There has been an air of negativity around the Celtics recently, due to their high expectations and slow start. The Celtics are currently 6-5, and 4th in the Atlantic Division, which we have ruled since the start of the Kevin Garnett era. We are ranked 22nd in defense, 30th in OREB%, and simply just look bad right now. But here is something I want to say: Do not forget we are missing one of our most important players, and a critical piece to our dreams of contention. What, or should I say who, is this critical piece? Why none other than our Avery Bradley.
Avery Bradley was drafted by the Celtics in the 2010 NBA Draft at the 19th spot, to little fanfare. While Avery was one of the most highly touted HS prospects in the country, he struggled in college at Texas and his stock dropped. He had a very up-and-down rookie season, where he showed flashes of potential (Like this game). Nothing really came of it though, and he entered his sophomore season with reserved expectations. What happened in his second season was amazing however.
Avery started off the 2011-12 season with inconsistent and short minutes, still unable to carve out a niche in the rotation. He seemed more confident than his rookie season, but he still was not producing. Injuries to Rondo, Ray Allen, and Pietrus opened the door to his statement arrival however.
When both Ray and Pietrus got injured and Bradley was forced to start, he responded with a great game. Bradley's improved shooting, amazing defense, and his endearing hustle and energy sparked a Celtics revival in the second half of the season.
With Avery Bradley in the starting lineup with Rondo, Pierce, Garnett, and Bass, they produced an offensive rating of 112.54, a defensive rating of 92.96, and a stunning overall rating of 19.58. These are ridiculous numbers. considering just how dominant this lineup was offensively AND defensively.
The same lineup with Ray in for Bradley? An offensive rating of 104.03, a defensive rating of 102.04, and an overall rating of 1.99. The differences between these two lineups is clear, and it was also clear which lineup would help us the most.
Why am I bringing this up again? Because Avery Bradley is our X-factor. When our best player (Kevin Garnett) got injured in 2009 and regressed, which young player stepped up to fill the void? Rajon Rondo. With Ray Allen regressing, who stepped up? Avery Bradley. With the Celtics having an older core, they needed continuous jolts of energy to revitalize the team. Avery Bradley completely saved our season last year, and its hard to understate his impact. This Celtics team looks like a pretender right now, but lets not judge ourselves too harshly until we have our Bradley back.
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