Throughout the offseason, we’ll be counting down the Top 50 players in the NBA from 50 to 1. Who will just miss the cut? Which names do you expect to see? Regardless, you’ll be able to find them all right here.
Why He’s Great: Behind Chris Paul, Avery Bradley is the best defender on Earth below 6’3”. It’s really hard to play defense at that height, as Isaiah Thomas can attest. Bradley’s wingspan is significantly greater at just a hair longer than 6’7”, but he’s at a size disadvantage almost every night. It doesn’t help that Thomas’ presence means that Bradley can start possessions on players as small as Paul and as big as Klay Thompson… and then switch onto bigger players. But that’s the price you pay for having a great offensive talent like Isaiah. You need role players like Bradley to cover his deficiencies.
Bradley covers pretty much everyone’s deficiencies. He grabbed 6.1 rebounds per game last season. Again, he is 6’3”. Someone that small grabbing that many rebounds per game has happened 45 times in NBA history. There have been 68 NBA seasons. This happens less than once per year, and it’s like the ninth most important thing Avery Bradley did last season. Go look at that list. It’s littered with Hall of Famers. Jerry West. Russell Westbrook. And now, Avery Bradley.
He’s even grown into a decent ball-handler. The Celtics let him run 3.1 pick-and-rolls per game this year and he posted a respectable 0.83 points per possession. That’ll do in a pinch. Players who can do anything are incredibly valuable. Right now, that’s Avery Bradley.
Why He’s Behind No. 47 (Jrue Holiday): When two players are close, the tie will always go to the one who has the ball more. That’s not to say point guards are automatically better than three-and-D players, as Holiday is lower than Khris Middleton (who sits at No. 45). But if you’re choosing between two relatively even players knowing nothing else about your roster, you’ll always take the one who has the ball more.
That’s not to say Holiday can’t do some of what Bradley does. He’s a terrific defender in his own right and is a slightly better than average three-point shooter. I feel more comfortable with Holiday doing the things that Bradley does than the reverse. A ball-handler who can take on some three-and-D duties just matters more than a three-and-D maestro who can do some ball-handling. The gap between the two skills is closing, but ball-handling is still more of a necessity.