At this point, the NBA D-League should be using Avery Bradley as their poster child.
Put up a six-by-four image of Bradley in the Maine Red Claws‘ locker room with “this could be you” underneath it, and I think some serious motivation could take place. Bradley started out as a college star at University of Texas before being signed by the Boston Celtics and sent to the Red Claws.
After an injury to Ray Allen, Bradley was called up by the team and the rest remains history. Almost immediately, Bradley showed what he could do in the big leagues and impressed Doc Rivers enough to the point of receiving Allen’s starting job until he returned. However, even when Allen was back to full health, he requested to come off the bench for the surging Bradley.
Today, Bradley remains a solid contributor on the offensive end and incredible defender despite his slight disadvantage of size at his position. He has never displayed any off-court problems and stands as perhaps the best young player on the Celtics roster. At only 22, the sky is the limit for Bradley.
Perhaps his only setback was a shoulder injury that kept him sidelined until about the middle of last season. In fact, some blame his absence on the Celtics’ Game 7 loss against the Miami Heat in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals. Had Dwyane Wade been kept under better control by a defensive guard like Bradley, some believe the Celtics could have moved onto the NBA Finals.
Upon his return, the Celtics did show some extra energy, but went on to be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs at the hands of the New York Knicks.
That brings us to today. We have no reason to think Bradley won’t have a great season. In fact, while his team will not, the young guard will more than likely thrive. He is now in a situation in which talent is so sparse that anything he brings to the table will be used to its limit.
He may even get some time at starting point guard. Putting a player like Bradley at the starting one spot with his style of play could puff up his stats and remind us why the Celtics keep him around to begin with.
Apart from his shoulder injury and occasional turnovers, Bradley presents no major downside for the Celtics moving forward. At his best, I really believe Bradley has Defensive Player of the Year potential. At the worst, the Celtics get a solid defensive role player that can shoot the three ball and get into the paint.
Really, I don’t see the debate over whether a player like Bradley should get an extension or not.