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2017 NBA offseason: Avery Bradley brings versatile offense, stout defense to Detroit

But just how effective has the new Piston been on both sides of the court?

NBA: Playoffs-Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Excuse me as I try to pick my jaw off the floor and gather some cognizant thoughts about the newest Detroit Piston, Avery Bradley. Ok.

The reactions from around DBB and Twitter have been largely positive. After all, swiping the starting shooting guard from the team with the most regular season wins in the Eastern Conference for just Marcus Morris seems like a heist.

And there really is plenty to like about Bradley. He’s likely to be a fan favorite in Detroit. But he’s also not a particularly high profile player, so there’s plenty for us to learn about Bradley. Let’s dive in.


If you’re penciling in Avery Bradley for point guard minutes and to serve as a Reggie Jackson replacement, let’s go ahead and hit the pause button on that now. Bradley’s not a point guard.

He can fill some point guard minutes in a pinch. He can get the ball up the court competently when needed. But Bradley is a shooting guard.

Bradley played the vast majority of his minutes last season alongside Isaiah Thomas and, in the rare instances that wasn’t the case, he’d still be alongside another combo guard like Marcus Smart. Bradley hasn’t spent more than a fraction of his minutes at point guard since 2013-14. And those seasons where he ran much point guard didn’t go particularly well for him.

Bradley’s strengths on the offensive end revolve around his shooting ability. He’s just a 36.6 percent career three point shooter, but shot 39 percent last season and - brace yourself - he takes a lot of long twos. He converts them reasonably effectively for a long two and all, 41.6 percent for his career, but sheesh he takes a lot of them. Last year 70 percent of his shots came from beyond 16 feet.

He’s effective off the catch and shoot, posting a 51 percent effective field goal percentage with 37.6 percent on his three point attempts. You don’t want to take Bradley away from that. Check out his shot chart.

Bradley shot chart

That’s pretty solid. And here’s how he got there.

You aren’t going to see all the transition threes like we did with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, rather Bradley is what you think of with a traditional floor stretcher. He punishes the defense when it collapses.

If you take Bradley out of that off the ball catch and shoot role, you’re instead going to see a whole lot of long twos. Here’s what it looks like when you ask Bradley to create for himself on a regular basis.

He’s not bad on the occasional pull up or knocking down a three off the bounce in a pick and roll. But the more you put Bradley in that type of situation, the more he’s going to struggle with his offensive efficiency. It’s just tough to be efficient like that as a pure shooter, when you don’t spend a lot of your time at the rim or the free throw line.

As the ball handler in the pick and roll, Bradley was thoroughly mediocre. He had a 49.7 percent effective field goal percentage and was in the 61st percentile in the league. Nice enough to have as a complimentary threat, not good enough to rely too heavily on. In spot up situations, Bradley had a 59.9 percent effective field goal percentage and was in the 86th percentile. That’s where he thrives.

While Bradley is a capable ball handler, he’s not a particularly creative one. His 2.2 assists per game mostly came through the Celtics’ excellent ball movement as a team - they were second in the league in assist percentage as a team, behind only Golden State. Bradley did a nice job facilitating team ball on the offensive end, at times getting the ball on the floor forcing the defense to shift before making the simple pass to an open man.

Where he struggled was when he found himself forced to do too much as a ball handler. In a crowd with the fast break or needing to create something for his teammates, Bradley was too mechanical as a ball handler to be particularly effective.

At the end of the day, you’re left with a guy who is a nice contributor in the half court game with some reasonable versatility. Bradley has gotten increasingly efficient as a scorer, posting a career high 54.8 percent true shooting percentage last season as Boston’s second leading scorer. That’s a step forward from the Pistons’ team average last year, though it’s still a bit below the league average in the mark.

But it’s also worth noting that Bradley was putting up 17.7 points per game on 56 percent true shooting percentage (which was above league average) along with 7 rebounds and 2.4 assists before going down with an Achilles injury. He wasn’t quite as effective after returning, which dipped his season numbers. So it’s possible that he has more room for growth in his efficiency figures.


Bradley comes to the Pistons with a reputation as a bulldog defender. As was the case with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Bradley’s numbers haven’t always supported that reputation.

Last year Bradley allowed a 44.3 percent opponent field goal percentage, which was 2.1 percent above those opponents’ season average. That field goal percentage differential was one of the worst marks on the Celtics.

KCP had a similar mark, but it was reasonable to conclude that his shoulder injury was severely impacting his defense. His defended field goal percentage went from -1.6 percent before his injury to +3.2 percent after. Bradley’s was actually worse before he injured his Achilles and improved once he returned.

He also posted one of the worst defensive ratings on his team at 107.5, compared to the Celtics’ team mark of 105.5. Real plus-minus also wasn’t a fan of his work on the defensive end last season as Bradley posted -1.72 on that end, good for 417th in the league.

It’s tough to find much at all in support of the idea that Bradley was anything close to an elite defensive player last season. Certainly, some of the numbers might be impacted by playing alongside Isaiah Thomas, one of the worst defenders in the league, and taking the toughest backcourt assignment every night. But he’ll be in a similar situation in Detroit if he’s playing with Reggie Jackson.

But it’s also unlikely that his reputation is entirely unfounded. Last year his defended field goal percentage showed a more impressive -2.3 percent differential and the Celtics were a top five defense. Bradley also earned a spot on the first team All-Defensive team. He was the first runner up for the All-Defensive team this season, and teammates and folks around the league came to his...defense.

Lillard has gone so far as to call Bradley the best perimeter defender in the league.

Chances are that he’s probably a pretty solid defensive player. It’s just questionable whether he will legitimately be an upgrade over KCP on that end rather than about on par with his predecessor.

The rest of the story

Bradley’s four year, $32 million deal has been a bargain for the Celtics over the past three seasons, but the Pistons will only benefit for the final year of it. Paying Bradley $8.8 million this season will certainly save owner Tom Gores some cash in the short term, but next season will be...a situation.

He was reportedly unhappy with his bargain contract midway through the deal, especially after seeing his peers getting major paydays. So he’s not going to be cheap to retain and Detroit won’t have the luxury of Bradley being a restricted free agent, allowing them to match any potential offers. It seems reasonable that Bradley would look to recoup some of the money he left on the table with his team-friendly deal by testing the market hard next summer.

Now, as I mentioned, Bradley for Morris straight up seems like quite the steal for Detroit. But his arrival also means the departure of KCP, potentially for just one year of Bradley.

This is entirely true:

But if it winds up that they turned KCP and Morris’ bargain contract into one year of Bradley and a 2019 second rounder, it’ll be less flattering. After all, SVG and Jeff Bower knew they’d have to #PayKCP at the trade deadline. If they weren’t prepared to do that, shouldn’t they have flipped him then?

It’s tough to say for certain even in the short term that Bradley’s arrival makes the team better as Caldwell-Pope and Morris depart. If nothing else, well, Stanley Johnson better be ready to be a plus player next year.

It’s also worth noting that injuries have been a challenge for Bradley. Through his first four years, he never surpassed the 64 game mark. After alleviating concerns in 2014-15 and 2015-16, he missed extended time again last year. As the roster stands now, the Pistons have solid backcourt depth with Langston Galloway or rookie Luke Kennard ready to step in if Bradley misses time. But if more roster moves are looming, and it’s likely they are, Bradley’s ability to stay healthy is a consideration to keep in mind.

It’s been a heck of an interesting offseason around the league. And things just got interesting for the Pistons.

What say you DBB?


What grade do you give the Avery Bradley acquisition?

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  • 46%
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