Appreciating Avery Bradley

With the 19th pick of the 2010 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics selected an undersized shooting guard, who was raw offensively but was a NBA-ready defender.

Coming out of the University of Texas after his freshman year, Avery Bradley was plugged into a team that was still licking their wounds after a defeat in the NBA Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Bradley's rookie year was underwhelming to say the least. The then 19-year-old battled injuries, throughout the 2010-2011 campaign, averaging 1.7 points in 31 games.

His sophomore season in Boston started off slow again, but an injury to starting shooting guard Ray Allen, gave Bradley the opportunity to start. The guard seized the moment. Forming an on the court connection with Rajon Rondo, Bradley started in 28 games during the 2011-2012 season, as well as ten of the Celtics' playoff games that spring, before suffering an injury that kept him out of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The C's lost to the LeBron James led Heat that year, but it was apparent the Celtics had found something in their second-year shooting guard.

Then Celtics' coach Doc Rivers was known to let his young players ride the pine. The fact that Rivers had faith in Bradley's game, at such a young age, was a testament to Bradley's potential.

Allen, a future Hall-of-Famer, eventually bolted for South Beach that summer. There were many factors that led to Allen's departure, but losing his starting gig to Bradley was at the top of the list.

As Allen teamed with James and the Heat, Bradley's game continued to expand.

Entering each training camp it seemed as though the Tacoma native had added a little something to his arsenal. Whether it be his improved three-pointing shooting (31 percent in '12-'13 compared to 39 percent in '13-14) or rebounding (6.1 rebounds per game last season), Bradley's offseason regime proved to be working. He upped his points per game each season with the C's from 7.6 points in his second year, to 16.3 points per game this past season.

Through the rebuild, and constant roster turnover, Bradley never complained. He just stayed the course and did his job, believing in the team when it was unheard of as they battled for each victory.

When Bradley inked a four year $32 million contract in the summer of 2014, many thought General Manager Danny Ainge was out of his mind to give Bradley that kind of cash. The deal, over time, proved to be one of the best bargains in the league.

As the Celtics crept into the playoffs in coach Brad Stevens' second year, it appeared that the rebuild was moving faster then planned, and Bradley was a major reason. His injury in the 2016 playoffs showed his value as the Celtics bowed out in six games to the less talented Atlanta Hawks. Bradley was honored following the season, when he was named to the NBA All-Defensive Team.

This past spring, Bradley averaged 16.7 points per game on 44 percent shooting from the field in three playoff series, helping lead the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals. In Game Three against the Cavs Bradley hit the biggest shot of his career:

Unfortunately due to the recent acquisition of Gordon Hayward, and a shrinking salary cap, Celtics' management had to free up cap space, which made Bradley a casualty.

So now Bradley is gone, dealt Friday to the Detroit Pistons.

The move was bound to happen. Bradley was going to get paid next summer, possibly $20 million per, and the dollars wouldn't have added up unless he was willing to take a huge hometown discount, which was highly unlikely.

The fact that Bradley is in Detroit kind of makes sense. For a city that gave birth to the Bad Boy Pistons, Bradley is a throwback to that era of basketball. He is a tough in your face defender that no ball-handler wants to see staring them down.

If Bradley can avoid injuries he should have a long successful career in the NBA. If he stays in the very weak Eastern Conference it's not too far fetched that he could team up again with Isaiah Thomas in the All-Star Game.

His time in Boston spanned seven seasons, and it's a shame it couldn't have lasted longer. Bradley was a favorite of many in the organization. As news broke of the deal Al Horford and Ainge gave a few thoughts:

The picture of Bradley consoling Thomas this past spring after the tragic death of Thomas' sister may be one of his most iconic moments in the city this year.

Saying goodbye to Bradley will be tough this coming season when we come to grips that he is no longer hounding opposing guards on those cold winter nights. Fortunately we can thank him for being a loyal Celtic who was a major reason for the teams' success in the Brad Stevens Era.

Follow Rob Welch on Twitter @CelticWelch

Photo credit: Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images