Avery Bradley notched nine steals last night for the Maine Red Claws, tying a D-League record in the process. I should be impressed, right? Okay, I’m impressed. Nine steals is a whole lot of steals, especially in a professional basketball game. But though I’m admittedly impressed, I wouldn’t call myself encouraged.
Why not? Because we knew Bradley’s defense puts opponents in a phone booth. We knew he could play defense at an NBA level even before he made the NBA, and we still know he can play defense at an NBA level even after his demotion from the NBA. What we were looking for Bradley to work on was offense, where Bradley has proven to be a shaky ball handler and unsure shooter. And do you want to know his offensive stats from last night? 4-13 shooting, six turnovers, and though he did post 14 points and seven assists, the shooting and ball handling — the two things I was hoping would improve — haven’t shown any indication of being NBA-ready.
Through seven games in Maine, Bradley’s shooting 39.8% from the field. He’s turning the ball over 4.29 times per game, in only 30 minutes per game. And while I like his three-point shooting (36.4%), every statistical indication says that Bradley’s still figuring out his role as a point guard. That will take time, I know, especially considering that Bradley played off the ball during his lone college season.
But if Bradley can’t handle the ball or shoot a decent percentage at the D-League level, he’s not ready to handle the ball or shoot a decent percentage at an NBA level. No matter how many steals he accumulates in one game.
All that said — nine steals? Damn, that’s a lot.