With Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett all forced to miss time due to injuries down the stretch, second-year guard Avery Bradley has stepped his game up to a whole new level. Because of his strong play, expect him to be a factor off the bench for the C’s in the playoffs.
On Friday against the Atlanta Hawks, with home-court advantage at stake, Avery Bradley was the starting point guard for the Boston Celtics. Not Rajon Rondo, but Bradley, the unproven sophomore who has just recently begun showing fans and other players in the league what he’s made of. As has been synonymous with his prior performances when given the chance, Bradley put up a career-high 28 points and shot the ball with confidence. Sure he only managed three assists, far below the 12-plus assist average Rondo had been putting up prior to sitting out, but his jump shot showed some considerable promise. His efforts coming off the bench has helped the team to stay consistent through injuries to each member of the Big Three in the past week, and the amount of minutes he’s played with the second unit has them meshing as a whole as the season draws to a close.
With a release much smoother than the experienced point guard, Bradley’s midrange-outside game is stronger than Rondo’s. He’s obviously not a better point guard, Rondo having mastered the position of quarterbacking an offense and wittled it down to a unique perfection, but Bradley certainly deserves credit. He’s a natural scorer, unlike Rondo who uses his unique skill set to score points. He can get his teammates involved, showing some solid game facilitation since getting more playing time. Over this two-plus week span that Bradley has seen a heavy amount of time on the floor, he has been averaging close to 20 points per outing including over 50 percent shooting and over 40 percent shooting from three-point range. Watching him come out on the floor now, I, along with other C’s fans I’m sure, get excited. When I was at the TD Garden the other night to watch the Celtics battle Orlando, fans there seemed to sense the electricity inside Bradley when he was on the floor, cheering every time he entered the ball game and following his every move on the floor intently.
I know this is a pretty ludicrous statement, but if Rondo were to get injured going into the playoffs and was unable to play, I would feel comfortable in securing a victory with Bradley filling the starting role. Which is why him getting as much playing time as he has has been so important. Unlike last year, where the Celtics bench never found consistency due to the lack of a leading presence, Bradley has stepped up to take control of the unit. He’s done everything asked of him, never questioning his role, and even with the recent success coming his way he’s still keeping his head on a swivel. I love watching Bradley play, and I look forward to seeing him get some more reps in the final two games against the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks. Better yet, I can’t wait to see what he has in store for the playoffs!