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Avery Bradley will bring more versatility and efficiency to the offense

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The Pistons new shooting guard is more than just another KCP.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Detroit Pistons


Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Avery Bradley is one of the best on-ball defenders in the league and has been for the past few years. When he was not selected to an All-NBA defensive team this past season, players like CJ McCollum, Devin Booker, Damian Lillard and Jamal Murray all tweeted their opposition.

Bradley’s defense is top-notch, this we all know, it’s his offensive game that’s a bit of an unproven commodity. His game has come on strong the past two seasons. Last year he averaged a career high in points and three point shooting and when Stan Van Gundy traded for his services, he did so for his offensive game just as much as his leadership skills and defensive prowess.

To get a better understanding of Bradley’s role next season, reviewing KCP’s 2016-17 season with the Pistons should be helpful. They operated a similar percentage of their plays in most of the offensive play-types featured. But while the “Bradley’s a better version of KCP” and “KCP’s a younger version of Avery Bradley” comments have been said countless times, that’s a bit of a lazy comparison. For comparisons sake, we’ll highlight some of the similarities but mostly their differences in the pick and roll, off cuts, in hand-offs, off screens and while spotting up.

Pick and roll as ball handler

Although Isaiah Thomas carried a lot of the playmaking load for the Celtics, Bradley was still heavily tasked with operating as the pick and roll ball handler, doing so at a clip of 19.2 percent frequency. During the 2016-17 season, KCP was tasked with a similar role, he operated 24.8 percent of his offensive plays as the PnR-BH and was a more efficient scorer. KCP's ability to draw fouls lead to more points per possession (0.89 compared to 0.83), but an important thing to note is that Bradley still shot at a higher field goal percentage (44.1 percent compared to KCP's 42 percent).

What should we expect?

We should still expect to see Bradley operating a sizable percentage of his plays as the PnR ball handler next season. The Pistons are drastically more starved for playmaking compared to his previous club and while Bradley wasn’t the most efficient scorer as the PnR ball handler, he still ranked in the 61st percentile, and had an effective field goal percentage near 50 percent. You’d like to see Bradley improve his ability to draw contact during this play type, but that’s doubtful, seeing how Bradley doesn’t quite have the KCP token leg-kick down quite as well.

You shouldn’t expect to see Bradley’s numbers to necessarily climb as the PnR ball handler, but if he’s able to continue shooting at a respectable clip, this play would bode well for Detroit. It is what it is, Detroit needs playmaking, and albeit average, allowing Bradley to handle a similar amount of PnR ball handling duties that he did last year, it is at least more efficient than an Andre Drummond nine foot baby hook.

Off cut

When you think of last season’s Pistons, what words come to mind?

Stagnant?

Ineffective?

Boring?

Let’s at least assume the words movement, exciting and exhilarating didn’t cross your dome.

While SVG regularly went to his motion offense, it wasn’t the most fruitful system. Some of this may be attributed to KCP’s inability, or refusal to create easy buckets by cutting to the hoop. He finished in the 29th percentile off cuts, and this play only amounted to 2.2% of his possessions. On the flip side, Avery Bradley cut to the basket in nearly 10 percent of his offensive possessions, ranking in the 83rd percentile, scoring at a clip of 1.42 PPP.

More of this please.

What should we expect?

Detroit already has a couple guys who are extremely efficient at cutting to the basket, mainly Tobias Harris and Jon Leuer, but the more guys willing to motion towards the cup, the better. As noted, playmaking was a weakness last season and it will continue to be a weakness next season. Utilizing Bradley’s ability to create easy points will be key to Detroit’s success next year. You should expect SVG to encourage Bradley to continue cutting, possibly raising the frequency of that play next season. He was one of the best players in the league when cutting to the hoop, after all.

Movement in the NBA is a funny thing, it’s contagious. People movement leads to ball movement, ball movement leads to tired defenses, and tired defenses lead to easy points. The Pistons need easy points, and with Bradley getting a respectable chunk of his offensive plays without the ball, in motion towards the basket, that’s exactly what they’ll get. Although, and this can’t be understated, it’ll take guys looking for and finding him to make this all possible.

Hand off

Detroit effectively utilized KCP’s quick trigger in hand off plays last season. KCP saw the hand off in 15 percent of his offensive plays, and while his effective field goal percentage ranked under 50 percent, he still ranked in the 76th percentile. This, like the PnR, was due to KCP’s ability to draw contact. He was awarded with free throws (either and ones, or regular shooting fouls) in 15 percent of his hand off plays, leading to 1.0 point per possession. Bradley also saw the hand off in 15 percent of his plays, but did not fair so well in this scenario. He had a higher shooting percentage (42.9 percent compared to 41.1 percent) but was not able to draw contact, only seeing free throws in 2.8 percent of his hand offs leading to .84 points per possession.

What should we expect?

SVG was a fan of hand offs for KCP. You’d regularly see it in his horns offense, running him off pin downs and catching him in rhythm for a quick three or long two. You should still expect to see Bradley operate a respectable percentage of his plays from hand offs, at least initially.

Beginning the season with an unleashed offensive Bradley could bode well for Detroit. Bradley will be tasked with a larger offensive load compared to last season, where Boston had to regularly feed Thomas and Horford. If he’s able to improve his ability to create points from hand offs, great, SVG will be able to run similar packages to the ones he ran with KCP last year. If the hand-off is still not working, then adjust the playbook to allow Bradley to get more looks off screens, in the pick and roll or while spotting up.

Off screen

SVG often went to the KCP off-screen look, so much so, that you’d assume KCP to rank near the top of the NBA. This is not the case; KCP only managed to score .89 points per possession, while shooting an effective field goal percentage of 44 percent, which is good for the 42nd percentile league-wide. Bradley was much more efficient, he shot 51.4 percent eFG, leading to 1 point per possession, and in doing so, ranking in the 70th percentile.

What should we expect?

Considering Bradley’s ability to put points up off screen, you’d expect him to operate more than 10 percent of his plays in this scenario, which was what KCP averaged last season. Bradley’s effectiveness off-ball will also bode well for guys like Jackson, Harris and Drummond. Defenses will have to more closely account for Bradley’s ability to score off-screen, opening up the court for Jackson and Dre to operate the pick n’ roll, Tobias to play in iso situations or cutting towards the hoop, and for Dre to hopefully improve his ability to score in the post. The more the Detroit runs Bradley off-screen, the better it will be for the entire offense.

Spot ups

Spot up shooting is Bradley’s best weapon in his offensive arsenal. Last season he ranked in the 86th percentile, scoring a solid 1.14 points per possession, while shooting an effective field goal percentage near 60 percent. Might Detroit finally be able to allow some air into their stuffy half-court offense? It’s looking that way. KCP only ranked in the 45th percentile, and while he saw this play in 18 percent of his offensive possessions, he was only able to hit at a clip of 37.5 eFG percent; no bueno.

What should we expect?

SVG loved looking for KCP in spot up situations last year. Now that he has a far more effective shooter in the same role, you should expect Van Gundy to dial up a heavy amount of plays specifically aimed at finding Bradley spotting up. Bradley saw spot up shots in 17 percent of his offensive plays last season, that percentage will increase from the get-go this season.

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Next year’s playbook will feature a lot of the same plays you saw last season. Stan Van Gundy allowed Caldwell-Pope ample opportunities to score in a variety of different scenarios, but as displayed, Bradley has shown the ability to perform most of these duties in a more efficient manner.

Yes, KCP and Bradley are both dynamite on-ball defenders, who operate their offensive game in similar play types, but the current starting shooting guard for the Pistons is the better offensive threat. Detroit needs efficient offense, and in Bradley that’s what they’ll get.