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One of the several things to look for in this otherwise dreadful year of Celtic basketball is the emergence of Avery Bradley.

Bradley's output this season will play a significant role in both the direction of his career and the direction of the Celtics franchise. With the February deadline looming, his play over the next few games may even dictate his future in Boston.

Career Progress
Since coming into the league, Bradley has seen a spike in his minutes each year. In his rookie season (2010-2011) he averaged only 5.2 minutes per game. In his sophomore stand he played about 21.4 minutes per game, and last year his playing time jumped to about 28.7 minutes per game (due in part to Rondo's injury).
While his minutes have increased over the past three seasons, his production has essentially remained stagnant. In fact, his per 36 statistics are are nearly identical in each of these seasons, via Basketball Reference:

2010-2011: 11.6 PTS, 2.7 AST, 3.8 RBS, 2.0 STL

2011-2012: 12.7 PTS, 2.3 AST, 3.0 RBS, 1.1 STL

2012-2013: 11.6 PTS, 2.6 AST, 2.8 RBS, 1.6 STL

As a matter of fact, the only statistic that demonstrates significant fluctuation is Bradley's shooting percentage. Puzzlingly, his field goal percentage shifted from .343 to .498 and back down to .402--not exactly the kind of consistency the Cs are looking for.

Despite maintaining reverence for his defense and acquiring nicknames like "the game changer" and "pit bull", his defensive rating (a measure of how many points a player allows per 100 possessions) has also fallen slightly each year, from 101 to 102 to 105.

Season Progress
During the offseason the Celtics reportedly discussed a contract extension with Bradley but never got "close" to arriving at mutually satisfying terms. During an appearance on the radio show Toucher and Rich, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said that the two sides would "most likely" have to wait until after the season to get a deal done, which of course is now inevitable.

Coach Brad Stevens has called Bradley "a guy [he] really believe[s] in", and that the former Longhorn "has a lot of opportunity to be a very, very good player on both ends of the floor."

This season, Bradley has risen to the challenge. He has put his best foot forward, displaying a much more reliable jumper and inspiring offensive confidence. Take a look at Bradley's per 36 this season:

2013-2014: 16.9 PTS, 1.6 AST, 3.7 RBS, 1.2 STL, 44% FG

Not only are his points and rebounds up considerably, but his efficiency has skyrocketed as well. Perhaps the brightest aspect of 2013-2014 Avery Bradley is his willingness to take shots. He's shooting the ball at a 46% clip form inside the arc and 36% beyond the arc. That's up from last season's 43% and 32% respectively. Gone are the days in which a timid Bradley would receive a pass and hardly even glance at the rim. Gone are the days in which an almost oblivious Bradley would casually rise up to the hoop, only to get rejected by anything with arms. Welcome, 2013-2014 Bradley, welcome.

Future in Green
Undoubtedly, Bradley is a valuable piece. Tenacious on-ball defense like his is rare, and he's matured into a smarter offensive player who can hit jumpers and make excellent back door cuts.

Interestingly, however, his defensive rating has fallen off to 107 thus far, which is about the league median. While some may point to this as a red flag, it is important to consider that Bradley is called upon to guard the opposing best guard--in a league that is heavily guard dominant. The undersized 2 guard is new and improved--with the undeniable potential to continue to get better.

The Celtics have a few options to explore with Bradley:

1. Trade him: Conveniently, many fans call to trade the worst players and keep the best ones. Though many fans don't want to hear this, it is very possible Bradley may be packaged in a trade. The fact of the matter is Bradley is one of the most valuable trade chips the Cs have. He is just 23 years old and still on his rookie pay scale. The Cs could look to package Bradley and either Green/Bass/Hump in a deal that would likely bring back more picks to the Ainge stockpile.

2. Extend the qualifying offer: By extending a qualifying offer, Bradley remains in green for the 2014-2015 season with about 3.58 million guaranteed. However, he then becomes an unrestricted free agent the following summer.

3. Set him free (temporarily?): Let Bradley stroll into the offseason as a restricted free agent. While any team may offer a contract to him, the Celts will have 7 days to match.

You have to wonder what Bradley will be asking when he does hit free agency, and what the Cs could get in return for him. Of course, these things remain to be seen...yet.

Let's play GM.

What would you do?

Austin Gill 2/04/2014 06:04:00 PM Edit
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