Danny Ainge loaded up on some very good offensive players this offseason, re-signing Brandon Bass and Jeff Green, working the trade for Courtney Lee, and luring Jason Terry away from the Dallas Mavericks. And while all of this action has generated considerable buzz across Celtic Nation, it’s the player that no one is talking that could end up making the most noise. That player would be Avery Bradley – the oft-injured combo guard who was coming into his own before a shoulder injury ended his season during the playoffs.
Think about it – our Celtics should have no problem finding an open man who can knock down a jumper or get to the rack. That in itself is going to make this team very dangerous. But the player who just may make the difference come playoff time is none other than Bradley, one of the best on-the-ball defenders in the league. With Bradley and Rondo harassing guards up and down the court, and with Kevin Garnett once again anchoring the frontcourt, the C’s will assuredly be one of the toughest outs of the postseason.
The biggest question, of course, is all about the timetable for Bradley’s return. The shoulder will need to heal to the point that team officials feel that Bradley can stay healthy and productive on the court. We keep hearing about a December return, but that remains to be seen.
The second question – and the one that Doc Rivers will be tasked with answering – centers on Bradley’s role and minutes. Assuming Bradley returns in December, Doc will already have a set rotation and will need to carefully integrate Bradley back into the mix. There’s no way I see Bradley starting, at least not right off. And whether he gets his starting job back really depends on how well – or how poorly – Courtney Lee plays. Jason Terry is entrenched as the team’s Sixth Man, so it really boils down to Lee. And while Bradley improved his offensive game last season, proving that he can knock down the open jumper, Lee has more length and is the better shooter.
No matter what happens, you can rest assured that Bradley will be in Doc’s rotation come playoff time. And with guards like D-Wade to contend with, Bradley is the perfect player to make life difficult for whoever he guards.
And that, my friends, just might spell the difference between exit and advancement.