This is a series of posts which highlight each key player in the Celtics’ run towards banner 18. It will highlight the areas of their game they need to improve most for the Celtics to be able to compete with the talent-blitzed teams of 2012-13. The area will sometimes be a player’s biggest flaw, or sometimes his biggest strength, but each post will highlight what this Celtics team needs players to change this season for the Celtics to have success.
When examining what Avery Bradley brought to the Celtics last season, one must not overlook the fact that he gave a crap in the middle of the season. He would harass opposing point guards, picking them up full court when they were used to casually dribbling it up to run the half court offense. He fought every possession like it was his last, causing chaos in games when everyone else was on cruise control. His defensive intensity, backdoor cuts and explosiveness were all pivotal for the C’s, especially since their aging Big Three were becoming too infatuated with the half-court game, too disengaged during the regular season, and, quite frankly, a little boring. Then he dislocated both of his shoulders, yet continued to dunk with both hands, making me and anyone else watching cringe as he attacked and hung on the rim.
As such, AB’s biggest strength is also an area of improvement: His pace, so helpful to the Celtics, needs to be adjusted so he can survive for the long haul.
Of course, he also needs to improve plenty of other facets, most of them related to offensive skill: Off-hand ball-handling, shooting with confidence, adding a pull-up game, being able to run the offense. While he needs to improve on all these things, I believe they will all come with the hard work and commitment to winning he has shown in his young career.
Not as natural will be toning down his game. Bradley was inserted into the starting line-up towards the end of the season to give the Celtics’ starting unit more of a pulse. He may or not assume that position when he eventually joins the Celtics this season, but either way his importance is clear: The Celtics need him to compete in the Eastern Conference. In this spirit, the Celtics need to keep him healthy and keep him around for the entire season. As fun as it is to watch him, and only him, pick up Chris Duhon or Mario Chalmers and harass them until the Celtics’ 3-point line, he cannot sustain that for 82-plus games. Dislocated shoulders are a reoccurring injury, similar to a sprained ankle in that after you get them once once you are more likely to get them subsequent times.
I would much prefer Doc to call on Bradley and his full court pressure only when the Celtics need it–either at the end of quarters or when a notoriously bad ball-handler runs the other team’s offense. Bradley also needs to reel it in once the opposing point guard passes half court. He has not played in the league long enough to get calls, and while the referees will reward him for his extra energy picking up full court, they tend to get sick of it once the other team sets up in its half court sets. Picking up small nuances in the NBA game will come when examining more tape and learning what it takes to make it through an entire NBA season.
Bradley’s youth means that while his game is still raw, he has plenty of time to improve it. Being able to take a step back and look at the full season is such an important step for a young player, and Bradley has a veteran supporting cast to help him in that transition. Now it is up to him to continue maturing as a basketball player, hopefully enough to take his game to the next level for the 2012-13 season.