COJ: Avery Bradley, assassin?

In a world that's filled by faux-celebratory controversies that most don't care enough about to comprehend, there's something oddly refreshing about how Avery Bradley conducts himself. A huge play followed by a facial expression that's half scowl, half discomfort. And the good news for the Boston Celtics is that these plays are coming more and more frequently as of late.

While in previous season this look would only come on the heels of a big defensive play, this year has seen a welcomed increase of frequency on the offensive side of the ball. After a slow start, Bradley is now shooting just shy of .420 from distance on the season. And he's been absolutely red hot from distance; Since November 15th roughly 42% of all of his shots have come from behind the line, he's converted an astounding 45% of them.

Suddenly, emerging w/ the confidence to both take, and hit, shots like this

The best part of it, is what we saw last night against the Heat. For better or for worse, Bradley's always been a very cerebral player; His mood seems to effect his play. And his mood, frequently seems to be dictated by how well he's playing offensively. The worst stretch of his career defensively came two years ago, when he found himself both incapable of running an offense as well as hitting an open shot. That all seemed to magically correct itself that season when he was relieved of his duties.

In many ways this year has been similar; a slow start from Bradley's offense has been paired with criticism from Celtics fans, wondering what happened to the ferocious on-ball defense we'd seen previously. With the return of the scowl/discomfort, we've started to see our secret assassin double his steal average (1 a game before 11/15, 2.1 since),  and do stuff like this again:

Which, might just look familiar

Fire Up The Trade (/Extension) Machine

w/ Padraic O'Connor

One of the the big question going into the 2015-16 Boston Celtics season was, “what is to be done about this Jared Sullinger character?”

The big answer? Let the man live. Questions on his work ethic, his body, his ability to strap the C’s to his back and add stability to the new core have dominate the Sullinger talk track. This past Friday as the Celtics steamrolled the tryptophan-laden Washington Wizards, Sullinger put up a 15 rebound game - his third of the season. The C’s are steadying the ship and Sullinger is one of the big reasons why.

Sullinger’s fourth season with the club-- the final of his rookie deal-- will conclude without an extension in place. This isn’t a surprise. Danny Ainge took a similar track with Avery Bradley before signing him to (depending on the night) team friendly deal. The next big question that will need to be answered is two-fold: Is the Sullinger we’re seeing now the Sullinger we can expect to see for the next handful of years, and if so is that worth more on the court or on the trade block?

Sullinger falls into a nebulous region of comparing value on the market to value on the team. His salary is only $2.5M this season, but the value the Celtics are getting from him is much, much more. His PER is 20.37 thus far in 2015-16-- 8th in the East among centers, 12th in the NBA. That’s pretty ideal for the Celtics.

All this leads to the debate over what you could get for Sullinger without having to include a ton of other assets. Sullinger on his own won’t net much and what it would net, I don’t think Boston wants or needs. Does Danny Ainge need more second round picks? Does Brad Stevens need more rotation players? In both cases-- both of which Sully could fetch in a trade-- doesn’t add points, rebounds, or effective minutes played right now.

The Celtics are built like a Jenga tower-- solid enough with all their current pieces in place. Once you start removing pieces and adding returning assets to the top of the tower, you’re flirting with collapsing the entire structure.

VERDICT: Sullinger is worth more to the Celtics as a core piece of the puzzle this season that he is on the trade market.