of the minutes played have been the past few weeks which many considered would doom this "old" team.
With the potential tapped, it looks like Bradley is the ideal backcourt partner for Rondo: someone that can push the pace, cut to the rim to bail out the offense, and give teams a different look by letting Bradley bring up the ball every now and then.
Defensively it brings nightmares to opposing teams as the duo can press all game. Rondo is the risk taker while Bradley is the lockdown guy. The future suddenly looks a lot less cloudier and Danny Ainge has one less thing to worry about. He suddenly has one of the best and youngest tandems under control for the next three years.
Also with Ray (hopefully) coming back to the mix, this gives the Celtics a three guard rotation that is one of, if not the best for all the playoff teams. That's not to say that they are favorites to win it all, but it just got a lot tougher to beat this team four out of seven times.