From the moment he was drafted as the 18th overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft, Avery Bradley was immediately ready to contribute defensively for a NBA team. According to then Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, that's the reason why the Celtics brass selected him as addition to a then dominant defensive team.
Peter May, ESPN.com
He's an NBA defender right now. He can play point guard defense on anybody in the league and that's huge for us.
Originally miscasted as a point guard, Bradley wasn't a regular in the rotation until his sophomore season. Over the course of his 6-year NBA career, the veteran has steadily improved offensively, particularly as a knock down shooter from the mid-range and three-point territory. But his bread is buttered on the defensive end.
Celtics fans have had the pleasure of seeing Bradley hold Steph Curry to 6/22 shooting two nights after the future two-time MVP scored a career high 54 points in Madison Square Garden in 2013. Bradley embarrassed future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade with a vicious block in a 2012 regular season game.
My favorite Bradley play was when he pick-pocketed Carmelo Anthony during a last gasp comeback attempt in KG and Pierce's last game as a Celtics.
With the defensive highlight reel pretty full at this point, Bradley's excellence is well known league wide. In 2013, Bradley was selected to the Second All-NBA Defensive Team. This past season, Bradley was voted to the First All-NBA Defensive Team. One interesting note from Bradley's season was tweeted by Celtics.com reporter Taylor C. Snow.
Avery Bradley was the only player this season to cover more distance on defense (1.19 miles per game) than on offense (1.18 miles per game).— Taylor C. Snow (@taylorcsnow) May 31, 2016
So what does that stat mean?
Well, it depends on your feeling toward this era of basketball driven by analytics. The new school and old school battle over who knows the game better. Science versus religion. Numbers versus beliefs. Facts versus faith. If you are on the side of the new school, it provides context and a bit of confirmation bias to the job Bradley did last season playing D as he chased the likes of the Curry, Lowry, Korver, Redick and Lillard around screens. After an early spring win over the Celtics, Bradley's efforts weren't lost on Lillard.
Damian Lillard goes up to Avery Bradley after game: "I told him he's the best perimeter defender in the league... He's tough."— Steve Bulpett (@SteveBHoop) April 1, 2016
However, if you are on the other end of the argument, a look at the defensive miles run rankings might be all you need to see. While Bradley ran 1.19 miles, ranked five spots below is defensive stopper James Harden with 1.15 miles. It suggests that pace of play (Houston is ranked seventh in pace) and/or a player having a target on his back defensively may as much to do with how much a player is running over the course of a game than it does define how great a defender a player may be.
It's about your perspective. Either way, neat stat.
Photo Credit: Winslow Townson / Associated Press
Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PatBernadeau Patrick Bernadeau 6/01/2016 09:12:00 PM Tweet Edit