Avery Bradley vs. Gordon Hayward
The ESPN Forecast panel had picked the Boston Celtics to finish number one in the East with a 54-28 record. The addition of Kyrie Irving and the loss of Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder may change that forecast. But in what direction?

Often forgotten in discussions of the 2017-18 season are the loss of Avery Bradley and his many contributions to the team's success. Danny Ainge loved and nurtured Bradley from his rookie year. Ainge traded him, in part, because he felt Avery lacked versatility. He is not a ball handler and has limitations as a wing.

Thomas was also traded, again in part, for his lack of versatility. Isaiah's comment on his upcoming contract (as per CSNNE's A. Sherrod Blakely) "...better back up the Brinks truck" was certainly an irritant to Danny. And let's face it, Ainge was half of a successful 6'4"/6'5" back court with Dennis Johnson. I believe he felt a 5'9"/6'2" Thomas/Bradley back court could not win a championship.

How the addition of Gordon Hayward and the loss of Avery Bradley will affect the Celts performance and regular-season record may be one of the biggest questions. Bradley shows 16.3 PPG, 6.1 RPG and 2.2 APG. Hayward's stats are 21.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG and 3.5 APG. Their numbers are reasonably close.

But statistics don't show everything, and they can be confusing. HoopsHabits.com's Jake Finnen had this to say about Avery's numbers:

While the overall impact Bradley may have on the game varies, the stats miss one major concept–the actual individual characteristics of Avery Bradley. The stats will not be able to tell you about Bradley’s mid-range pull-up or his excellent spacing.

They won’t tell you that opponents struggle to break free from Bradley’s shutdown defense. There are stats for about every category and not a single stat can capture the hushed ferocity that Avery Bradley bring into every game.

I truly believe Gordon Hayward will fit into Brad Stevens' system seamlessly. He may be ready to take his play to the next level, but I doubt he will equal Avery's "hushed ferocity" on defense. Bradley's offense and defense are on display on the video below. Take particular note of his block on Gordon Hayward at minute 1:25. That is a 6'2" defender blocking a 6'8" offensive star. Maybe Bradley was more versatile than Danny believed.

There is excitement and sadness to the video. We may never see another player like Avery again in a Celts uniform. Marcus Smart does play very tough defense and has the potential to be a star in the NBA. But while Bradley is tough, quiet and relentless, Smart is aggressive and instills fear in opponents, such as Dave Cowens did in the 70's. When Marcus enters the game it seems that Stevens has released a wild wolverine onto the floor.

Even though it would be exciting to watch a Dancing Bear and Wild Wolverine on the floor at the same time, I will miss Avery terribly. Most fans will. I love this guy!

Photo credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Tom Lane 8/23/2017 01:30:00 PM Edit
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