Super-Secret Stat: With Avery Bradley on the floor last season the Boston Celtics defensive rating 92.9, the team’s best mark among their regular contributors. Additionally, Boston also fared worse defensively when Bradley was on the bench more than any other player, registering a defensive rating of 97.5.
Analysis: It bears mentioning that we were all aboard the Avery Bradley train long before Ray Allen’s string of injuries forced into the Celtics starting lineup, he established himself as arguably the game’s best perimeter defender, and he helped save Boston’s fledgling season. His combination of quickness, length, and mentality is a truly rare thing in this league, and coupled with his new understanding of team defensive concepts his success and overall influence on the Celtics was hardly a surprise. But not even we saw Bradley becoming such an integral cog for Boston so soon, and a player that if available could very well have swung the Eastern Conference Finals against Miami in the Celtics favor.
It was a truly meteoric rise for Bradley, from bit playing point-guard to indispensable starter alongside Rajon Rondo. And while his offensive exploits – namely cutting and a surprisingly accurate long jumper – were a pleasant surprise for the Celtics and of considerable worth to the team’s attack, Bradley still made his name and game on defense last season. The relatively simple statistics of Bradley on/off defensive ratings above obviously indicate as much, but dig deeper and his profound impact on the Celtics’ season-ending defensive tear becomes even more clear.
Beginning with a March 25th win in Philadelphia that saw Bradley play a career-high 40 minutes, the Celtics registered an incredible defensive rating of 92.1 over the final 19 games of the season. Not coincidentally, Bradley played 25 or more minutes in all of them and Boston went 14-5, storming back from a disappointing 26-22 record to win the Atlantic Division.
And in the 10 playoff games Bradley took part in before injuring his shoulder, he took things to a whole ‘nother level. His on-court defensive rating in the postseason? A team-low 87.9. Boston’s defensive rating when their dynamo defender was on the bench? 100.4, second higher on the team behind Kevin Garnett’s mind-boggling number of 116.5. Opponents shot a team-low (among regular) 38.2% when Bradley was on the floor, compared to 44.3% when he was riding the pine. Again, only Garnett’s trumps Bradley’s latter number, truly indicative of KG’s absurd worth to Boston’s playoff success. But aside from him, the statistics show that no player had as much of a positive impact in the postseason for the Celtics as Bradley.
So the Celtics and their faithful can look back on 2012 and get depressed that Bradley’s injury caused them another chance at a title, or take solace in these numbers and point to an increasingly bright future. Garnett, Paul Pierce, and the newly acquired Jason Terry may be in their golden years, but Bradley, Rondo, and the rest of Boston’s upgraded roster aren’t, and that spells good things for the Celtics in the immediate and coming seasons.