Avery Bradley: A Point Guard’s Worst Nightmare
Jordan Kahn breaks down the latest NBA trends in video form. You can find more of his work at Basketball Things and follow him on Twitter @AyoitsJordan.
Avery Bradley recently moved into the Celtics’ starting lineup, bringing strong defense and offensive game that’s grown leaps and bounds from where he was last year. With the help of MySynergy Sports, let’s take a look at the second-year player’s performance so far.
Bradley’s talent for disrupting offenses is unparalleled. It is hard to think of a player who has been, consistently and single-handedly, able to destroy a team’s attempts to initiate their offense like Bradley. Watching his one-man full court press is reminiscent of something you would see at the youth level, where there can be large talent disparities. However, these are NBA point guards getting their pockets picked like high school players. The video below shows what happens when Bradley is hounding opposing point guards trying to set up their offense.
As an isolation defender, Bradley defends both point guards and wing players. Although he is only 6’3”, his 6’7” wingspan lets Doc Rivers feel comfortable putting him on larger players. Overall he is a good isolation defender, ranking 86th in the NBA in points allowed per possession according to MySynergy Sports, but he truly shines when facing off against point guards, as seen in the previous video. On 48 isolation possessions against point guards, he is allowing only 0.65 points per possession. However, that means his numbers against wing players are not as stellar. He is allowing one point per possession in isolation versus wing players. That figure is much higher than the NBA average of approximately 0.8 points per isolation possession. While Bradley’s wingspan is an advantage against point guards, most wing players have equal, if not greater, length. The video below shows that despite Bradley’s strong effort, Gerald Henderson gets his shot off without too much trouble.
On offense, the largest part of his game is devoted to spot-ups. He doesn’t have three point range, so he makes a conscious effort to step into the majority of his jumpers. Unlike Alec Burks, who seems to be unaware that he frequently has his foot on the three point line, Bradley works to get inside the three point line as he catches the ball. While he is obviously more comfortable inside the three-point line, this still might not be the optimal strategy. Bradley is a bad three point shooter in general, but he is shooting 38 percent on threes in spot-up situations (on only 13 attempts, small sample size noted). That number works out to an effective field goal percentage of 58 percent. Compare that to his 43 percent eFG on mid-range jumpers in spot-up situations, and one can make the case that Bradley should be shooting more threes when spotting up. The video below shows Bradley’s efforts to step into his shots and get into his comfortable shooting range.
Due to the limitations on his jump shot, Bradley has developed very good instincts on his off-ball cuts. He ranks 64th in the NBA in points per cutting possession. When he cuts to the hoop instead of waiting on the perimeter, it shows an acknowledgement of the shortcomings in his game and willingness to give extra effort to help the Celtics on offense. On his cutting possessions, he’s making 72 percent of his shots, of which the vast majority are layups and dunks (one of his 50 shots was a jumper from outside the lane). For a 6’3” guard in the land of the giants, that’s quite efficient. Watching Bradley cut to the basket is like seeing a smaller Shawn Marion. Neither player has the shooting ability to stretch a defense, so they find space inside when the defender turns their back. The video below shows his work off the ball.
Avery Bradley came into the league as a lockdown one-on-one defender, but he has made improvements on the offensive end in his second year. With his high awareness and finishing ability, he has forced his way into the Celtics starting lineup, perhaps for good.