Throughout the offseason, Pick and Popovich will rank the top 50 players in the NBA. To be clear, these are 50 best players for the 2016-17 season, regardless of team situation, past performance or future potential. If you’re trying to win a championship in 2016-17, these are the 50 players you’d want most.
Why He’s Great: You know about the defense. Avery Bradley is going to be the next Tony Allen in that he’ll never let you forget that he’s First Team All Defense. Make your peace with that, it’s going to be our next five years as basketball fans. He’s that good. But let’s talk about Bradley’s offense.
Avery Bradley attempted five three-pointers as a rookie. He was Tony Allen on offense. Downright useless. And then things started to turn.
Bradley worked himself into a consistent 35-36% shooter on a high volume of three-pointers. Boston scored 1.07 points per possession on his spot ups last season, well above average for any player or possession. He’s a willing cutter who’s always in the right position, and his passing as an off-guard is a legitimate asset especially on a team with a shoot-first point guard in Isaiah Thomas. Bradley could’ve easily made a living in the NBA off of his defense alone, but over the past few years, he’s become an above-average offensive player in his own right.
In a league desperate for D-AND-three players, that’s an absolute boon for the Celtics. Bradley is now legitimately good enough to be the centerpiece of a Kevin Love trade. He’s one of the rarest breeds of small NBA guards: a complete two-way player. Nobody at his height should be this good on both ends of the floor, but Bradley is, and that makes him legitimately one of the 50 best players in basketball.
Why He’s Below No. 43 (Steven Adams): Different strokes for different folks. Centers who can do what Adams does are slightly rarer than guards who can do what Bradley does. The two could be flipped depending on personal preference, but you could create Bradley in the aggregate with two wings on the right team. You can’t do that with Adams.
And hey, Bradley has flaws on both ends of the court. Bigger guards can post him up, he is only 6’2” but is forced to cover bigger guards because he shares a backcourt with Thomas. He’s also not a great dribbler, he has to be on the court with a ball-handler for his value to be maximized.
These are all minimal issues, but they add up with a low-ceiling player like Bradley. He’s never going to explode and give you 50 points to carry your team to a win on his own. Case in point: he has scored 30 or more points in only two NBA games. He’s played six seasons.