Despite being sidelined for the first 30 games of the season, Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley deserves the nod for defensive player of the year. Critics will assert that Bradley, who underwent off-season shoulder surgery and was unable to suit up until January, has missed too much time this year to be win the defensive player of the year award.
But Bradley in a sense has silenced those critics with his tenacious defense. Bradley is now regarded as the best on-ball defender in the league, wreaking havoc on the opposing point guard. The 22-year-old guard is truly fearless on defense, often picking his man up before midcourt and hounding the ball handler. He is even able to bait the best guards in the league into making bad passes or just pick their pockets clean for an easy transition basket. Bradley’s 1.3 steals per game are not near the league high, but his value on defense is much more than just pick pocketing defenders.
Bradley’s effect on the Celtics team defense may be the impressive part of his defensive resume. Before Bradley played, the Celtics ranked a mediocre 14th in defense. Since his return, the Celtics have been the third best defensive team and now will finish in the top 10 for defensive points allowed.
When Rajon Rondo tore his ACL, the Celtics appeared doomed. But Bradley was able to provide stability at the point guard position and his defensive tendencies rubbed off on his teammates.
Celtics head coach Doc Rivers has high praise for Bradley, comparing his defensive play to Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen.
“It’s like Scottie Pippen — when you played the Chicago Bulls, you were praying that, ‘I hope he guards the other guy tonight,’ ” explained Rivers. “Because [Pippen] was one of those guys that could guard the 1, 2, or 3. And you were hoping, ‘OK, I hope [he guards the other guy].’ I mean, how rare is it that you want Michael Jordan to guard you? Over Scottie.
“And I’m thinking that’s Avery, and even Courtney Lee. Courtney’s a good defender as well, but they’re probably thinking, ‘I’ll take him over him.’ And [Bradley's] feet are so good. I mean, he stays in front of the ball, he gets up into it, and it’s big for us. He’s really making us a better defensive team.”
Rivers is not the only NBA head coach who admires the defensive work of Bradley. Atlanta Hawks head coach Larry Drew is a big fan of Bradley’s relentless full-court defense, which he called a “lost art in the NBA”.
“You don’t see as many guards,” Drew said, “up the floor 94 feet putting pressure on point guards and he’s probably one of the best in our league.”
“Defense is ugly work,” Drew said, “it’s not pretty work. Some guys don’t want to get down in the dirt and in the trenches and play that way.”
The defensive player of the year is usually deemed a big man’s award. A guard has not won the award since Gary Payton won it in the 1995-1996 season. It’s time for league voters to recognize the defensive excellence of Bradley. The league voters should reverse the trend of selecting a big man and instead give the award to the deserving man, Avery Bradley.
Tyler Ash is a New England Patriots Writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on twitter @TyAsh34 Like His Facebook Page, or add him to your network on Google Plus … He writes NBA articles and MLB articles for Rant Sports as well.