Camp questions: Will Avery Bradley's offense ever catch up to his defense?

Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images
Coming down the home stretch in our "Camp questions" series. This is the 13th edition, and today we're focusing on Avery Bradley.

About Avery Bradley:

Believe it or not, Bradley was the top ranked player in the 2009 High School class, ahead of future #1 pick (and $80 million man) John Wall. But a pedestrian Freshman season at Texas (11.6 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 2.1 APG) caused his draft stock to plummet, as he fell to #16 in the 2010 draft before the Celtics pounced.

Bradley was stapled to the bench for nearly all of his rookie season, playing a grand total of 162 minutes during the 2010-11 campaign. It wasn't until about halfway through the 2011-12 season that he really got his opportunity — and boy did he capitalize.

Bradley shot 50% from the field and 41% from three in '11-12, and began displaying elite defensive abilities as he locked up opposing guards. Unfortunately injuries to both shoulders derailed his breakout season. He averaged only 6.7 PPG during the playoffs as his shoulders kept popping out of their sockets. Halfway through the Philadelphia series, he was shut down and underwent surgery.

It took Bradley until January to make his season debut in 2012-13, and when he returned, his offensive game was off. He struggled shooting the ball and sometimes looked lost while trying to run the Celtics offense sans Rajon Rondo. His defense remained elite, as he earned 2nd team All-NBA defense despite missing over 30 games.

Bradley will make $2.51 million this season, and will become a restricted free agent next summer unless he and the Celtics reach agreement on an extension by the NBA's October 31st deadline.


1. Will Bradley be in Green next season?

This has already been touched upon on CelticsLife, but it's worth rehashing as Bradley's future with Boston is murky. The Celtics have until October 31st to work out an extension with AB — ala fellow 2010 draft picks DeMarcus Cousins and Wall — or else he will become a restricted free agent next summer.

I've also talked about Bradley's value and came to the conclusion that depending on how this season goes, he is worth somewhere between $4-6 million per season.

The Celtics have a ton of money coming off the books this summer ($21 million to be exact), so they will not be restrained financially from making a fair offer to Bradley when that time comes. But look for them to let the Halloween extension pass without an agreement. After all, Bradley is still largely an unknown on offense. While his defense is unquestionably worth something even if he never takes the next steps offensively, it makes more sense for both he and the team to see how his first (hopefully) healthy season as a starter plays out before trying to reach a deal.

2. Was 2011-12 Bradley a mirage?

For 17 games in early 2012, Bradley was amazing. From March 25th, 2012 - April 20th, 2012, he averaged 15.5 PPG while shooting an absurd 54.5% from the field and 55.9% from three. Of course, that kind of hot shooting is not sustainable. But his overall numbers from that season — 50% FG, 41% 3PT — showed off a side of Bradley that we had never seen before, and have yet to see since.

His struggles last season have been attributed to both the absence of Rondo and his recovery from shoulder surgery. But the bottom line is that in the four years since he has left high school we have only seen "good offense" Avery once. At Texas he struggled with his confidence and never got comfortable, his first year in Boston he didn't play, and then last year he ranked among the least efficient players in basketball.

In fact, according to Synergy Sports, Bradley scored only 0.80 points per play (ppp) last season on offense. To put that in perspective, the NBA average is 0.936 ppp. That means for every seven possession that Bradley had the ball, the Cs lost a point off the scoreboard (compared to them giving that possession to an average NBA player).

It's fine if Bradley's offense never catches up to his defense. In fact, because of how dominant he is on that side of the ball that's expected. But he needs to find a way to be better than he was last year. And this is the year to do it.

3. Is Bradley the best defensive guard in the NBA?

Let's just say this: if he's not yet, he's about to be.

Last year Bradley allowed only 0.73 ppp to his opponents, ranking 16th in the NBA (out of over 400 players). He also held his opponents to only 0.67 ppp in isolation and players shot a putrid 32.3% from the field when he was guarding them.

Compare those numbers to the guy most people consider the best defensive guard in the league: former Celtic Tony Allen.

Allen allowed 0.78 ppp overall, 0.75 in isolation and players shot 34.2% against him. Elite numbers, sure. But Bradley has him beat across the board.

Of course Allen has been doing it a lot longer, and Bradley was beaten up pretty badly in the playoffs by Raymond Felton. So there is still work to be done.

But Bradley made 2nd team All-Defense last season despite missing 32 games. This year he should easily jump Chris Paul (who is overrated defensively) and possibly even Allen.

Especially terrifying for NBA guards is that Bradley isn't even 23 yet. There's reason to believe he could just be starting a decade long run of All-Defensive teams. Fun thought.

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