Avery Bradley's Pistons second behind Boston in the East

I honestly can not look at an Avery Bradley photo without an accompanying feeling of sadness. I am not totally sure why this occurs, but I do know that I have the utmost respect for this man as a fine individual and hard working, versatile player. NBA players and fans are still lamenting the fact he was not on the NBA All-Defense Team last season.

Even though he is a Detroit Piston, I absolutely want him to succeed. And he is. His stats thus far are very similar to those last season with the Celtics. His minutes are in the low 30's, and his scoring shows 16.1 PPG. His steals, 1.5 per game, are close to last season's number of 1.2. His rebounds are down from 6.1 in Boston last year to 2.9 this season with the Pistons. With Andre Drummond grabbing more than 15 boards per game, Avery's drop in rebounds is understandable.

Avery has been known for his defense before anything else, and deservedly so. His on-ball defense is one of the best in the League. Here is the Detroit Free Press' Vince Ellis on the All-Defense snub:

And the consensus is the Detroit Pistons are better with Bradley, whom they acquired this off-season.

Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker rolled his eyes when asked about the Bradley snub.

“That’s ridiculous. He’s probably, if not the best, one of the best on-ball defenders in our league,” said Walker, who will lead the Hornets against the Pistons on Wednesday night in both teams’ season opener.

“He’s one of those guys where, ‘Damn, you got to play against him tonight?’ He’s like the perfect defender. When you teach defense, he’s the guy that would like to learn from.

“He knows the coverages, he knows the plays. His body position. He’s just a great on-ball defender. He’s hungry and a lot of defense is about pride and wanting to do it. He’s that guy. He wants to play defense, he loves to play defense. He’s really good at it.”

As of this writing, the Pistons have the second best record in the Eastern Conference, at eight-and-three, behind Boston at ten-and-two. Drummond is having a hell of a year, leading the Pistons is rebounding, steals and blocks. Tobias Harris leads the team in points at 20.0 per game, and Reggie Jackson is tops in assists with 6.3 per game. Bradley is doing a bit of everything.

The Orlando Magic and Toronto Raptors are tied with seven-and-four records behind Detroit. Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic are the big guns for Orlando. Fournier leads the team in points (20.5 PPG) and steals (1.5 SPG). Gordon leads in rebounds with 8.3 per game, and Vucevic leads in blocks with 1.0 per game.

The Toronto Raptors are led by DeMar DeRozan (24.7 PPG, 1.4 SPG) and Kyle Lowry (6.5 APG). So as it sits right now, until (or if) the Cleveland Cavaliers get their act together, the Detroit team seems to be clicking and is the immediate threat to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference. That could change in a heartbeat with injuries or a team suddenly surging in the rankings.

It is obvious in Cleveland that Kyrie Irving was a necessary ingredient in that team. So far, Lebron James just seems unable, or unwilling, to take over on both ends of the floor and will his team to victory. He will be 33 years old next month and is playing in his 15th NBA season. He may be getting a bit tired, and I doubt Isaiah Thomas joining the team will turn things around. I don't believe we will be seeing Lebron in Cleveland next year.

If Boston and Detroit meet in the Eastern Conference finals, we will be glad for Aron Baynes' signing. Drummond is a bruiser at center. Harris has improved, and Avery would almost certainly be hounding Kyrie. With a full roster, even minus Gordon Hayward, Boston should come out on top and move to the Finals. Things can change, but it sounds like a fun series.

Follow Tom at @TomLandHC

Photo via Kirthmon Dozier/Detroit Free Press