Advanced stats have come a long way in just the past five years, but it still lags when evaluating defense. While there are stats out there it’s hard to separate the signal from the noise, and get a good handle on who is all hype and who is the real deal.
This is especially problematic when a team like the Detroit Pistons brings in a player especially known for his aggressive defense as they did with Avery Bradley. Much has been written about his defensive impact, and not all of it is good (which we’ll cover in a future article).
For now, though, Pistons fans who know Bradley mostly by reputation might enjoy an actual breakdown of his defense. YouTuber Coach Mike actually has done all the hard work for you with two Bradley videos -- one breaking down his on-ball defense and another dissecting his off-ball defense.
In the first video the keys are all about his aggressive, decisive nature, and his ability to use his body and athleticism to stay in front of his man and generate steals with minimal fouling.
Coach Mike notes Bradley’s bulldog mentality, which some consider style over substance, often forces his defender to turn away from the play to protect the ball. This greatly limits what his defender is capable of doing with the ball, and allows Bradley and his teammates to increase the defensive pressure on their respective assignments.
He’s also noted for a version of Rick Mahorn’s old “pull the chair” routine. But instead of forcing a travel from the post, Bradley uses it to catch his man off guard and then attacks the ball side, often with his opposite hand. As you see in the video, this generates a lot of steals but also helps protect Bradley from fouling because he is minimizing the ways he can contact the offensive player’s body.
In the second video, Coach Mike highlights Bradley’s off-ball defensive skills. Highlights include how Boston’s defensive system enables Bradley to both be aggressive when playing on the ball but sagging off when he’s off the ball and opening up opportunities to jump passing lanes.
Bradley is also credited for his off-ball rotations and awareness in guarding the pick-and-roll.
Obviously, this accentuates the positives in Bradley’s game, but it’s no mere highlight or hype video. This is a legit breakdown of how and why Bradley’s effective on defense.
It brings to mind the good old days of Lindsey Hunter and Mike James sharing defensive duties as bulldogs on defense during Detroit’s amazing run in the early 2000s.
Still, not everyone agrees with that assessment, and soon we’ll dive into some of the information that indicates that Bradley’s reputation might be more lofty than his actual skill level indicates.