Avery Bradley has emerged as the most improved and best player on the Boston Celtics
Isaiah Thomas might be the All-Star, Al Horford might be the big recruit with the max contract and Jae Crowder might steal the limelight because he dresses like Elton John after watching the Matrix but they all pale in comparison to the contribution of the diminutive in size but not in spirit, Avery Bradley.
Bradley is a coach’s dream. In fact, if he could be cloned I’m sure Brad Stevens would start plucking hairs and sign up for an order of Bradley’s to be delivered asap. He has a tremendous work ethic and is ready to do whatever it takes for the team. If the ball was a grenade and Stevens drew up a play for Bradley to dive on it, not only would he not hesitate but he’d put his hand in and run out of the huddle with excitement.
His coach asked him to get more involved in the offense, done. His scoring average quickly soared from less than ten to 17.9 points per game in 2016. His coach asked him to work on his jump shot, done. He has consistently improved a shot which early on in his career looked like he was throwing up hopes and dreams and this year is shooting the three ball at over 40 percent. His coach asked him to work on his handle, done. Now he beats defenders off the dribble and still only turns the ball over less than two times a game. This year, however, his coach asked him to step up even further.
Early on in 2016 it soon became clear that the Celtics were, to put it nicely, a below par rebounding team. They are currently 21st in in the league in total rebounds at only 51.1 per game and their rebounding percentage is even worse. They average only 47.9 percent of the total rebounds up for grabs, which is good for 25th in the league. So Stevens looked at his roster, which in NBA standards could be confused for the lollipop guild, and begged his team to rebound as a team.
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Bradley didn’t need to be asked twice, he immediately ripped off his tear away pants and stepped onto the court with one goal, crash the boards. Now, when a ball goes up, Avery leaps into the air with the determination of a four foot tall, forty year old bridesmaid with a life subscription to Match.com jumping for the bouquet and the results are astonishing. So far this year Avery’s rebounds per game has leapt from 2.9 per game last year to an incredible 8.5 per game in 2016.
Now as his stats soar this may not seem as much of a sacrifice but it is important to remember that not only is Bradley screaming in to grab any board available, he is also perpetually running off screens and defending the best offensive player on the opposition. So as you reach for a cold one on the couch just remember how tired Bradley must be as he shoves off his opponent and soars from the free throw line for another board.
Not only is Bradley sacrificing his body but he may also be sacrificing personal accolades. In 2015, Bradley was finally recognized for his incredible on the ball defense and was named in the NBA All-Defensive First Team. This, however, could be his last as his willingness to do whatever it takes to win has significantly impacted his defensives stats. Often as he surges to the boards the ball sprays off the rim and his opposing player gets an open look at the basket.
I would like to make an early plea to the voters to recognize that even though the shooting percentage of Bradley’s opponents will increase this year, it should be remembered that this is only because this is what his coach wants.
As a result of their slow start, rumors are already surfacing for Bradley to be traded. If these rumors persist, however, don’t be surprised if Stevens shackles himself to the basket stanchion until the deal is reneged because when the coach says to jump Bradley doesn’t say how high, he just starts jumping and if it isn’t high enough he does squats at the gym until he is the best jumper in the entire league.