Years in the NBA: 8
Position: Shooting Guard
Weight: 180 pounds
Key Stats: Averaged 14.3 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.1 steals in 31.2 minutes per game across 46 games last season for the Pistons and Clippers. Shot 41.4/36.9/76.8 on 4.4 attempts from three and 1.8 from the free throw line.
Contract Status: Signed 2 year, $25 million contract with Clippers this summer. Second year is guaranteed for less than $2 million.
Avery Bradley is perhaps one of the Clippers’ players whose role and expectations are most set-in stone entering the 2018-2019 season. He is projected to start for the Clippers at shooting guard, play somewhere in the 27-33 minute per game range each night, and be on the court to close games.
The biggest question mark for Bradley entering this season is health. He only played in 46 games last season, missing almost the entire latter half of the season with the Clippers due to a sports hernia. When he did play, his numbers were inferior to his previous two seasons with the Celtics – the Clippers hope that this dip was due to the injury and not because of his departure from Brad Stevens’ system. Health, however, has always been an issue for Bradley. In his seven seasons as a real rotation player, he’s appeared in more than 64 games just twice. Bradley is right in his prime at age 27 (he turns 28 in November), so he shouldn’t be any more likely to miss time this season, but it would be surprising if he made it through the season without injury.
At almost 28, Bradley is who he is as a player. He’s a tenacious on-ball defender who will dog players the full 94 feet of the court. When healthy, he’s a speedy guard who can zoom around screens and stay on players’ hips, bothering their shots. He’s also good at getting steals, using quick hands to swipe the ball away. On offense, Bradley’s best skill is that he can hit threes at an above-average rate at solid volume. He’s really only effective on catch-and-shoot threes, but as an off-ball player, that’s fine. Bradley isn’t really a shot-creator, but he can handle the ball at least a little, and can be a tertiary playmaker as a pick and roll ball-handler against a non-set defense. Essentially, Bradley is a 3 and D player, just a point-guard sized one.
While 3 and D players are useful, they have their limitations, and Bradley’s are emphasized by his lack of size. While he’s a terrific on-ball defender, he’s mostly good against players his size or only a bit larger. This means he’s best covering point guards and smaller off-guards, which doesn’t provide a lot of versatility. Worse, because he doesn’t have point guard skills on offense, he has to play off-guard there. If he’s playing with another smaller guard, that means the defense will often be undersized compared to the opposition. Additionally, while he’s a nice on-ball defender, Bradley doesn’t do much off-ball or as a help defender, which again means he’s somewhat limited if playing with another guy who excels at defending the point of attack (Pat Beverley). On offense, Bradley is best as a fourth or fifth option as a spot-up shooter and cutter. His ball-handling and passing abilities are limited, so while he can generate shots for himself off the pick and roll, he can’t really score in isolation or consistently create shots for others.
Bradley is therefore an awkward fit alongside Pat Beverley, the Clippers other likely starting guard, as they are very similar players. They will combine to suffocate the oppositions’ point of attack, provide energy and toughness, and hit outside shots. But against larger backcourts the duo will be at a disadvantage, and they will be one of the weakest shot-creating and playmaking starting backcourts in the NBA. Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari will provide the scoring punch in the Clippers’ projected starting unit, as well as some much-needed size. However, neither Gallinari nor Harris is exactly top-tier playmakers either, which could lead to some stagnant offensive possessions and poor-quality shot attempts.
If Shai Gilgeous-Alexander proves himself to be NBA-ready, starting him over Bradley could solve several of these issues. Shai is a gifted passer and playmaker who has the tools to truly run an offense. And at 6’6”, he’s tall enough to cross-match defensively with the smaller Beverley. Of course, Shai is a rookie, and rookies frequently struggle to adjust to the athleticism, size, and skill of the NBA. It therefore wouldn’t be surprising if Bradley held onto his starting role for a while. Down the line, however, it makes a lot of sense for Shai to start, providing the Clippers’ roster remains largely similar over the next few months.
Avery Bradley is yet another competent veteran on a Clippers’ roster full of them. He should provide at least solid minutes for the Clippers at guard this season, given health. Expectations for his play are seemingly reasonable, and he should hopefully be able to meet them fairly easily. If not, the bench or the trade block are likely destinations.