Avery Bradley has been on fire lately

Has Avery Bradley taken the "next step?"
During the offseason, a lot of people were wondering about what to do with Avery Bradley. Should we trade him along with some other assets to upgrade to a star player? Should we keep him around and see if he still has room to improve? Many believed that Bradley had plateaued in his development and thought that the Celtics should trade him while he still had relatively high value.

Well it's a good thing that we didn't. After dropping a season-high 27 points in a loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday night, Bradley has been riding a hot streak that is reminding people how good he can be.

Bradley is averaging 15 points per game this season and has been even better since returning to action after missing two games with an injury early in November. In his five games back, Bradley has averaged 20.2 points per game while shooting 54 percent from the field and 60 percent from three-point range.

Does the increase in offensive production have something to do with being brought off the bench in four of those games since returning? That may have jump started Bradley, but regardless of if he is starting or coming in with the second unit, nobody can deny that he is playing extremely well of late:

It's not as if Bradley has only stepped up his game in the past week, either. Bradley is shooting 43.1 percent from beyond the arc over the 11 games that he has played this season and has certainly achieved his goal to shoot over 40 percent from three early on. Whether he continues this shooting remains to be seen, but as of right now, his shooting from downtown has improved dramatically.

Most importantly, in my opinion, Bradley has been able to keep up his defensive play while also carrying more of the load on offense. In the past we have seen his play suffer on that side of the ball when he was asked to pick up his scoring. So far that has not been the case. Bradley is averaging 2 steals per game to go along with his increased role in the offense.

I've always liked AB and while I don't think that he can continue to be a 20+ per game scorer for the rest of the season, I believe that he could get up to 17 or 18 points per game and still be his disruptive self on the defensive end. With Marcus Smart out for the next two weeks, and maybe more, he will have every opportunity to prove that he is ready to be considered a top guard in the Eastern Conference.

Can Bradley keep up this level of play, especially offensively, for the rest of the season? Or is this just a hot streak that will eventually come to an end?

Photo Credit: Pat Sullivan/AP Photo
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